Fashion Advice: The Prep Dilemma

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Lately, I’ve received oodles of emails from men asking for fashion (and budget shopping) advice. It’s like Queer Eye has awoken their inner manista. Furthermore, I recently read a very interesting fact—that males under age 35 shop as much as their female counterparts. Interesting . . .

The following question was originally posted on CNET’s, where I dish fashion advice to thousands of gadget lovers. Geeks like fashion, too.

Dear Budget Fashionista

My girlfriend insists that my wardobe be changed to be somewhat preppy but casual. She has gone out and bought me crewneck cardigan sweaters [most are 7 button and 8 button sweaters] to wear along with the other things in my wardrobe. She likes for me to look similar to her [style for style].  I don’t mind that she picks out the clothes but insists that she try to get me to focus on the outfits’ appearance. She has given me a guideline on how to button up my polo shirts [2 button shirts, 3 button shirts and 6 button shirt all buttoned up] and cardigan sweaters all buttoned up as well whether it was worn with jeans and also on top of turtlenecks as well.


People often confuse “conservative” dress with “preppy” dress, when discussing men’s fashion. Conservative dress is limited to basic, muted colors like grays, browns, burgundy, and limited amounts of black and white. Preppy dress tends to be a bit more relaxed, leisurely, and a lot more colorful—think of an afternoon sailing, a uniform worn by a student at a New England prep school, or a causal khaki suit worn to a summer wedding. Your girlfriend seems to want you to dress in a more “conservative” rather “preppy” look.

To make your preppy dressing life easier, look no further than the king of preppy himself, Ralph Lauren (Tommy Hilfiger and the higher priced Hickey Freeman Line can also work). Sold at most major department stores and stores like TJ Maxx and Ross, Ralph Lauren continues to define the preppy lifestyle concept with both his Ralph Lauren and Polo Ralph Lauren brands. Purchase copies of GQ and Esquire, remove the Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger, and Hickey Freeman ads, and bring them into the store with you when you shop for guidance. Think “casual wealth” and “relaxed wealth”, when dressing. How many buttons you button doesn’t matter as much as making sure your shirt is ironed and neat (making sure it isn’t tucked into your pants), or wearing a pair of canvas boat shoes or moccasins with your khakis, instead of a pair of dress shoes or messy sneakers.

In closing, I would encourage you to find your own personal style or communicate your style to your girlfriend. Personal style is, well, personal and you must be an active participant in the development of your own style.

Happy Shopping,

The Budget Fashionista

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