The definition of ‘preppy’ has apparently changed, and TikTok is super confused

For anyone who grew up in the late ’90s/early 2000s, being called “preppy” definitely drummed up a lot of specific images: crisp, pastel polos and pleated skirts, cable-knit sweaters around the shoulders and trips to Nantucket with the family, for instance. It was the official look of the rich — the private-school-educated Blair Waldorfs of the world.

Of course, not everyone who followed the “preppy” trend in real life was actually from some quaint New England town. Or rich, for that matter. As the aesthetic took over high schools across America, most teens achieved the “preppy” look by shopping at Abercrombie & Fitch and American Eagle.

But these days, the definition of “preppy” seems to be expanding, and people on TikTok are trying to figure out what the “new preppy” looks like.

In one video, @exfolikate responds to someone’s question about when and how the term “preppy” changed.


“I am equally confused about this because this was preppy,” the TikToker says, pointing to a photo of herself in middle school. In it, she’s wearing a white polo top, matching pleated skirt and a string of pearls around her neck.

The goal, she says, was “to look like a rich mother who just sits at a country club all day waiting for her tennis lesson.”

“Let’s just call it Polocore,” the TikToker adds.

But as many other TikToks are now showing, the “new preppy” is a bit different — in a hard-to-put-your-finger-on-it kinda way.

Based on what’s being shared, Gen Z is redefining the preppy look as less “New England country club” and more “relaxed and beachy Southern charm.” The outfits are colorful, the patterns and prints are bold and the dresses are frilly.

There is definitely still the occasional polo being worn — and mini-skirts are still a thing — but the looks have a slightly more updated vibe that Gen Z is apparently loving.

That said, not everyone on TikTok is getting the distinction.

“Wait what is preppy now,” one person asked.

“I’m confused,” added someone else. “It looks like everyone. So what are the different styles now?”

“i prefer the old one,” said someone else, who was also a bit lost. “The new one confuses me idk why.”

In fact, a lot of people found the old look preferable to the new one.

“The old one was clean and professional,” one person said. “I love it.”

Others defined the old preppy as more “classy” and “timeless” than the new preppy.

Some said the two were “giving new money vs. old money vibes,” while others felt like the new preppy was really just a recycled version of the “old vsco” look.

Whatever the case may be, the “new preppy” sure seems to be catching on. Only time will tell if it’ll stick around as long as the original look did.

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