TikToker Struggles to Explain How Gen Alpha Has Redefined What "Preppy" Means

Don't pull out the boat shoes or button-downs if you're trying to fit Gen Alpha's definition of "preppy.

Sara Belcher - Author

May 9 2024, Published 5:18 p.m. ET

For anyone whose grade school days are long behind them, the ideal preppy look probably consists of boat shoes, collared button-ups, pastel cardigans, and headbands. The style was popularized by those imitating the looks of wealthy country club-goers and people with boats and was a staple look that kept stores like J Crew in business.

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While previous fashion trends are quickly circling back around (look at Y2K, for instance), preppy is coming back with a whole new meaning. Gen Alpha kids are already telling their parents how they're trying to dress preppy, but put that button-down and chunky necklace from your younger years back in your closet, because this generation's definition looks a lot different. Let's break down Gen Alpha's new meaning for "preppy."

"Preppy" has a whole new meaning to Gen Alpha kids.

TikTok user Vice Spice (@daiisjah) explains the gap between the generations' definitions pretty well in a video, and it seems that Gen Alpha's "preppy" has moved away from the traditional academia vibe. In Vice Spice's video, she details a conversation with her younger niece, who tried to explain the trend to her.

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"[My niece] would go and grab an outfit to show us an example of what preppy is and it would be like jeans and a sweatshirt," she explained. "And I would say 'OK, are you going to wear like a collared shirt under that? I used to do that,' to which I would get another, 'What?'"

But even after asking for more clarification, the confusion continues.

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"And then she would show us another outfit and it would be like yoga pants and a slightly cropped t-shirt with a hoodie over it. Which again, in my mind, I'm like 'Where's the prep coming in?'" Vice Spice continued. She clarified that none of these clothing items consist of branded shirts or hoodies, like the Aeropostale and Abercrombie hayday. Instead, they're plain graphic t-shirts, often depicting bands or cartoon characters.

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It takes some searching, but it seems that Gen Alpha now considered "preppy" to consist of bright-colored pieces while still prioritizing comfort.

"Basically, to Gen Alpha, preppy now means like bright colors, fun silhouettes, just in general fun outfits," Vice Spice continued.

The comments on her post are filled with people wondering if the kids are just mispronouncing "peppy."

"Now preppy is like bright California casual. Looks more surfer girl to me?! Definitely athletic throughline," one commenter said, with Vice Spice chiming in "Miley Stewart core."

Others have called it "trendy normcore," "Disney Channel clothes," and "a prettier word for BASIC."

"I started dressing like a live-action cartoon character... but now it's considered preppy, which has completely different connotations to Gen Z and older," Vice Spice concluded. "It's also like cool, I'm glad you guys like our style and everything, it's just a little weird that you guys had to rename it with such a loaded label."

If you have a Gen Alpha in your life who says they want to dress "preppy," steer clear of the usual contenders and look instead for fun colors and comfort.

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