There's a new prep on the scene, but he's more likely to be found sipping pastis at the Café de Flore on the Left Bank in Paris than cramming in the study hall at Yale or Princeton. And thankfully, he has decided to rewrite some of those high-WASP rules from The Official Preppy Handbook , the definitive prepster guide from the 1980s.
"The French men's version of preppy style is looser [than American mens']," remarks street-style photographer Tommy Ton, referring to the way that a new generation of Paris-based designers has unbuttoned the preppy look – first popularized in France in the 1960s by actor Alain Delon, that country's answer to James Dean – and endowed it with a heightened cool factor and sex appeal.
"Whereas American preps are more done up," he adds, referencing the wholesome, upper-class Ivy Leaguer of the 1950s, who still informs the prevailing approach to preppy in American fashion.
However, the insouciant style of the new Gallic prep, never more than a few clicks away on sites like GQ.com and blogs like Ton's own, Jak & Jil, is beginning to influence the way preppies on this side of the Atlantic are dressing as young Parisian brands such as Maison Kitsuné, AMI and the recently launched Carven men's line bring their nouveau-prep lines to North American shoppers.
Maison Kitsuné, an indie music and clothing label, just opened its first North American boutique on the ground floor of the NoMad Hotel in New York's Flatiron District. In Canada, the line is sold at Gravity Pope (www.gravitypope.com), Roden Gray (www.rodengray.com) and the WANT Apothecary (www.wantapothecary.com).
Newcomer AMI, designed by Alexandre Mattiussi, who spent time at Givenchy and Marc Jacobs before launching his own label last year, is now available exclusively at both locations of Michel Brisson's eponymous boutiques in Montreal.
Mattiussi decided to eschew a runway presentation this fall, showing his collection in a vacant apartment in Paris's 10th arrondissement, where he dressed a throng of lounging models in bird-printed chinos and shirts, heavy knit-cashmere scarves and impeccably tailored tweed blazers.
This laissez-faire approach to building a luxurious and more relaxed preppiness seems to be speaking to a Canadian audience, Brisson says. "It isn't overly complicated and it's priced well, but it still has that little something extra my clients are looking for."
That something extra is a hint of exclusivity, whether it's expressed through couture-quality detailing, body-skimming cuts or even, in the styling, that clubby international symbol, the collar-pop. Nothing lost in translation there.
Special to The Globe and Mail