Anarchists and Preps: Prompt 3

From a surface-level observation, one may think that an Anarchist and a Prep have absolutely nothing in common. Diving deeper into an analysis of these two groups, it is revealed that the two polar-opposite subcultures are more similar than previously thought.

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Example of Anarchy fashion in an Anarchist Rally
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Example of Preppy fashion

Obviously, these two groups are very different in its ideologies and subcultural practices but beyond that, these two groups are shocking similar in the structural formation of its subcultural styles. Laura Portwood-Stacer’s Lifestyle Politics & Radical Activism, the chapter “’I’m Not joining your world’: Performing political dissent through spectacular self-presentation” gives the reader an insight into Anarchism. One of the main purpose of Anarchists dressing in their dramatically different ways is to stand out from the mainstream crowd and that it’s “not a coincidence that [their] personal attraction to this aesthetic ends up aligning with others who would politically identify in similar ways” (Portwood-Stacer, 2013). There is a common understanding amongst Anarchists and with their distinctive way of dress, it makes it easier to identify one another and unites them as one cohesive group.

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Similarity in dress allows subgroups to easily identify one another as ingroup members

Similarly, the Preppy trend started as an exclusive lifestyle reserved for the wealthy society members of the East Coast. It’s “someone who went to a fancy eastern boarding school, which is to say somebody whose daddy and granddaddy had pots of money” as the Ivy Style stated in their online article titled, “Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Prep” (2010). The Preppy look is distinctive and makes one standout from the mainstream crowd as a way to identify each other as part of the same socioeconomic circle and status. This exclusive way of dressing allows Preps, just like Anarchists, to distinguish themselves and come together as a unified group.

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Vineyard Vine advertisement, bringing Preppy fashion to the mainstream

Just like Anarchists, the line between using this style as a representation of their beliefs and lifestyle is now often times blurred with those who are simply replicating the style alone. As outsiders learn to recognize the symbolic markers of the Preppy subculture, this style becomes easily replicated. Like Anarchists, struggles between identifying those who are “posers” and those who are “authentic” becomes problematic as the mainstream begin to adopt the Preppy look as a trend. No longer exclusive to the East Coast upper-class, fashion designers and companies begin to replicate their styles to be available to the mainstream public. For example, Zachary Weiss of the Observer writes, “[Vineyard Vine] injects the preppy look into the everyday wardrobes of those who may not have the storied lineage (and bank accounts) of an iconic preppy family such as the Kennedys. Preppy has gone mainstream” (Weiss, 2016).

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Jackie Kennedy

The Preppy and Anarchism vary with their ideologies, however, like many other subcultures, the role of fashion comes into play as a method to distinguish themselves from the masses. Portwood-Stacer’s chapter helps one understand not only the structural formation and the changing roles in society the Anarchist group has but also of other subcultures, such as the Preppy lifestyle and its trend.


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