One of the niche groups in America Through Time at the start of the 1980s was the preppies. The 1970s was a decade of disco, social experimentation, outlandish fashion and a reverence of “newness”. However, at the start of the 1980s, there was a noticeable conservative backlash that permeated society, both politically and socially. Religious fundamentalism definitely became widespread and was helped along by the emergence of nationally known TV mega preachers. Many held the belief that society needed to get back to “groundedness”, for the lack of a better word.
The preppies, in addition to religious fundamentalists, were a group that seized on this kind of new wind sweeping the psyche of the nation. The preppies were not necessarily religious, but definitely politically conservative and the second pillar allied with religious fundamentalists in a Republican ascendancy that occurred during the decade. They very often were wealthy country club Republicans, but not always, as the preppie look was copied by many among the lower middle class as well as the upper middle class. In truth however It was really the ivy league elites and “Greenwich Connecticut” lifestyle that preppies idolized and put on a pedestal.
In popular culture this lifestyle was romanticized in television shows like The Paper Chase and movies like St. Elmo’s Fire. The ideal preppie was to drive a BMW or expensive European model automobile and to dress always in a conservative manner that heavily favored old school sports jackets and cotton button down dress shirts when formally attired and Izod sports shirts or wool sweaters when more casually dressed. They would often spend their summers out in The Hamptons of Long Island, Martha’s Vineyard or other similar posh and heavily WASP locations. They still exist to this day, but sort of had their heyday in the 1980s and early 1990s and sort of declined in popularity in tandem with the decline of Republican 1980s conservatism.