Jewish World Review March 23, 2004 / 1 Nissan, 5764

Felice Cohen

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Consumer Reports


Rejoice, ‘preppy’ is back


http://www.jewishworldreview.com | If you're not dressed in black, you're not "in." Or so seems to be the fashion status quo here in New York City. But beware all you hard-to-spot-at-night people, for displayed along the wide avenues and narrower city streets, something may reach out and grab you — or at least your attention. For without warning, preppy is back.

From The Gap to J.Crew to even Boltons, bright pinks and greens are glaring out of large storefronts, daring those decked in head-to-toe black, beige and brown to come in and try on their true colors — or, in this case, any colors.

"Preppy has always been around," said Larry Juliano, sales associate for Dunhill. "But because fashion has changed over the years, preppy has been incorporated into other styles. "I think it's wonderful that it's back in the fashion world," adds Juliano, who's worked in retail for decades. "Fashion comes and goes, but traditional clothing always stays. And that's preppy."

But preppy is more than a turned-up collar and shoes without socks — it's a way of life. According to "The Official Preppy Handbook," which I've owned since around 1980, "It is the inalienable right of every man, woman and child to wear khaki."

As a young, impressionable prep, I skimmed through the book's pages making sure my alligator sweaters matched my wide-wale chinos. Never did I yearn to know "the politics of monogramming," nor "the importance of getting kicked out of a prestigious prep school."

When I lived on Cape Cod in the '80s, I wore teal Topsiders and my dad owned yellow pants with red lahbstahs on them, but the closest my family came to owning a yacht was a four passenger canoe.

Walking around with my collar up, I had no clue that this attire could represent more than a fashion statement. Even if donning strong colors seems uncool, let's not ignore the safety aspects this fashion staple could shed on our urban lifestyle.

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Part of a New Yorker's hardwiring includes crossing streets at will. Dressed in black and too savvy to slow our hurried paces to wait for crossing signals, we become urban camouflage. Ask any city driver and they'll tell you how many close calls they've had. I'm not suggesting you overhaul your wardrobe, but imagine how wearing lime chinos with swordfish on them and an apricot colored oxford could help you be seen by oncoming drivers. Aside from the sideways glances, how can you go wrong by making it safely to the other side of the street?

According to the Transportation Alternatives web site, "New York has the highest number of pedestrian deaths and injuries in the United States." The State Department of Motor Vehicles reports that pedestrian injuries declined during the '90s, but pedestrians are still being struck. Maybe dressing a little preppy could help these numbers decrease. I'm not saying replace all your dark duds, but, as my grandmother likes to say, "Vould it kill you to vear a little color?" Probably not, and being prepared never hurt.



Comment on JWR contributor Felice Cohen's column by clicking here.

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03/16/04: Taking a bad shot

© 2004, Felice Cohen