I’ve been hard at work collaborating with other bloggers, and I’m excited to share with you my newest series: Preps Out of Place!
A couple of years ago, I moved from New York to Ohio, and was somewhat stunned by what passed for style at OSU. Do people really just hang out in sweats all day? Does anyone know what a fitted shirt even looks like? Where are all the preps? (People here often raise their eyebrows at my boat shoes or Bean boots—but these were commonplace items back on the East Coast. Here I stand out, but back home I would have blended in. Funny how that works!)
Once I started blogging, I knew this was something I wanted to highlight. I’ve met a number of wonderful, friendly people also experiencing this dearth of preppiness who are ready to share their thoughts.
Today I’ve teamed up with Nick from Great Lakes Prep to show you more about what life is like for preps off the beaten path. I loved reading through his thoughtful answers, and I suspect you will too. I’m a big fan of Nick’s blog and he’s quite friendly on Twitter too.
Great Lakes Prep highlights the best brands, both new and old, in prep style from a Midwestern perspective. It’s about prep style and celebrating the people, places and things that make the Midwest great.
My wife and I love to travel, whether it’s back north to visit family or to all the great areas within a few hours drive of Indianapolis. Most days, so long as the weather cooperates, I’ll go on a run with my 2 year old golden retriever. I live five minutes away from where I went to college, so I spend a lot of time there attending basketball games or spending time with friends who are still there. For some reason I never got into Friday Night Lights when it was originally airing, despite being an avid football fan and former tight end/linebacker, so my wife and I are just about finished with all five seasons now and will be moving on to Mad Men shortly. Other than that you’ll mostly likely find me somewhere watching a game, whether it’s baseball, basketball, football or hockey, and drinking a craft beer or good bourbon.
JFK is the typical, obvious answer here. He epitomizes the entire New England prep look. I love how a young Clint Eastwood was able to add a touch of ruggedness to classic ensembles. One of the things I struggle with is finding contemporary style icons. Everybody cites McQueen, Newman, Sinatra, Davis, the guys who epitomized cool back in the day and I respect that and pull from them, too, but at the end of the day I like having somebody from the present to draw inspiration from as well. Bradley Cooper has this knack for making everything look good, even if he just had the crap beat out of him in the middle of the Vegas desert. I’d also have to put Ryan Gosling in that category as well. For the modern day prep icons, I’d have to say the guys from Vampire Weekend and Andy Bernard on The Office.
The style in Indianapolis, like most of the Midwest, is pretty much average. I have a fraternity brother who had a role as an extra on The Middle, a sitcom set in Indiana, and the costume notes instructed him to “look very average, like you shop at Kohl’s.” That’s a pretty apt description. You aren’t going to see many well-dressed people but you also won’t see a lot of glaring atrocities. Sure, too many people wear cargo shorts and graphic tees, but it would only take a few changes for many to move closer to the well-dressed end of the spectrum. Luckily, I attended Butler, a small, private university. The style there, especially in the Greek community, tended to be more Midwestern prep, which I’ll go into more detail about below.
The problem with the Midwest is that there are a lack of quality menswear stores, or at least ones that carry brands coveted by the Midwestern prep. I’m lucky enough to live ten minutes from a Brooks Brothers but most of the time I’m having to pick up the brands I wear online or on trips down south. A lot of people don’t realize it but there are some great young prep brands coming out of the Midwest. Bird Dog Bay has a great line of printed silk neck and bow ties, Chicago Belt Co. is the brand to turn to for Midwest-centric ribbon belts and Salmon Cove has worked to craft the perfect shirt. Many of the great shoemakers are Midwest-based as well, specifically Allen Edmonds, Red Wing, and Oak Street Bootmakers.
There’s a common misconception in the Midwest as to what prep really is. If you asked the average person on the street to name preppy brands, most are going to say Abercrombie, American Eagle and Hollister. Fifty years ago Abercrombie may have been prep, but times and the brand have changed. True Midwestern prep style is really a combination of New England and Southern prep. We don’t necessarily have the tradition and background of those regions, so we’ve had to borrow a lot to create our own identity. A lot of it also has to do with how the Midwest isn’t quite as country as the South but it’s not as urban as the Northeast either. The exciting thing is that there is a young group of us who have a lot of pride in being from the Midwest and are sick of having to rely solely on companies outside of the region for our style. We’ve seen the pride, especially in the southern brands, people have in where they’re from and we want that for ourselves.
Unabashedly Prep and Back Down South are two photo blogs I check everyday. They have curated some great looks worn by everyday people that define New England and Southern prep, respectively. Social Primer is a must read for both the gentlemen and the ladies. Gentlemen, read it to learn chivalry and manners; ladies, read it to make sure the gentlemen are acting appropriately. Take a look at Alex Grant, Backwoods Plaid, Panhandle Prep, Red Clay Soul, and Southern Gent Gifts as well. If it’s on my blogroll, it’s definitely worthy of a read.