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When I talk to Avery Trufelman, the podcaster behind “American Ivy,” I want to ask her about preppiness, but she first asks, “What do you think the state is right now?”
Trufelman is used to asking questions, especially regarding the preparation, the subject of the most recent iteration of her fashion-focused show, TOArticles of interest. At first, he thought he would dedicate just one 20-minute episode to the preppy style. But when he began to explore the history of the aesthetic, from his rise in the Ivy League to his influence in Japan and his regular revival in modern fashion, he realized he needed more time: 270 minutes. , to be exact. In fact, as we speak, she’s still producing this season, trying to figure out exactly how to distill all of her thoughts into a cohesive, loop-wrapped conclusion for the final episode.
The problem is that preppy isn’t just preppy anymore. Preppiness is everywhere right now; it just goes by many different names. You can see it in the various made-up TikTok microtrends like coastal granny or tenniscore. There’s also the cool bespoke aesthetic of Aime Leon Doré and Bode, both brands making pieces reminiscent of relics unearthed in a New England thrift store. And, of course, there’s more subversive runway preparation from Miu Miu and Thom Browne, defying the strict dress codes that shaped the style. At Miu Miu, the skirts can be tiny; at Browne, they are worn by men.
The fact that each of these trends can be placed under the broader umbrella of grooming, Trufelman says, has to do with grooming being the foundation of how Americans dress. Take any American trend (or even brand) back to its roots and you find preppiness. “We are the naturally talented athletes who think they don’t have to train. The American style is something we’ve always had,” she says.
“American Ivy” begins with a look at the prep style on the Princeton campus, as documented in the popular 1965 Japanese photo book. take ivy. Fashion has always been associated with elitism, but Trufelman sees its modern version as much more democratic. “You see so many people wearing Polo Ralph Lauren. It’s so common, it’s so accessible. It’s really expressive of the way that capitalism and democracy have been intertwined. We are all a free society; [we wear] whatever we want.”
Trufelman is quick to point out that for decades, only a few people had access to these looks: “The way the guys in the pages of take ivy they were dressing… they could dress that way, because they knew all the rules,” he says. “They have literally been given their grandfather’s clothes. They felt so safe and looked so good. And so, I feel like that’s what we’re coming back to now.” What he means is that people are more interested in personal style now than in years. “We are so interested in being unique and expressing ourselves in all these little ways,” she adds. Finally, there is a desire not only for an aesthetic, but for the knowledge of what, how and why of that aesthetic.
With the rise of TikTok and Instagram, the tracks of the preppy world have never been more accessible to learn, but that can also make things like tennis or coastal granny feel more like cosplay than a personal aesthetic. They’re hyper-specific pockets that enhance a single facet of preppiness, but lack the inherent ease of the bigger idea. That’s why “American Ivy” feels so apt for this moment.
Even amidst the constant flurry of trends, Trufelman thinks the modern Ivy look will always thrive, because it’s so much fun to subvert and personalize it. “American fashion is picking up and we want to feel like we can play with the canon a little bit more,” she says. “That’s why you can have Bode pants with writing all over it. We’re getting back to that advanced level of auto-styling. We want him to play a little with him.”
Perhaps Trufelman best sums up the state of American preparedness by asking me about it. There are no correct answers; it’s an open 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 way, and everyone is in the middle of it 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.
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