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The Official Preppy Handbook

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4.19  ·  Rating details ·  1,471 ratings  ·  128 reviews
It is the inalienable right of every man, woman and child to wear khaki. Looking, acting, and ultimately being Prep is not restricted to an elite minority lucky enough to attend prestigious private schools, just because an ancestor or two happened to arrive here on the Mayflower. You don't even have to be registered Republican. In a true democracy everyone can be upper cla ...more
Paperback, 224 pages
Published October 1st 1980 by Workman Publishing
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 ·  1,471 ratings  ·  128 reviews


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Hank Stuever
Sep 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I read this in eighth grade with the complete understanding that it was satire and nevertheless I adopted it as biblical word -- and not a moment too soon, as the following year I headed into four years at a preparatory, co-ed Catholic high school that did away with uniforms and instead implemented a very picky dress code, the subtext of which was to look as rich as possible, while also achieving a winning sense of casual confidence.

Which put me right on the front lines of the Great Midwestern
...more
Nicky
Jul 18, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I don't know when I first got my hands on this book, though I can't remember life without it. This handbook was my crack during those all-too-awkward pre-teen years. To this day I'm sure my overwhelming knowledge of East Coast boarding schools circa 1984 is disconcerting for those to whom it is somehow revealed, but you give an unbelievably gifted and imaginative ten-year-old girl copies of The Catcher and the Rye, A Separate Peace, and the Preppy Handbook and dare her not to dream.

I
...more
Virginia
Oct 14, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Totally useful for those who either live in New England, or ever want to visit there.

Or just want a good giggle.

Or both.
Todd Cannon
Nov 20, 2009 rated it really liked it
What can I say. I think this book may have been meant as a joke but to some of us in the mid 80s it was a Handbook on how to dress, talk, and act. I'm embarrassed to admit it but I used to quote from it and we used it to settle arguments on what was proper and what wasn't.
John Blumenthal
Apr 12, 2019 rated it liked it
Back in the late 70s to early 80s, there were a number of books in this genre that lampooned the mores of the times. Some of them sold quite well. Fran Lebowitz's "Metropolitan Life" was probably the most memorable of the bunch, partly because it has held up over time. People still quote some of her best lines. The same cannot be said of such books as "Real Men Don't Eat Quiche," which is now hopelessly outdated as is "The Official Preppy Handbook." I read the Preppy Handbook shortly after it ca ...more
paula
Apr 10, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Read minutely in high school, internalized to such an extent that, upon re-reading it, I am shocked to learn that the values I thought I picked up from trying to be a cool punk rocker (nonchalance, consistency, effortlessness) were instead absorbed from this book, along with detailed advice about what sports to take up (lacrosse, crew), and how many layers to wear on the ski slope (at least five).

Absolutely seminal - presaged the Dorling Kindersley all-sidebars-and-captions layout; influenced t
...more
Daria
Sep 10, 2014 rated it liked it
For generations "preppy" has been a term that describes a certain lifestyle. If you heard something about «Gossip Girl» or saw it you would probably understand my genuine interest in preppy culture. If for some reason you have no idea what does this term actually imply, here is a quick note on it:
A prep is typically a well-educated, good-looking person who comes from a solid, well-established, "old-money" family. Most preppies have been preppy since birth; have attended private/boarding schoolsit:
...more
Em
Aug 12, 2007 rated it it was amazing
I'm not really sure I would recommend this book to anyone, even though it is seriously one of the funniest things I have ever read. But I think it's so funny to me because of growing up in Preppyland, aka Highland Park. I don't know if it would have the same appeal if I grew up somewhere else. But I think Kristi and Kerri would appreciate one particular part of the book, since they knew me in college. "Prep school nurtures the skills that will enable you to slide effortlessly through college." L ...more
Gary Kuhlmann
Nov 07, 2014 rated it really liked it
The author tempers her satirical tone with empathy. The book's attitude toward preppy culture is ambivalent. At times the book parodies the anxieties and foibles of preppies, yet The Handbook also seems to exalt their modesty and discretion. Although preppies may be the target of Birnach's satirical tone, she finds redeeming qualities in them which she, at least obliquely, suggests may be growing rare. At the core of the preppy aesthtetic is the idea that, in a world of rapidly diminishing resou ...more
Richelle
Jun 13, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This is one of my favorite books. It's a shame that it is out of print! It's the definitive commentary on 80s preppy culture. I laugh at the way the preppy lifestyle has evolved into what it is today, with A&F apparel being considered "preppy." That just wouldn't float in The Official Preppy Handbook! I subscribe to the culture and mannerisms of the old preppy definition, not the new faux one today.
Carolyn Page
Mar 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
It's hilarious but it's not wrong either. A fantastic spoof of 90s prep that is also 70s to 2000s because preppy recycles and never dies. My husband picked it up and quickly became engrossed. Includes clothing suggestions, vocabulary, a diagram of the good old boys network -- in effect, everything you need to be preppy from cradle to grave.
Holly
May 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I bought this book back when it was first published; I was young and impressionable and soaked it up like a sponge. I recently picked this book up and read it again. I realized, from the perspective of 30 years later, how much this book influenced me.

I need to buy a new kilt for my daughter because she has now outgrown the one I bought her when she was 3 (what practical garments they are, no other item from her wardrobe at age 3 still fits her now at almost 7) and told her that she c
...more
Tiny Pants
Oct 25, 2009 rated it it was ok
I originally read my dad's copy of this when I was in high school, and remembering that picked this up when I spotted it in one of my local used book stores. Considering this is from the early 1980s, it's worn pretty well. Why? Well one, because Abercrombie & Fitch got revived in the interim (though its prep cred is nothing like it used to be) and two, because prep style is somewhat eternal and unchanging. Most of what I could relate to here as a teenager was pretty much the same elements I could r ...more
Apryl Anderson
Jul 29, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: style
I can't say it better than Hank Stuever's review, and I won't begin to try. This was my DAHS Class of '84 Bible. Doubt it? The Senior photo is worth 1000 words. My treasured copy drifted from my grasp somewhere along those many moves--gone but never forgotten--and my teen daughters kindled a desire to visit those hallowed halls of preppydom.

