College Style Battle: Athleisure vs. Preppy

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Photo by Joshua Rawson-Harris on Unsplash

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few years, you know that the athleisure trend has absolutely taken over the fashion industry (luxury included) and that almost everyone is embracing the trend in one way or another. Now, when defining athleisure, it’s insufficient to say that it’s a blend of leisure and athletic wear as it has transcended the original idea and is now an all-encompassing fashion phenomenon. This is a trend that goes beyond rocking stylish sweats and sports bras on the streets or matching tracksuits with heels. Today, an outfit that contains even just one garment that is deemed ‘sporty’ is considered athleisure as this trend has completed its mission, the mission is becoming almost omnipresent in every outfit we decide to rock.

Why do we love it?

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The answer to this question is quite simple – the trend came to bridge the gap between the overly formal and the overly informal. It came into our lives in order to make them easier, to allow us to simply glide from one errand, arrangement or obligation to another without having to change our clothes (and waste the little time in a day we have). However, with its rise, came numerous variations in which to rock it – now it’s completely acceptable, if not cool, to wear a suit with tennis shoes, to rock evening dresses and romantic tulle skirts with hoodies and sneakers, and to even mix and match – put on a nice crisp white button-up, an oversized blazer and a pair of elegant wide-leg pants and complete the look with, say, a fresh new pair of New Balance sneakers. Essentially, the trend keeps on transforming, and it seems to be getting bigger – from the puffer jackets and slouchy jeans seen in this season’s menswear collections, and the now incredibly trendy pants with the sporty stripe on the side – who knows what the future of athleisure looks like. The one thing we do know is that the millennial generation, as well as this still quite unnamed, perhaps the college-attending Z generation, loves the trend, along with the lifestyle it stands for.

Whatever happened to good old preppy?

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Well, according to both Vogue and numerous lines that came strutting down the runways this year, one thing can be said with certainty – the preppy is back. Now, before you get your pearls and your sensible oxfords and loafers (which you are very welcome to do), you should be warned that, just as any other trend, the preppy has gone through some changes of its own. First of all, it’s become a tad more eccentric and bold, particularly in terms of mixing prints and patterns, which is highly evident in such collections as the Balenciaga spring line. The stripy shirts are still here, along with the conservative and length-appropriate skirts, and even chinos are making a comeback, but we can’t help but notice the ironic vibe in the way the collections have been executed. It’s almost like the cardigans and the crew sweaters tied around the shoulders aim to represent the preppy person as a kind of an old-school, old money stereotype. It’s almost satirical is what it is. As stated by Vogue, the trick to rocking preppy this season is to take a preppy piece (the polo, creased chinos), and then completely dismantle the look with an unexpected silhouette (cropped, oversized) or color – the bolder and more outrageous, the better, and finish the look off with something very street style-adjacent – the cheaper, the better. When in doubt, unbutton the collar or flash a sliver of skin for a dash of sex appeal.

Is there a fight here at all?

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From what we can tell by analyzing the current shape and form of the two trends, in their intentions, they don’t differ much. Athleisure may be the trend de jour while the preppy look may have taken a more subversive route, but they both share one thing in common – a kind of fashion rebellion we’ve been waiting for for quite some time. Now, perhaps not all of the pieces will get along just perfectly, but in the world where fashion has become everything and anything you want it to be, from our perspective, there is no battle – embrace items and garments from both styles, rock them seriously or ironically, and don’t be afraid to mix and match. By the looks of the garments, it seems that they will get along just fine, as long as you get a bit creative.

What we have to understand about the millennial generation is that they’re all about fluidity. Therefore, if you were expecting a fist fight between the two style movements, sorry to disappoint you – nothing to see here but perfect experimentation and harmony. The new generations are all about meshing and blending, and with a little effort, you can rock both styles impeccably, and look super cool even if you throw on a string of pearls – ironically or not.

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Claire Hastings

Claire Hastings

Claire Hastings is a wanderer, writer and regular contributor at Ripped.me. She writes as long as she can remember, and she is very passionate about fashion, running, other cultures, and her cat.