Lisa Birnbach

cockney13 asked: Hi Lisa,what is your take on men shaving there heads for aesthetic reasons?considering a large bald spot on the crown of the head and a reseding hairline. Is a man with a shaved head preppy or not?

Hi Cockney,

I’ve been giving some thought to the nouveau bald lately.  Bald is the new black, I guess, and also kind of a cooler way of living with less hair.  It’s trendy with the financial world and the Jersey Shore world.  

It is way way better than wearing a comb-over or toupee any day!

If you want to look very prep without hair, my only suggestion is to up your prepppiness a notch:  seersucker and madras in the summer, wide-wale corduroy and tweeds in the winter.



ostuffnfluff asked: Hello, Ms. Birnbach! I'm so glad I found your blog. :) I found the Official Preppy Handbook when I was a high school senior. I have a question about a pair of Aigner riding boots that were given to me as a gift. I really adore them, but I really have no idea what to wear them with. Thank you!

Hi Ostuffnfluff,

I’m glad you found me too.  Aigner riding boots are a great gift.  You can wear them with jodhpurs (natch), jeans, leggings.  (Preppies do not wear jeggings.)  (I even hate to write the word.) I’m afraid you wrote this to me during the past brief winter.  I’m sorry I missed this.  Take good care of those boots — boot trees and polish — and bring them out again in the fall. 



It’s Rosé o’Clock.

It’s after 5pm on the Friday of July 4th.  

If you are stuck in the city working — as I am — (not looking for pity; just stating the facts), it is absolutely appropriate that you pour yourself and your co-workers a drink.  Or perhaps go out for a round before you head off into your weekend.

A gaggle of grownups have asked me how my summer’s been.  Seriously?  I feel my summer’s just beginning.  I haven’t been hibernating or hospitalized, but between the End of High School, and packing Exhibit C for camp, and then her going away to camp, and birthdays, and the flood in our basement which assassinated my books and wardrobe, maybe I haven’t focused on Summer, the verb, the noun, the adjective, or the season.

I couldn’t pretend any longer once I sat at the shore of the Hudson River in the swelter of the crowds watching the splendid fireworks.  There was no denying.  Summer had been launched. (And annoyingly, the music curators of Independence Day still play that Neil Diamond America song.  For the life of me, I don’t know why I can’t stand it, but I can’t.)

I’m assuming you are all in the thick of your summers.  

And if you’re not, change course and go there.


It started with this picture

I saw it on Facebook, posted by Bronwen Hruska, someone I don’t actually know, but whose educational pedigree is impeccable.  I was thus moved to write on her page/wall/air — and have a tiny bit more to say.

Bronwen posted this photograph and asked if anyone knew what it was.  Of course, lots of us knew it was something worn for gym a century ago.  Some referred to it as “bloomers,” others of us called it a “gym suit.”    I think we called them gym suits, but I don’t recall ever owning one.  I think the older girls had them, because I think I saw pictures of them playing volleyball in them in old yearbooks.

Then I remembered something else — (maybe this gym suit is my madeleine) — and that was a game we had to play at my girls’ school called Newcomb.  

Gym suits, newcomb…. have I entered a dream state?  Is this real or did I make it up?  Wikipedia says:

Invented in 1895 by Clara Gregory Baer, a physical education instructor at Sophie Newcomb CollegeTulane University in New Orleans, it rivaled volleyball in popularity and participation in the 1920s.[1] The game is significant because it was invented by a woman and became the second team sport to be played by women in the United States, after basketball.[2] In an article in the Journal of Sport in 1996, Joan Paul speculates that Newcomb ball may have been an influence in the development of volleyball.[2]

Now back to Lisapedia:

Newcomb was volleyball without the hitting or spiking.  You threw and caught the ball.  I liked it so much better.  It was volleyball de-clawed.   For gym (and we never called it “P.E.”), we wore tunics and bloomers.  Even when I transferred to a coed high school, we wore tunics and bloomers.  Never shorts.

Some questions for you:

Did any of you play Newcomb as young athletes?  Did boys ever play it?  Why was every educator in the early days of girls’ schools called something like  Clara Gregory Baer?

It’s pouring on our last full day on Martha’s Vineyard, but indoor days are so restful.

Love to hear from you,



Been busy with family stuff and hadn’t put the blog on my new To Do list. * I think I’ll show you what I’m using for a To Do List:  this is a first for me, because I usually use the back of envelopes.    

