This Is the Best Fashion Podcast Right Now

the history of prep
This Is the Best Fashion Podcast Right NowGetty Images

"Hearst Magazines and Yahoo may earn commission or revenue on some items through these links."

the best fashion podcast right now breaks down the history of preppy style
Getty Images

When I speak to Avery Trufelman, the podcaster behind “American Ivy,” I want to ask her about preppiness, but she asks me first: “What do you think the state of it is right now?”

Trufelman is used to asking the questions, especially in regard to prep, the topic of the most recent iteration of her fashion-focused show, Articles of Interest. At first, she thought she’d devote just a single, 20-minute episode to preppy style. But as she began to explore the aesthetic’s history, from its rise in the Ivy League to its influence in Japan to its regular reemergence in modern fashion, she realized that she needed more time—270 minutes, to be exact. In fact, when we speak, she is still producing this season, trying to determine exactly how to distill all her thoughts into a cohesive, wrapped-in-a-bow conclusion for the final episode.

The trouble is that preppy is no longer just preppy. Preppiness is everywhere right now; it just goes by many different names. You can see it in the various made-up TikTok micro trends like coastal grandma or tenniscore. There’s also the bespoke-cool aesthetic of Aime Leon Doré and Bode, both brands that make pieces reminiscent of heirlooms dug up at a New England thrift shop. And, of course, there’s more subversive prep on the runway at Miu Miu and Thom Browne, which challenge the strict dress codes that shaped the style. At Miu Miu, skirts can be tiny; at Browne, they’re worn by men.

The fact that each of these trends can be nestled under the larger umbrella of prep, Trufelman says, has to do with preppiness being the foundation of how Americans dress. Pare back any American trend (or even brand) to its roots, and you’ll find preppiness. “We’re the athletes with natural talent who think they don’t have to train. American style is just something we’ve always had,” she says.

“American Ivy” begins with a look at prep style on the Princeton campus, as documented by the popular 1965 Japanese photo book Take Ivy. The fashion has always been associated with elitism, but Trufelman sees its modern iteration as far more democratic. “You see so many people wearing Polo Ralph Lauren. It’s so common, it’s so accessible. It’s really expressive of this way that capitalism and democracy have become sort of intertwined. We’re all a free society; [we wear] whatever we want.”

polo ralph lauren
Getty Images

Trufelman is quick to point out that for decades, only some people had access to these looks: “The way that the boys on the pages of Take Ivy were dressing … they could dress that way, because they knew all the rules,” she says. “They’ve been handed, quite literally, their grandfather’s clothes. They felt so confident, and they looked so good. And so, I feel like that’s what we’re getting back to now.” What she means is that people are more interested in personal style now than they have been in years. “We’re so into being unique and expressing ourselves in all these little ways,” she adds. There’s finally a desire for not just an aesthetic, but knowledge of the what, how, and why of that aesthetic.

With the rise of TikTok and Instagram, the cues of the preppy world have never been more accessible to learn, but that can also make things like tenniscore or coastal grandma feel more like cosplay than a personal aesthetic. They’re hyper-specific foci that enhance a single facet of preppiness, but lack the inherent ease of the larger idea. It’s why “American Ivy” feels so apt for right now.

Even among the constant churn of trends, Trufelman thinks modern Ivy style will always thrive, because it’s so fun to subvert and personalize. “American fashion is getting itself back, and we want to feel like we can play around in the canon a little more,” she says. “That’s why you can have Bode pants with writing all over them. We’re getting back to that advanced level of self-styling. We want it to be a little toyed with.”

Maybe the state of American prep is best encapsulated by Trufelman asking me about it. There are no right answers; it’s an open-ended discussion, and people seem interested in learning more. And that’s where “American Ivy” comes in. As Trufelman tells me at the end of our conversation, “It’s the great American style, and everyone’s just sort of dipping in right now and figuring out what parts they like.”

Listen to all seven episodes of Articles of Interest: “American Ivy” on Spotify or Apple Podcasts.

You Might Also Like