There is little argument that the preppy ethos is grounded in East Coast, Ivy League culture. Khakis, polos, boat shoes, tote bags, and nautical gear are all foundational elements of this most American of fashions.
“Classic” preppy, as it were, has spawned a variety of equally impactful offshoots. Southern preppy, for example, is a robustly influential outgrowth of the original more stylistically conservative model. The bight palettes and breezy fabrics are built around a New-Englander-in-Palm-Beach feel. To be sure, today they are a staple of preppy’s warm weather personality.
The idea of “West Coast” prep, however, has often been met with an ironic sideways glance. Too often, the implied history and intellectual gravitas that underlies the style’s most vocal self-appointed rule enforcers is used to knock back what they perceive as posers. Well, too bad.
The “preppy” we see today is pure fashion. Actual, for real, New England, Ivy League, prep school preppies are a far less vibrant crowd. Crazy belts and socks? Sure. Fun pants? You bet. Other than that, it’s mostly old khakis, moth-eaten J. Press sweaters, and seriously worn through button downs. Not a skull-and-crossbones velvet opera slipper in sight. Please.
And that’s great, because either way it simply doesn’t matter. Hate to break it to you Internets, but there is no Official Preppy Fashion Oversight Board. Preppy history and culture is one thing, preppy fashion and style is altogether another thing. Have fun, enjoy whatever “prep” means to you, and improvise with America’s home-grown style.
Into that context we are happy to welcome Johnnie-O, which bills itself as the arbiter of West Coast Prep. We’ll break the suspense and just say that OTC loves the brand. Fun, colorful, casual, cool, relaxed, and yes, preppy, in that most West Coast of ways.
The styles are for the most part built on classic prep standards – which is the whole point of being preppy – but tweaked to reflect Pacific sensibilities. Johnnie-O is not trying to recreate in the West, what makes sense in the East. Rather, they are taking what we see as the best of 1950s beachy Ivy League and rejiggering it for today.
Basically, it’s as though Ralph Lauren and and Hurley had a love child.
One little thing we love is the “tweener button.” Founder John O’Donnell could never find the right balance between undoing the second button (still too formal) and the third button (going Vegas) on his sport shirts. (Fun fact: John’s brother is actor Chris O’Donnell.) So he developed a little in-between button that’s both a neat design element and finally lets you go casual without appearing to need a few extra gold chains. Problem solved, clever product feature developed.
We find the overall feel of the Johnnie-O brand is classically fresh and fun. That latter element is what makes it something to add into your wardrobe.
For example, their signature four-button polos have a mid-century modern cut, but are rendered in quirky stripes and classic, soft solids. The Cal Pants are a killer hybrid of jeans and worn-in khakis. Casual, but not totally. Dressy-ish, but not really.
We were trying to think of a person who matches Johnnie-O’s brand perspective and settled on a young Paul Newman on vacation in Carmel – actually, Pacific Heights. It was more chill back in the day.
So, order a round of Bloody Marys and G&Ts and just hang with these guys.