Lisa Birnbach

To those who came of age in the early ’80s, The Official Preppy Handbook was an unlikely yet highly influential style manifesto: a call to polite rebellion to troops marching in Sperry Topsiders, chinos, plaids, duck belts, and polo shirts layered beneath button-down oxfords. It was conformity with a wink, archness embedded in the revival of a style predating disco and hippies. You didn’t have to be a Reaganite conservative or come from old money to wear pearls or a mallard-embossed tie. Instead, the preppy uniform became a kind of white, heterosexual drag—the playful emulation of a pre-boomer, Gatsby-esque life of leisure, a frivolous neverland of G&Ts and golden retrievers. Ralph Lauren and J. Crew profited most famously from the preppy movement, and now its doyenne is back: Lisa Birnbach has co-authored True Prep: It’s a Whole New Old World (Knopf, $19.95) with noted designer Chip Kidd, and they have no use for hoodies, Jersey Shore, and taking cell phone calls at the dinner table. Though their book is gentle satire, Birnbach also promotes the virtues of “good manners and good eye contact and a nice handshake.” And in this economy, so unlike the booming ’80s, her new handbook might just help you land a job. BRIAN MILLER

Wed., Oct. 27, 7 p.m., 2010

 
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