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The menswear playbook for preppy trends

TV shows influence the preference for prep and more tips on how to evolve the story into spring 2022.

From the new Gossip Girl reboot and students returning to schools, the preppy trend has seen a revival especially through the popularity of the Dark Academia subculture. 

What’s rising in the ranks across pop culture, retailers’ assortments and on the runway? In this report, we provide a full-picture of what’s propelling consumer interest in preppy stories now and tips for investing in spring 2022.

Want to see how retail data can help inform your next season’s assortment? Reach out for a demo today. 

What’s driving consumer interest?

A rise in searches

Consumers have expressed a growing interest in this story over the last year both on Google and Pinterest. The aesthetic is particularly strong on the latter, where outfit inspiration peaked in the US last week and was the number one driver across searches.

Film & TV influences

  • Elite: The Netflix teen thriller series focuses on a group of private high-schoolers, with the much-anticipated fourth season set to release this month. Draw cues from the preppy school uniforms such as structured blazers, contrast trim and hints of retro athleisure.
  • Gossip Girl: The upcoming reboot of the popular series is set in the Upper East Side of New York and highlights varsity-inspired themes and a revival of preppy pieces. This also feeds into tenniscore aesthetics, which are set to be crucial this summer.
  • House of Gucci: Starring Lady Gaga and Adam Driver, the upcoming thriller film highlights preppy looks inspired by the 80s. The two stars have been photographed in pieces such as trench coats, knit sweaters and neck scarves on set, which will spur more prep-themed ensembles.

What is the current state?

Hero trend highlight: polo shirts

Polo shirts have served as a cornerstone within preppy assortments for decades and should be looked to first when offering up a themed range. The silhouette is rooted in sport via the game of polo and therefore fits perfectly into athletic-inspired stories.

Arrivals so far in Q2 are up 31% YoY, indicating that the appetite for polos is growing. UK retailers Jacamo, Burton and boohooMAN served as the top three new investors since April 1st, exposing a greater opportunity for US retailers to get involved.

As a color group, neutrals have noted the most significant increase in polo arrivals, jumping from just 4% of the mix last year to 8% this year. Drilling down to products falling in this palette, knit variations grew in popularity thanks to investment from New Look, Zara and EXPRESS.

Athleisure details have stood out across successful products so far for spring. Tipped trims, color blocking and zipper details are all moving well. Nods to the 70s also saw heavy SKU movement, characterized by vertical stripes and button-down fronts.

Top moving products

Take a page from market leaders

• Ralph Lauren – The retailer launched its Custom Polo as part of its Made to Order program, which offers hundreds of color combinations and helps reduce the use of excess fabric. It also focuses on making strides in the digital space, encouraging customers to Scan the Polo Pony with a Snapchat camera for a brand experience.

• J.Crew – The traditionally preppy retailer is making waves for hiring Brendon Babenzien, the former Creative Director from Supreme, in an effort to revamp its image. As one of the masterminds behind the cult streetwear brand’s success, Babenzien also founded his own brand, Noah. This is just one of many examples of multiple aesthetics blending together.

• Brooks Brothers – The brand recently capitalized on the tennis movement with the release of its collaboration with FILA. The collection features pieces iconic to Brooks Brother’s DNA such as sweater vests, color-blocked polos and button-down shirts. The brand also has entered the loungewear space, offering a range of sporty-inspired basics.

Where is the future focus?

Framing it for Fall 2021

The focus for this fall is on a combination of athletic-inspired and preppy trends. Think in primary palettes and color-blocked techniques. Varsity-inspired tops were designed in collections from Burberry and Lacoste.

Hairy yarns and tactile updates were spotted on polo shirts from Solid and on rugby jerseys at Isabel Marant. Golf and tennis will naturally continue to play a crucial role in preppy designs. Retail the classic collegiate pieces with sporty sneakers, graphics and athletic shorts next season.

Setting up for Spring 2022

Resort shows from Moschino and Dior have strong influences of this story weaved throughout their offerings. The former brand debuted double-breasted blazers with matching shorts in bold floral designs, while the latter showcased traditional cable knits, bombers and sporty co-ords for a similar preppy appeal. Neutral hues and pastels are a safe yet classic interpretation for the aesthetic, while bright colors appeal more to the summer season. Transition polo sweaters and outerwear styles in early spring to camp shorts and lightweight fabrics later in the season.

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