Do You Know The New Meaning Of “Preppy”? (Yes, It’s Changed!)

preppy items

We all know what the word preppy means, right? It’s the word we use to describe those rich kids that look down on anyone whose shoes cost less than a car. It’s the perfect word to describe the pompousness and snootiness of the crustiest of the upper crust.

Or is it? Recently, the word preppy has found a newer meaning among the teenagers of Generation Alpha. The argyle sweaters are going back in the closet, and the Lululemon pants are coming out. What the heck is going on with the word preppy among the younger crowd? We’ll answer that question and reveal how we’ve actually seen this sort of thing happen a time or two before.

The new meaning of preppy

For the generations prior to Generation Alpha, the word preppy has a widely known meaning. Traditionally, it is an adjective used to describe someone who dresses in fashion associated with college preparatory (“prep”) school that gives the impression of old money. This fashion typically includes clothing linked to wealth and prestige. Examples of preppy fashion include polo shirts, sweater vests, plaid skirts, argyle sweaters, pleated skirts, blazers, expensive scarves, chinos, tennis skirts, and tennis shirts. This is the fashion of Carlton Banks of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and The Plastics from Mean Girls.

However, preppy means something different for Generation Alpha. This new version of preppy also refers to fashion, but this preppy fashion is the kind worn by the trendsetters of TikTok. This new preppy fashion refers to bright, colorful, and usually pink clothing. It emphasizes “girly” clothing adorned with bows and ribbons. The preppy ensemble is not complete without other trendy items like Lululemon apparel and, of course, the Stanley tumbler.

For the most part, this new version of preppy is very female-centric. Most of the young men of TikTok still know the old version of preppy, but the newer version of preppy is sometimes used to refer to preppy boys who like to use expensive hygiene and skincare products.

Just like words, emoji often evolve over time, and new emoji are constantly added. Is your emoji use outdated? Better find out.

We’ve been here before

This newer sense of the preppy aesthetic is not the first time we have seen a word for a style or subculture change from its original meaning.

The word hippie was originally used to refer to a member of the counterculture movement of the 1960s that promoted peace, free love, and protested the Vietnam War. Over time, though, hippie came to be used as a negative or condescending term to describe a “flower child” stereotype. This new hippie might crunch granola, wear tie-dye, live an excessively nonconformist lifestyle, neglect hygiene, or refer to themselves as “Moonbeam” or “Sunflower.”

The word emo originally referred to a person who enjoyed certain types of punk music, especially if it was emotional and had confessional lyrics. In the 2000s, emo came to be used as a negative term to mean someone was whiny, angsty, or overly emotional to attract attention.

Finally, we have hipster. Believe it or not, this was once a positive term. In the 1940s, hipster referred to a fashionable person who knew what was cool, especially if they were a jazz music aficionado. Later on, the word hipster referred to a bohemian who was spiritual, introspective, and anti-capitalist. Today, hipster might be used negatively to criticize pretentious trend-chasers. The word may imply that someone is hypocritical: a hipster may claim to believe in progressive ideas while supporting large corporations that make the trendy, progressive products they favor.

How the new preppy is used

The new version of preppy is used by members of Generation Alpha to refer to a very “girly” aesthetic. This preppy fashion emphasizes bright and colorful clothing, going heavy on the pink. Preppy girls only own clothing and products that are considered trendy on TikTok. If someone likes this kind of aesthetic, then preppy is a positive term.

However, preppy can also be a negative term to describe someone as being unoriginal and blindly following the latest trends. In this sense, preppy is used similarly to the slang word basic.


What I learned from my #middleschoolers today about what #preppy means now: – It’s still somewhat connected to style – The preppy style of my day is different – It can be used ironically or as an insult. – It’s still a battle between the #preppys and #emo – They all have different definitions. 😂😂😂 #middleschool #preppy #preppynation #teachers #middleschoolteacher #genalpha #middleschoolslang #teachersoftiktok #teacherfyp

♬ Ke$ha – Die Young – 辰歌




Interestingly, this sense of preppy is sometimes used to suggest someone is wealthy and trying to show off their wealth by being preppy. This shows a fascinating overlap between the two meanings of preppy, as they can both be used to accuse a person of trying to flaunt their wealth through their fashion choices.


My dream😋⚡️💗 #fyp #foryou #preppy #annough #trending #viral #xyzbca #annafayeslays #fypシ #FAKE #JOKE #SATIRE

♬ original sound – Anna Faye💌


Do you know what these Gen Z slang terms mean—and where they really come from?

Previous We Have To Ask: Why Do Some Words Sound So Funny? Next What Makes Holi The Most Colorful Event Of The Year?