How to Fake Like You Were Born Preppy


You may not think you need True Prep , Lisa Birnbach and Chip Kidd’s manual on all things preppy, a sequel to Birnbach’s 1980 original, The Official Preppy Handbook. After all, you’re too artsy and alternative for that. But then, when it comes time to go on a job interview or meet your significant other’s WASPy parents, you start to wish you knew the rules to this strange tribe’s inscrutable game. After the jump, we select some choice quotes from True Prep to give you a crash course in how to understand the preppy mindset and hang with the Lilly Pulitzer set.

On money: “If your money comes from something fundamental, like steel or oil, then your money is clean and pure. Or look at it this way: The dirtier a worker gets unearthing this substance &mdash with the exception of coal &mdash the cleaner the fortune of the well, mine, or quarry owner.”

On hired help: “Your babysitter is more than your childcare provider. She is another member of your family through whose filter your young heir will experience the world. You will probably want a nanny who speaks English, if you wish your children to speak English.”

On thrift: “Do keep reparing old appliances to try to extend their lives. Don’t store them on your front porch or driveway.”

On reinvention: “You are not a prisoner of your history. We hate to dispute all-time prep great F. Scott Fitzgerald, who said, ‘There are no second acts in American lives,’ but he never got to live through the TMZ era.”

On language: “A female graduate of, let’s say, Emma Willard School is called an alumna. The plural, or more than one graduate of Emma Willard, are called alumnae. (This can be pronounced either ‘alum-nay” or “alum-nee,” depending on how old your Latin teacher is.) A graduate of the all-female Episcopal Academy is an alumnus (“alum-nus”). Put several of these fellows together and you have a room full of alumni (“alum-nigh”). Lucky you, if you are a single girl with straight hair and good legs.”

On clothing: “Real suspenders are attached with buttons. We do not wear the clip versions.”

On Ivy League clothing: “You may wear a Harvard sweatshirt if you attended Harvard, your spouse attended Harvard, or your children attend Harvard. Otherwise, you are inviting an uncomfortable question.”

On employment: “Any job that has a kind of mysterious benefactor is preppier than a job that has an obvious salary source.”

On housing: “One reason we call it ‘house’ instead of ‘home’ is that preppies are not bred to cosset others. We have been raised as if at scout camp: cold showers, threadbare blankets, lumpy pillows, dry toast. We’re just following patterns set by our ancestors, who somehow accomplished more in their thirty-two years than we have done in our forty, so far.”

On rehab: “Where you attend (and possibly get booted from) boarding school is one of the most important elements of your pedigree. And just as important is where you go to rehab to lose your addictions – the dangerous behaviors your parents sent you away to avoid, but you still managed to pick up anyway in the safety of the middle of the woods somewhere in deepest New England or outside Santa Barbara.”

On weekending: “Don’t look for us in the city on the weekends. We are not there. We’re religious about going to the country every Friday through Sunday. Even if the country is a teensy cottage or bugalow (or condo) on a tiny lot with a tree and a geranium plant very close to the highway, less than an hour away – if it’s not the city, it is the country!”

On manners: “It is important to make real eye contact when meeting someone for the first time. A good, firm handshake cements your initial impression and lets the other person know that you are really there. This applies to women as well.”

The bottom line: “We don’t live to work, and we don’t work to live. We live to have fun and win the club tournament.”