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Welcome to The New Era of Prep.
The old guard of prep is changing; we're seeing a cultural shift give way to something new. It's still prep, just repurposed.
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In a buck wild year that’s seen legacy brands like J.Crew and Brooks Brothers file for bankruptcy, we’re left wondering what happened to the meteoric rise and fall of prep in America.
Sure, there are plenty of reasons that led to this point (which we will refrain from digging into), the obvious of which are:
Changing consumer habits
Lack of focus on core offering
Appetite for price relative to quality
Emerging competition in the markets
It’s all those things, and more.
But there's one factor I’m particularly fascinated with, and it might be less obvious than you think. We’ll take a quick look at what that is.
But let’s get one thing straight: prep style isn't gone.
It’s alive and well, and a brand like Rowing Blazers proves this.
Here’s what is fading: prep as a signal of wealth ($$) in America. Let’s talk a little about how traditional prep is evolving before our eyes.
Old prep says you have to buy into class, that you have to be invited. It’s this:
New prep says the opposite.
Prep is what you can repurpose as an act of rebellion against wasp-culture, classism, and legacy wealth in America.
Just look at Rowing Blazers recent Spring 2020 campaign. The choice of models (young and old) is something you wouldn’t expect. The styling of hoodies, hats, windbreakers, tattoos.
It’s unorthodox, and you love to see it.
Here's the full look-book on Hypebeast. Peep it.
And it isn’t the first time we've seen this happen with the old guard of American fashion. Hip-hop culture has long used Ralph Lauren as a center piece in their work, highlighting the irony + disparities of American classism.
Esquire did a deeper read on this topic. Pretty eye opening. One of my favorite sections in that piece:
"…to wear a brand like Polo was fundamentally aspirational, a reconfigured riff on the American Dream… a group of guys who stole garments because society told them they couldn't afford the American Dream…"
What a quote to sum things up.
Polo wasn't meant for hip-hop culture. So hip-hop took it and repurposed it. As an act of rebellion to the American dream.
The same is happening with J.Crew and Brooks Brothers today, only Rowing Blazers is the enabler this time.
Both are aspirational. One is ironic. The other is not.
See the connection now?