Thank-you, Betterworldbooks.com. Whose hands once studies these pages, I wonder? Did you also discover the joys of the monthly mail order catalog
...more
A.C.
Dec 14, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This is a book of a very specific cultural moment. I forget this sometimes then try to force chinese students to think it's funny like I do. This book will be perpetually funny to anyone that went/goes to prep school or knows old money. Hopefully, you have the distinct pleasure that I have of both being true. You would like to think that some of this stuff would change after over thirty years, but they really haven't.
Laura
Aug 08, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Jessie/Neal
This book is as dry as a bottle of IPA in Nantucket. It really does explain the duck motif decorating obsession of my parents and the years they dressed me in knee socks and whale print turtlenecks. Ideally, read this one with The WASP Cookbook by Alexandra Wentworth. You'll never see the Head of the Charles the same way :)
Tavis Balkin
Oct 24, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2010
The stereotypes in this book are dead-on. It is consistent throughout and a very accurate portrayal of those who live in New England. Not a lot has changed in the 30 years since this was first published.
DoctorM
Jan 11, 2008 rated it it was amazing
What can I say? Yes, I did spend four years at New Haven. Yes, I like preppy style--- old-school, real Prep style, not A&F nouveau-riche. Thirty years on, I still love this book...though it has cost me so much money in clothes and accessories over the years...
Lori
Sep 30, 2010 rated it liked it
Defined a moment that is still with us in repercussions.
Zhiren
Jun 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
Meant to be satire, but I once treated it quite literally as a handbook.
Kate
Dec 15, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 1980-s, funny
Very funny, very New England.
Kevin
Jan 08, 2019 rated it liked it
I can't really judge its authenticity, but it was definitely an interesting read.
Mark
Jul 31, 2010 rated it really liked it
Fun book at the time for those who wanted to decode what Muffy and Biff were thinking, wearing and saying.
Zelda Trejo
May 31, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I love this handbook!

The Prep value system is a hybrid of the Puritan ethic and noblesse oblige combined in an unspoken code that is, nevertheless, as solid as the rock on Mummy's engagement ring. . . These values are second nature - like wearing loafers without socks.

I discovered the existence of this masterpiece the summer after high school. It was 2007 and a slew of indie bands formed by intelligent college grads was popping up in every corner of the internet. One of them in particu/>The
...more
Caleb
May 14, 2015 rated it liked it
About a third of the way through this book, one of my children woke up in the middle of the night and climbed into our bed, covered in vomit. I found myself wondering if a preppie ever had to deal with that kind of experience - one to take care of a sick kid, two to change everyone's bedsheets in the middle of the night. Luckily I was not doing it alone.

I realized that thought this book is very funny, it had also dehumanized a group of people I already didn't particularly care for, so I decided
...more
Karen
Jul 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Blatant satire mixed with hilariously accurate truths. I've seen this book around for years and finally bought an old used copy this year. If you've ever thought of yourself as "preppy" or had family with even an ounce of "yuppie" in their nature *slowly raises hand* then you have to at least skim this book, if for nothing else than a good laugh at your own expense. Bonus points if you read it while wearing boat shoes and have a carved duck decoy anywhere in your house.
Lisa Urso
Aug 10, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2015-reads
Liked the satire behind it, even though many of the "preppy" elements are still en vogue today. Some parts of the book are seriously outdated (some of the prep schools mentioned are now coed, for instance; some of the stores and restaurants mentioned are out of business), but as a New England resident, I found myself relating to some of the points this book made. I still miss my Eastlands and Tretorns.
Joanne
Sep 17, 2007 rated it it was amazing
A fun, highly readable satire that can easily be read as part guide, part prep Bible. Its pages detail the life of a prep from childhood to old age, and are very accurate in its observations and descriptions. Prep school and the College years are perhaps the most fleshed out, and the section attire--while very 80s--has not changed much and is now undergoing a Renaissance of sorts in the 21st century. This is an excellent, hilarious take on one of the most visible undercurrents of society.
Erika
Jan 10, 2015 rated it liked it
Since I spent half my childhood in DE in the 1980s, this book was nostalgic for me. It was in DE that I first encountered preppy style. Having gone to public school, I'm convinced now that I did not actually meet any true Preps, since the true Preps go to elite private schools. I liked that the book was informative but tongue-in-cheek. I don't know how anyone not born into a Prep household becomes one, but perhaps that is the point. That you can't.
Kristen
Apr 06, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: culture vultures of the 80s
Needless to say I loved this book. Read in High school and enjoyed it (both satirically as well as an ersatz fashion guide). I admit to thinking the life of the preppy was a bit cool...polo (the real thing with horses not the brand), izod shirts, and of course topsiders.

After a year or two the topsiders were replaced with Doc Martins, but the button down oxford shirt didn't get out of my wardrobe for another 10 years!
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“from The Prep Pantheon: An All-Time Great Alumni Association

Caroline Kennedy. Concord Academy ’75. Harvard ’80. On technical points Preppier than Mummy. During four years at Harvard Square, an unnatural fiber never went near her body (except for the shell of her L. L. Bean down vest). Her lacrosse game was ruthless, her brunch technique dazzling (smoked heavily, sat with the descendents of three other presidents).”
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