And by the way, a lot of the items on my list will never get done.  I know that. Don’t presume for one second I don’t know this.  And so does my friend Ted Harrington of Terrapin Stationers, who designed this pad for Bookmarc (the Marc Jacobs Bookstores — in NYC and L.A.).  You can find the rest of Terrapin’s beautiful engraved stationery at his Etsy store:

I was just thinking that thanks to Twitter, I bet it won’t be too long before we do away with apostrophes. (#HashtagsWontRecognizeThem.)  As you might imagine, I like apostrophes, commas, and most punctuation.  I’m crazy about semi-colons; they are so useful!  (See what I did there?)

But I am focused now more on periods, or “full stops”, as my second-child-but-first-daughter, known to you as “Exhibit B” is graduating from high school next week.  This day was far far off in the future, and now it’s here.  It’s an ending.  And it’s an emotional time for all of us.  I’ve been pre-crying for months.  I miss her already (even when I’m trying to pry her out of bed in the mornings).

Her going away to college will, however, allow for a totally new dynamic, that of being home alone with Exhibit C for the first time.  We don’t know what that will be like:  will we confide more in one another?  Will she still wear headphones in the house?  Will she force me to watch “Dr. Who”?  (And yes, there is always the possibility of adding a canine roommate.)

So it’s busy in the life of my family, and busy too as various writing projects ratchet up.

I’ll let you know what’s coming up.  I think we (and by we I mean I) will have a few cool announcements to make in the near-future.  

Remember to punctuate.  



Long time, no blog

I’ve been busy.  And I am defensive.

But not too busy to ignore two petitions that came my way today — one in an email, and one on Facebook.  And I realize we’re now becoming a generation (or two) that cares enough about issues to sign online petitions, but maybe nothing more.

George Plimpton’s book about his experience with the Detroit Lions was called “Paper Lion.”  We’re even less than paper— we’re acting on fumes or cybersmoke.

Hello.  My name is Lisa, and I’m an online activist.

I work, I try to raise (lower?) my children, and I volunteer at school.  But when it comes to activism, in 2012 it’s all online.

What about you?


From my brother (& the Wall St. Journal)

Another inspirational photograph of books.

This arrangement, in the apartment of publisher Jane Friedman, is organized by branch: biographies here, fiction there, and so on.

Feel free to add any great book pictures or book as object pictures for the rest of us.



A Book Thing

It all began with this picture I poached from Facebook.  Of course I had to repost it.  The image speaks volumes (sorry) about the superiority of books to the wondrous digital gizmos, as well as the advisability of core strength.

But I’ve noticed most of my postings are bookish.  

I had dinner with Chip Kidd.  He told me about his then upcoming talk at the TED conference about books.  

You can watch his performance at the TED site.  (Spoil Alert:  Books are here to stay.)

At a screening at the Crosby Street Hotel, I came across this animal.  He needs books too.

Then Vintage Magazine asked me to write a piece for its upcoming design issue.  I suggested I write about living with books, and books as objects.  I think it will be out towards the end of June.  (  It’s a beautiful magazine, incidentally.)

And it’s clear from your reactions, that loving books is something we have in common.

Loving books is not exactly the same as loving to read.  We read all day long, on our computers and on our thingies.  Some of you listen to books on your commutes and while you’re running.  There’s the onslaught of information and even a kind of information pollution as you have to look hard to find quiet.  (While you’re watching something on t.v. a promo for something else starts to intrude from the lower part of your screen.  Our screens get interrupted by other screens.) It’s not easy to find space.  To go somewhere where there are no advertisements.  (Not a bus, not a taxi, not a highway, etc.)

I find I pay much more attention to what is printed.  On a page.  Of paper.  I don’t worry about scrolling, or rewinding.  I can read at different paces, according to how I’m feeling.  It’s just the message and me without distractions. 

Maybe in a few generations, through adaptation, the human brain will be rewired differently, and no one will have a deep attention span that will be rewarded by a wonderful narrative that drives us towards a dictionary, and even forces us to think.

So for now, let’s enjoy our mutual bibliophilia together.  It sounds almost… naughty.



under-the-surface asked: Christopher Hayden Guest and Whit Stillman. I win! Can I do that as your daughter?

Yes, darling Exhibit.

Separated at Birth for Beginners


This one is easy, so for extra credit, you must identify these doppelgängers.  
(I gave up subtlety for Lent and Passover.)

Have a great weekend.