Lisa Birnbach

jackelinnerm asked: Lisa, are you considering writing a book on international preppy? It would be interesting to see how different each country interprets their "preppy" and even so, how "preppy" is translated. For example in Mexico a preppy is called a "fresa" meaning strawberry meaning preppy. Just a thought.

Dear Jackie,

I am considering writing an international preppy guide, as a matter of fact.  In September’s American ELLE, I wrote an article about what it was like to see preppiness in Europe and Japan.  Gracias!  

A Purposeful Peloton

When I was watching the women’s road race event, I had no idea at first what Peloton meant.  The way I interpreted what I saw on screen, Peloton was — don’t laugh — the name of a Russian cyclist.  Think about it; Peloton sounds Russian.  Pelotonoff.  Peletonov.

Peletonovska.  Anyway, I learned as you did that peleton refers to the group behind the leaders in a bike race.  I’m not sure if you can have a peleton in a marathon or other sorts of races, but I’m doing my best to use it in a kind of “off-label” way.  I am not expecting FDA approval (nor OED approval), but it’s more fun than joining the chorus of complainers about the Olympics.

I realize the objections are really about the way NBC and its many offshoots are deploying delay tactics but rather than complain about all the complaining, indeed, rather than join the peloton of gripers, I’d like to say my Science Experiments and I are enjoying what we’ve seen of the 2012 Olympics, and we’ve laughed at the sarcastic tweets written at NBC’s expense.

NBC can take it like a grown up.  

This evening at 5:45, I’m sipping a rare DecafO’Clock mug of fake coffee.  The rosé can wait.

It’s horrendously hot out (sounds like a grievance to me) but in my hermetically-sealed writing room, I’ve had to turn off the air conditioning and appreciate the fact that it works, and sometimes, even I do.



A matter of Madras

As I was saying on Facebook, when Joe Garcia talked about all the patchwork madras he’s seen (as opposed to what I call “something that is confident in its own-ness, and doesn’t have to invite its other madras friends along”), I thought I had better seek a menswear expert who is a biological male.  

Enter Michael Williams, the blogger behind the brilliant A Continuous Lean.  I asked Michael if he concurred that patchwork was more plentiful than the plain bleeding madras of yesteryear.

Here is his reply:  ”It’s a little late in the summer to be worried about Madras. Tell your readers to worry about fall clothes!”

But because he cares (and he is made of good, solid, Midwestern Swing State stock), he did send me a coda: 

O’Connell’s is the best…the most classic:

Authentic Bleeding India Madras Trouser (DRd2)Authentic Bleeding India Madras Trouser (DRd2)

Note that most of this wonderful Indian Madras merch is already on sale.

I think we’ve learned a lot this evening.

Thank you Michael.  Thank you Joe.  And thank you readers for your devotion to the classics.

xo Lisa

ohheyitslikepat-deactivated2012 asked: Hello Ms. Birnbach. I have asked u a question about preppy fashion before about the military jacket I bought and now I have a new one. I just wanted to know if v-neck tee shirts were considered preppy? I only have three in grey, navy blue, and white.

Hi Pat,

Whether you are a Patrick or a Patricia, I’d say the answer is the same:  V-necked Ts are fine if they are not too low cut.  Round necked t-shirts are a bit preppier, but I’m going through a v-neck stage myself at the moment, and since mine are simple and all-cotton, (and also navy blue and white) I’m ruling in their favor.


cej77 asked: Page 26 of the Official Preppy Handbook is titled "Never On Thursday", Help in the House. I don't recall this being any sort of "rule", either spoken or unspoken, while growing up and was wondering if you could explain the significance further. Thanks!

Here’s the story from my mummy.  ”It was Thursdays and every other Sunday off in the 40’s and 50’s and the 60’s.  It started to end in the 60’s-70’s.  It wasn’t a rule, it just was what was.  I remember dinner for you kids every Thursday night was a can of Spaghettio’s.  All I did was warm up a can of Spaghettios.”  Here she broke off to laugh heartily.

This schedule was customary (not the Spaghettios part) for live-in domestic workers.  It would have made more sense, it seems, for that schedule to be reversed to every Sunday (for churchgoing and family supper) and every other Thursday (when you could go to the bank, have doctor appointments, etc.) but this is how it was.  Most of the women who worked in our house were American and had homes and/or family relatively close by that they returned to on their days off.  I’ll try to research this further.  It is interesting.  

It is also interesting that my brothers and I grew to our full height being fed a diet of canned pasta and chemicals once or twice a week.

missemrenee asked: Hi Lisa, I'm a young, preppy professional in West Palm Beach but still haven't discovered where all the other young preppies hang out on the weekends. I consulted "Where the Preps Are: A City-by-City Going Out Guide" in the "Official Preppy Handbook" for suggestions but it's a little out of date. Do you think you could over me an updated list? Many thanks and all best wishes!

Dear Miss Em Renee,

I’m taking the liberty of cutting and pasting your question onto the True Prep page on Facebook, as I haven’t put in the time in West Palm Beach recently enough.  I expect we will get some up-to-the-minute advice there.



allthatglitters12 asked: Is being a vegetarian considered to be not preppy?

Being vegetarian isn’t preppy, nor is it not preppy.  It is one of those things that doesn’t have any bearings on the matter.  However, most preppies live in profound disregard of what they eat.  Were it not for preppies, there would be no jello desserts nor swiss-cheese-on-triscuit-canapes.  


thevintagevoguelover asked: Hello Ms. Birnbach! I am visiting a few colleges in the next few weeks or so and I was wondering if you could tell me; preppy or not. Ive already done my research on the academics, sports ect, but I want to know whether you think they're preppy or not. So here you go: Trinity College,Holy Cross, Villanova, Boston U, and Washington and Lee. Thank you!!

Hi Classic,

Your list is not just prep; it is uber prep!  Trinity College is so very very preppy that I had to name it the preppiest college in New England.  That’s serious.  (B.U. is the least preppy, but it’s also the largest one in your group.)  

Good luck to you.



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.