Powerhouse Prep: A Look That Always Finds Its Way into Our Hearts and Closets

by Jessica Teran

Model: Nicholas Spalding

I can’t help but notice that my boyfriend’s everyday ensemble is comprised of neutral colors and styles that perfectly balances a comfortable mixture between streetwear and business prep. A normalcy that feels oddly familiar and nostalgic.

Obviously, this mixture is taking over and here to stay. It’s almost comical that I say this because as I sit here at Starbucks to write this article, I’m fascinated as I notice that, whether intentional or not, almost every man that walks in has incorporated something from this mixture into their outfit. I notice henley tees and collared button-ups underneath tailored blazers or wool cardigans. Each accompanied by fitted trousers or slim-cut dark denim jeans that are faultlessly paired with Oxfords or Chelsea boots. You can’t help but notice how these styles come together perfectly to create a bold powerhouse prep look: an appropriate mixture of business prep and casual streetwear.

Jessica Teran writes about Ivy League prep as a style of Western culture and Japan comprised of classy and preppy menswear most recently combined with cool hype streetwear

The mesh between streetwear and business prep is originally from the 1950s — a style influenced by Western culture here in the United States, homegrown by Ivy League students. Later on, this style became popular in Japan, modernized by Japanese designer Kensuke Ishizu. It remained a strong trend despite changes in style within the U.S. over the next several decades. In the 1940s, magazines in Japan started to reflect Western menswear trends of undone neckties, flannel pants and wool blazers. Ishizu took notice that his fashion designs at the time no longer lined up with Japanese consumers’ interests and their fascination for Western culture.

In 1959, Ishizu took a trip to the U.S. to observe Ivy League students and find inspiration to create his own designs for the Japanese youth. Upon returning to Japan, Ishizu totally harnessed Ivy League fashion into his own designs. Japanese youth took to the trend without hesitation while traditional and older Japanese consumers saw this trend as disgusting and confusing, declaring Ivy League fashion a rebellious subculture that would fade away. However, as the trend grew, it started to spread into new markets and consumers of all ages were buying Ivy League blazers and pairing them with sneakers —  solidifying Ivy league staples into Japanese Streetwear.

Jessica Teran writes about Ivy League prep as a style of Western culture and Japan comprised of classy and preppy menswear most recently combined with cool hype streetwear

Although trends in menswear in western culture took a turn in the ’80s and ’90s away from Ivy League prep, it thrived and evolved in Japan and has remained a staple in menswear to this day. Since western fashion trends are circular, we find ourselves coming back to what we know and modernizing what’s already been done to fit consumers today. A men’s fashion trend that was once inspired by US preparatory students, is now inspired by the streetwear aspects added to it by Japanese designers and recreated to thrive again in the US as men’s everyday staples. The circle is completing another round. 

Powerhouse Prep: A Look That Always Finds Its Way into Our Hearts and Closets

Streetwear has become more luxurious as it has meshed with the style lines and fabrics found in preparatory clothing. Now, we’re seeing more of men’s streetwear being constructed out of nicer and heavier weighted fabrics to create cleaner and more professional pieces for a well-rounded and effortlessly polished look. This opens up the streetwear market to more consumers and allows it to be worn in modern settings– although these staples can be worn for a casual night out, they are also appropriate for business meetings and office settings. Men’s fashion in western culture has become defined by durable, functional and traditional pieces combined as one, which originally came from Kensuke Ishizu when he first modernized powerhouse prep upon his return to Japan in the late 1950s. •

Jessica Teran is a Textile and Apparel Design major from San Antonio, Texas. Her interest in public relations and social media have unearthed her desire to write and expand on her creative writing. When she isn’t in the lab designing or writing, she likes to indulge in holistic fitness and cooking.



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