Prep vs. Frat


we have a guest editor today, my 16-year-old son, Connor.  He has been trying to explain to me the very subtle difference between a preppy look and a frat look for men.  I made him put it in writing:

For high school men, clothing attire is a key aspect of their personalities. Two styles that are common among my peers are “prep” and “frat.” Prep, according to my definition, comes from the shores of Atlantic Ocean, while frat stems from the good ol southern roots of fraternities at the universities of Georgia, Alabama, and Tennessee.

Both styles are classy. They involve semi-formal attire, as if one were attending a yacht club or a polo match. Prep involves light-colored collared shirts with a similarly light-colored pair of shorts. The colors must be bright as well as light. They must pop out and distinguish one’s shirt from his shorts. One would most often wear a nice pair of Sperry Top-Siders or another brand of boat shoes. Sweaters are often worn to protect oneself from the chilly winds of the Atlantic.

Frat does not stray too far from the formal look of prep. To dress frat would involve wearing darker shades than if you were going for a preppy look. A frat guy would never stray from good ol khaki cargo shorts unless the Georgia Bulldogs were playing (in which case he would break out his bright red shorts). Sandals are the usual choice of foot wear for the frat look (who needs socks anyways). While sweaters are worn up north, southerners simply put on long sleeve collared shirts to keep themselves warm.

Common prep brands are Vineyard Vines and J. Crew. These stores offer those bright colors that are trademarked prep and have a very modern formal nature. To buy the frat look, one would look no further than Brooks Brothers and Ralph Lauren Polo. These stores offer a very classic formal look and have dark strong colors.

Both styles serve a common purpose for high school boys: to impress our female colleagues. Either way guys, if you dress like you care, girls will be impressed. How my father ended up with my mom by dressing the way he does is beyond me. You strut in sporting your bow tie or your yellow shorts and you’ll immediately attract the attention of the young women in the room.

Ms. Farr, Mom, thank you.  I’m extremely grateful that you’ve allowed me to contribute to your blog. I hope that I’ve given helpful and accurate advice. To all those who’ve read this, thank you, and check out Julia Farr because it truly is a fantastic boutique.


Images: Polo/Ralph Lauren



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17 responses to “Prep vs. Frat

  1. Julie

    Thanks for the excellent post! I had no idea of the subtleties of the prep v. frat look – but it’s all clear to me now! And it explains all the high school boys/men I know! Please post again when you feel inspired. And your Dad had some tried and true frat looks that were just the right thing in the early 1990s! Thanks, again — Julie

  2. Mrs. Dakan

    Well said! Too bad you didn’t live back in the day when “preppy” young men wore multiple polo shirts, one on top of the other – always with the collars up!

  3. Katie

    Thanks Connor this was very informative. I just learned that Phil is a ‘frat’ dresser although under my influence is leaning a little closer to ‘prep’. Still can’t get him in the Nantucket reds though.

  4. Laura

    Great blog Connor. Just one question, what are navy socks with a big white anchor on them?

  5. Dad

    Just proves the clothes don’t make the man.


  6. SouthernFratGuy

    Good article, except there is one major flaw! Fraternity men see cargo shorts as evil. True fraternity gentlemen would never wear cargo shorts unless they were cargo fishing shorts (only acceptable time).

  7. NewEnglandPrep

    Good article! Very pleased. I would have to disagree with your statement that Brooks Brothers is for the frat boy. Brooks Brothers is a very high end and classy company that supplies preps and upperclass gentlemen alike. I would rather say that Vineyard Vines is more for a frat since it presents a more relaxed and casual look. Other than this I have to say that the article was great. Now I must go and play some billards since the snow is has covered my croquet field and it is much too cold to go sailing on a day like today.

  8. NewEnglandPrep

    Sorry about the typo. It should say ” the snow has covered”

  9. Tripp

    I highly disagree! I think that Polo and Brooks Brothers are far more preppy than they are frat. Vineyard Vines is so fratty sometimes I really can’t even stand to wear it. J. Crew has some nice pieces but in my opinion is more fashion conscious if that makes sense. I think one aspect that you did leave out when describing prepdom is that it is very dependent on tradition. Classics are the key in preppy style. This means tons of cable knit, penny loafers, ribbon belts, go to hell pants, and a perfectly fitting navy blazer. Frat style in my opinion is far more gauche than preppy because it becomes more of a unanimous following of a certain uniform like: shorts, collared shirt, and top siders. Whereas preppy has its own uniform but leaves far more interpretation up to the wearer and supports a more personal approach to the styling of an outfit (i.e. monogramming, that Rolex you got for graduation, your grandfather’s old lizard Gucci-bit loafers.) In essence, preppy is far more upper crust and more daring because most preps are fabulously wealthy and do not care what others think. Often times “frat bros” are just trying to fit in, most of the time before they even step foot onto a college campus they are like everyone else at their school usually wearing a jeans and a t-shirt getup. Preppy OBVIOUSLY takes the win. We are a little less douche, and have way more natural charm.

    • Caite Bug

      ^I think this is coming from somebody not actually familiar with fraternities and perhaps not even with the social circles the styles of dress discussed are rooted in. He (you, Tripp) even comes off as a bit anti-frat.

  10. JM

    Cargo Shorts are NOT frat. They are the opposite of frat.

  11. CJ

    Coming with a member of a Fraternity I see cargo shorts as created by the Devil and wouldn’t wish them on my worst enemy. Also Vineyard Vines and pastels are much more Frat then they are preppy. Preppy is more inspired by Northerners who attend prep schools and usually wear Polo and Brooks Brothers.

  12. George

    WRONG frat boys don’t wear cargos.

  13. A male rocking the southern frat look would never and I repeat NEVER be caught dead in cargo shorts…or sandals for that matter..unless they were Rainbows or Chacos. Normal footwear would be loafers (boaters, penny loafers, driving shoes) by Sperry, Cole Haan and others. Then you got your Clarke Wallabees or duckboots for the colder seasons. Also, Brooks Brothers/ Vineyard Vines/ Polo are all worn by southern gents but the big thing now is the more exclusively southern brands that are emerging such as Southern Proper, Southern Point, and State Traditions.

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