The Official Preppy Handbook

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The Official Preppy Handbook
Official-Preppy-Handbook-Cover.png
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
978-0-89480-140-2
OCLC 6762701
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 middle 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.

In The Official Preppy Handbook explains and satirizes what it takes to be a preppy person in the 1980s, parodying the lifestyle of the WASP elite. Lisa Birnbach reveals though an ironic tone where preps go to school, where they summer, what brands they wear, and how they decorate their homes. Birnbach divides The Official Preppy Handbook into 7 sections, each devoted to a different period of the preppy lifestyle. The Official Preppy Handbook begins by caricaturizing the childhood of a preppy person in 1980.[5] Lisa Birnbach satirizes a prep’s ideal family lifestyle, and humorously advises readers how to pick, interview, and gain acceptance into a prep school.[6] The book then wittily discusses “the best years of your life”- a prep’s college years.[7] With tongue and cheek, Birnbach elucidates which college courses to take, how to design one’s dorm room, and how to party at college.[8] In Chapters 5 and 6, the book ironically explains the prep adult life as first a “young executive”, and later as a retired adult in “the Country Club Years”.[9] Birnbach jokingly educates readers on navigating a cocktail party, networking, and vacationing.[10] The Official Preppy Handbook also teaches readers how to dress preppy.[11] In chapter 4, Birnbach emphasizes the importance of appearing effortless, preppy and casual, writing, “socks are frequently not worn on sporting occasions or on social occasions for that matter. This provides a year round beachside look that is so desirable that comfort may be thrown aside”.[12] By teaching readers on where to shop, what to wear, and “the merits of pink and green”,[13] Birnbach makes preppy culture attainable to anyone. Instead of something you needed to be born into, Birnbach makes preppy something you can buy at store.

Effect[edit]

The book's reflections on young urban professional culture inspired Arthur Cinader, the founder of the J. Crew clothing line.[14] Cinader hoped to capitalize on the book's success.[14]

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."[15] 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.[16] The book spawned many other "official" handbooks for other American subcultures.[17]

Lastly, Lisa Birnbach’s The Official Preppy Handbook was important in the 1980s because it helped reveal the inner details of the elite preppy culture to the masses, and helped to democratize the preppy subculture. Prior to the book in the 1920s, primarily only wealthy, WASP elites adopted the preppy subculture. This is because in the 1920s, WASPs dominated American universities, and preppy fashion was traditionally worn on university campuses.[18] However, as universities became less exclusive as a result of economic, and cultural shifts in history, preppiness as a subculture became less exclusive. Preppy fashion adopted new nuances, and preppy culture has become more inclusive.[19] By writing The Official Preppy Handbook, Lisa Birnbach helps to further democratize preppy fashion and culture. As Birnbach explains in her introduction, the handbook is not an exclusive text describing preppiness as subculture reserved for “an elite minority lucky enough to attend prestigious private schools”.[20] Rather, The Official Preppy Handbook was written a guidepost for the revival of the preppy style. It shared the secrets of the preppy code, making preppy seem “neat, attractive, and suddenly attainable”.[21] The book even provides instructions on where to shop and what to wear so one could simply go to a store, and pay to look preppy. With satire and cheek, The Official Preppy Handbook book showed that one did not need to be a WASP to be a preppy because “in a true democracy everyone can be upper class and live in Connecticut. It’s only fair. The Official Preppy Handbook will help you get there[20]”.

References[edit]

  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, Amazon.com; accessed 2012.04.18
  5. ^ Williams, edited by Lisa Birnbach ; writers Lisa Birnbach ... [et al.] ; photography Robin Holland ; illustration Oliver (1980). The official preppy handbook (19th printing. ed.). New York: Workman Pub. p. 15. ISBN 9780894801402. 
  6. ^ Williams, edited by Lisa Birnbach ; writers Lisa Birnbach ... [et al.] ; photography Robin Holland ; illustration Oliver (1980). The official preppy handbook (19th printing. ed.). New York: Workman Pub. p. 54. ISBN 9780894801402. 
  7. ^ Williams, edited by Lisa Birnbach ; writers Lisa Birnbach ... [et al.] ; photography Robin Holland ; illustration Oliver (1980). The official preppy handbook (19th printing. ed.). New York: Workman Pub. p. 83. ISBN 9780894801402. 
  8. ^ Williams, edited by Lisa Birnbach ; writers Lisa Birnbach ... [et al.] ; photography Robin Holland ; illustration Oliver (1980). The official preppy handbook (19th printing. ed.). New York: Workman Pub. p. 94. ISBN 9780894801402. 
  9. ^ Williams, edited by Lisa Birnbach ; writers Lisa Birnbach ... [et al.] ; photography Robin Holland ; illustration Oliver (1980). The official preppy handbook (19th printing. ed.). New York: Workman Pub. p. 157. ISBN 9780894801402. 
  10. ^ Williams, edited by Lisa Birnbach ; writers Lisa Birnbach ... [et al.] ; photography Robin Holland ; illustration Oliver (1980). The official preppy handbook (19th printing. ed.). New York: Workman Pub. p. 187. ISBN 9780894801402. 
  11. ^ Williams, edited by Lisa Birnbach ; writers Lisa Birnbach ... [et al.] ; photography Robin Holland ; illustration Oliver (1980). The official preppy handbook (19th printing. ed.). New York: Workman Pub. p. 121. ISBN 9780894801402. 
  12. ^ Williams, edited by Lisa Birnbach ; writers Lisa Birnbach ... [et al.] ; photography Robin Holland ; illustration Oliver (1980). The official preppy handbook (19th printing. ed.). New York: Workman Pub. p. 138. ISBN 9780894801402. 
  13. ^ Williams, edited by Lisa Birnbach ; writers Lisa Birnbach ... [et al.] ; photography Robin Holland ; illustration Oliver (1980). The official preppy handbook (19th printing. ed.). New York: Workman Pub. p. 156. ISBN 9780894801402. 
  14. ^ a b Bourne, Leah (2010-01-20). "The Cult Of J.Crew". Forbes.com. Archived from the original on 2013-06-29. Retrieved 2013-04-28. 
  15. ^ 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. 
  16. ^ 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. 
  17. ^ 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. 
  18. ^ Banks, Jeffrey; Chapelle, Doria de la (2011). Preppy : cultivating Ivy style. New York: Rizzoli. p. 4. ISBN 0847836614. 
  19. ^ Banks, Jeffrey; Chapelle, Doria de la (2011). Preppy : cultivating Ivy style. New York: Rizzoli. p. 11. ISBN 0847836614. 
  20. ^ a b Williams, edited by Lisa Birnbach ; writers Lisa Birnbach ... [et al.] ; photography Robin Holland ; illustration Oliver (1980). The official preppy handbook (19th printing. ed.). New York: Workman Pub. p. 2. ISBN 9780894801402. 
  21. ^ Banks, Jeffrey; Chapelle, Doria de la (2011). Preppy : cultivating Ivy style. New York: Rizzoli. p. 127. ISBN 0847836614. 

External links[edit]