The preppy look has been forever championed by the likes of Ralph Lauren and Tommy Hilfiger, becoming a timeless look season after season. Whilst previously writing about the same style on a budget, the warmer weather brings a whole new style of prep that is both classic and applicable to current spring/summer trends.
Put down the pheasant rifle and pick up the tennis racket for an outfit brimming with summertime sophistication worthy of the Hamptons, as much inspiration is sourced from the sports luxe and varsity grandeur.
It’s all about understated clothing; one can ooze affluence without the need for overt logos or gaudy prints, and that is the secret to perfecting the summertime prep look – subtle luxury as opposed to the boastful. Think Great Gatsby, a little Mad Men, plenty of JFK and a touch of Truman Capote – you’re bound to do well in the style stakes.
As Bottega Veneta and Hugo Boss taught us this season, white is back on the fashion radar. Crisp shorts and matching shirts are incredibly bold looks reminiscent of 1950s cricket clubs and badminton courts, and an all-white ensemble is a brave yet bang-on-trend move.
However, use with caution; even the slightest tarnish or stain can ruin this entire look in mere seconds. Having a few beers at a mate’s BBQ? Probably best to opt out. Nobody looks good in stray ketchup smudges or suspiciously yellow beer patches.
Again, the pristine appearance may not be for everyone, so it’s best to explore the different white pieces out there in finalising your own prep look. Whether you go all out or select a few bits here and there, white is unarguably perfect for the summer prep look and a major hit in recent shows.
Ralph Lauren (in true All-American style) provide their own take on classic white chino shorts, available from John Lewis at a relatively affordable £68. Such a price tag however may cause quite the gasp (I can sympathise), and the high street offers plenty other variations of the all-white trend. Topman limited edition shorts are available for £32 whilst ASOS boasts a more affordable £22.
Keep them short, and keep them tailored; anything over the knee or lacking a quality material will just look cheap and half-arsed. If in doubt, think heritage. The summer prep is all about luxury, and you don’t need to spend hundreds to achieve this look.
As for the matching white shirt, either long-sleeved (both rolled up and buttoned) or the short sleeve works. Remember, the crisper and purer the better. As I’ve said countless times before, this piece is an absolute wardrobe staple regardless of season, so invest now if you’re without.
Urban Outfitters are your best bet for a quality mid-price take on this essential piece, usually around the £50 mark. It’s advisable to invest the extra couple of pounds in a good white shirt, but cheaper variations can be found almost anywhere on the high street. River Island, H&M and Uniqlo are safe bets, but beware of Topman; many a mate has informed me of thin material that requires some sort of under vest. An unacceptable necessity when you’re nearing the mid-20s.
Experiment and shop around till you find the right white pieces to compliment your summertime prep look, whether it’s the odd dash, or a full-on classic outfit.
Whilst a distinct focus remains upon the traditional sporting white, classic prep chino shorts and shirts can come in a range of pastel and neutral colours. Think beige, light blue, cream and the palest of salmon pinks – yet avoid anything remotely bright and bold.
Just as the summertime prep is a strong look, there are many more vibrant pieces around that whilst on-trend, are not exactly fitting with our targeted style. Understatement, paler colour schemes and a flattering fit are key notions here.
Incorporating a white piece is advisable, yet there are countless alternatives that still scream boat club president and upper echelon playboy. Look to classic blue Oxford shirts, subtle pastels and summer stripes if you are looking to incorporate a splash of colour.
Non-white chinos and shorts are available everywhere – even Matalan having a go at this classic piece for a mere £10. Try to aim for proper fitting clothing and unfolded hems however; the summertime prep is a tailored look focused around straight lines and neat angles. 90s loose-fits and folds may seem comfortable, but lack the finesse necessary for preppy smartness.
Try to stick to pieces that look crisp and quality, ignoring brash prints and novelty patterns.
All the looks discussed totally embody the summertime prep look, but this style can be maximised and smartened further for those events that require an extra degree of formality. By adding in extra layers and minor details, we can really separate the gentlemen from the posh boys.
Shirts should always be tucked in (preferably with a quality leather belt to match), and the classic white shirt/beige short combo can be further improved by the addition of simple blazer and pocket square – easily changing a daytime look into something more evening-appropriate.
A traditional navy blazer compliments most outfits, and an old school crest is a direct style nod to scholastic prep roots. Such second-hand pieces are usually found in most vintage stores, adding a degree of tradition and prestige to your look by borrowing from the past. However, if thrift trawling isn’t for you, there are plenty of blazers available at a range of prices; the ‘spend more, get more’ mindset is always appropriate when buying suit pieces, and quality usually comes with a price tag.
The beige blazer is making a great comeback that can be teamed with matching shorts, and this is the case for most neutral colours. The only exception is the all-white; whilst illuminated crispness is encouraged and endlessly stylish, throwing a matching blazer into the mix may look a little OTT. Such a bold move is difficult to pull off, and looking trashy is definitely not the summertime prep.
Just as pocket squares are finishing touches that lack the rigid sensibility of a tie, other details include the 1950s quiff, a well-formed side-parting and most importantly, a timeless pair of clubmaster or keyhole sunglasses. In one swift move, you’ve gone from Chelsea High Street to a yacht holiday in Cannes, and the devil really is in the detail.
Shoes, luckily, can match both daytime and evening looks due to the staple smartness needed for the summertime prep look. Tasselled loafers and classic brogues are the preferred choice here, and a personal preference would strongly suggest brown leather. Whilst black may seem more fitting to a variety of outfits, the summertime prep specifically utilises light colours and brown is far more adaptable to this range of looks.
The Wenham model from retail heavyweight Kurt Geiger is a fantastic choice, but with quality and luxury comes the £110 price tag. Shoes can potentially be the most painstaking purchase when damaging the pocket, and finding a decent pair on a budget may seem difficult.
Topman offer their own more cost-effective alternative around £50-£70, whilst lower high street prices usually equate to lower quality and wearability. A more playful spin on summertime prep footwear could come in the form of the classic canvas plimsoll (timely after Will’s recent guide to wearing them), which compliments all styles without deviating from traditional style.
Luckily, they’re far less demanding on the wallet and available from all good sports and school uniform retailers. Wearing these shoes sockless is the ultimate in understated prep, but if stinking footwear isn’t for you, try a loose-fitting, pale pair of socks. Whether you invest in the hard-wearing brogue or the more flexible plimsoll, there’s a summertime option for everyone.
So, there you have it, an introductory guide to the summertime prep. Whether channelling the tennis whites of the Hamptons or the subtle tones of the countryside, you can dress every inch the dapper ‘old money’ millionaire by injecting some heritage style into catwalk-inspired looks. Who needs graphic tees and the Aztec print when you have the likes of Ralph and Tommy on your side?
After all, this season’s trends seem to be proving that our granddads were the best-dressed of them all.