The Official Preppy Handbook

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The Official Preppy Handbook
Cover of first edition
Author Lisa Birnbach
Jonathan Roberts
Carol McD. Wallace
Mason Wiley
Illustrator Oliver Williams
Country United States
Language English
Subject Humor
Secondary education
Publisher Workman Publishing
Publication date
October 1980
Media type Paperback book
Pages 224
ISBN 0-89480-140-6
OCLC 6762701
Dewey Decimal 373.2/22/0973
LC Class LC58.7 .O35 1980
Followed by True Prep: It's a Whole New Old World

The Official Preppy Handbook (1980) is a tongue-in-cheek humor reference guide edited by Lisa Birnbach, written by Jonathan Roberts, Carol McD. Wallace, Mason Wiley, and Birnbach.[1] It discusses an aspect of North American culture described as prepdom. In addition to insights on prep school and university life at socially acceptable schools,[2] it illuminates many aspects of upper-class, old money WASP society.[3] Topics range from appropriate clothing for social events to choosing the correct college and major.[4]

The book addresses "preppy" life from birth to old age, lending understanding to the cultural aspects of "preppy" life. In general, elementary and secondary school, college, and the young adult years receive the most attention. Coverage lessens during the book's latter chapters.The book was first published in 1980 by Workman Publishing.


The book's reflections on young urban professional culture inspired Arthur Cinader, the founder of the J. Crew clothing line.[5] Cinader hoped to capitalize on the book's success.[5]

The book also represented a resurgence of interest in preppy culture that aided the growth of retailer L.L. Bean, which the book describes as "nothing less than Prep mecca."[6] The book's exposé of university life and the drug and sex culture at various schools had a significant impact on public thought about those schools.[7] The book spawned many other "official" handbooks for other American subcultures.[8]


  1. ^ Rich, Motoko (2010-04-04). "Rejoice, Muffy and Biff: A Preppy Primer Revisited". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2013-04-28. 
  2. ^ Lightfoot, Elizabeth (2009). Michelle Obama: first lady of hope. Guilford, Conn.: Lyons Press. p. 15. ISBN 9781599215211. Retrieved 28 April 2013. 
  3. ^ Hertzberg, Hendrik (2005). Politics: Observations and Arguments, 1966-2004. New York: Penguin. p. 556. ISBN 978-0-14-303553-4. Retrieved 28 April 2013. 
  4. ^ The Official Preppy Handbook,; accessed 2012.04.18
  5. ^ a b Bourne, Leah (2010-01-20). "The Cult Of J.Crew". Archived from the original on 2013-06-29. Retrieved 2013-04-28. 
  6. ^ Leon A. Gorman (2006). L. L. Bean: The Making of an American Icon. Harvard Business Press. p. 143. ISBN 978-1-57851-183-9. Retrieved 28 April 2013. 
  7. ^ William Freeman Galpin; John Robert Greene; Richard Wilson; Oscar Theodore Barck (1998). Syracuse University: Eggers Years. Syracuse University Press. p. 232. ISBN 978-0-8156-0549-2. Retrieved 28 April 2013. 
  8. ^ Selsberg, Andy (August 2007). "The Official Guide to Official Handbooks: The Rich Legacy of Putting Others in Their Cultural Place". The Believer 5 (6). Retrieved 2013-04-28. 

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