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Back in the day, fashion had simple rules. Preppy and urban style had a clearly drawn line between them, like the Socs and the Greasers in the classic novel "The Outsiders." One is demure and streamlined, calmly waiting on racks for golfers, whereas the other is loud and loose, demanding you to buy. Each genre of fashion traditionally reflects the communities from which they were created. Get with the times, honey; that was then and this is now.
Private school uniforms embody preppiness. Tailored and fitted are two words that come to mind when prep's mentioned. Basic pieces (polos, khaki pants/skirt, oxford shirt, cardigan sweater, tie, pleats), structural prints (plaid,pinstripes, argyle) and natural textural patterns (as in tweed), and colors (pastels, navy blue, black and white) can be paired with high heel penny loafers. You leave a pulled together, conservative impression when you put those clothes on. Add a pop of color, scarf, big sunglasses and a signature bag for modern chic swagger.
Urban on the other hand does not mean big, saggy and baggy. You're still tailored and fitted, but the detailing, colors, prints and style of separates is not the same. Bold contrasting colors, organic prints, crazy hardware and detailing (rips, distress, cutouts and rhinestones) dominate high-end racks. All the basic pieces of preppy style can also be found in urban collections, but signature denim and graphic tees are a major product differentiation. Skirts are shorter and there may be a tube or halter top thrown in there. Complete your look with stilettos, scarf, big sunglasses, bling and a signature hobo bag.
Urban wear is marketed to an audience whose income is typically under or just on the poverty line. That does not affect the purchase cost. The price points run parallel. Where preppy style originates from a perspective of class, urban style originates from a cultural perspective as a reflection of hip hop music and African roots. However, socioeconomic lines have blurred. The definition of "urban" has grown vague. Rappers look more preppy to you as they get more money. Effects trickle down and equate less to white tees and saggy pants and more to urban couture.
Fashion Forward: Where Are They Going From Here?
As art imitates life, preppy and urban will continue to merge, resulting in a polished urban look and a bolder preppy look. Classic motifs and logos will get bigger on polos, and prints will be more mature on designer denim. One day, golf girls' rhinestones will bling on the course while b-girls sport hot pink plaid pencil skirts and sheer oxford shirts at the office.