11 July 2024

How to modernise the country club look

11 July 2024

Whenever the term “country club” is mentioned, retro visions of cable-knit cardigans and navy-cream palettes spring to mind à la Ralph Lauren and Tommy Hilfiger. However, this summer, designers have taken to revamp the preppy look with clashing colours, micro minis and androgynous silhouettes.

Where does country-club chic come from?

The more commonly known “preppy style” was popularised back in the late Nineties and early Noughties by teen hits such as Clueless and CW’s Gossip Girl. Defined by pleats, polos and an academic polish; the “preppy” aesthetic derives from the “prep” schools that served the wealthy children of North America’s elites.

The heyday of preppy fashion coincided with the rise of the excess in Eighties fashion, and was cemented by Lisa Birnbach’s The Official Preppy Handbook, which was a tongue-in-cheek examination of both the garments and lifestyle that defined the country club set.

Since it’s inception, the preppy aesthetic has taken many forms: from Princess Diana’s off-duty gym wear to Alexa Chung’s eponymous label, and to Bella Hadid in Gucci today.

Depop’s in-house trend specialist, Agustina Panzoni, identified ‘Eclectic Prep’ as a key fashion theme for SS24, noting that “This trend mixes and matches streetwear imprints with classic brands. With searches for ‘preppy’ up 730% since January, shoppers are also looking for boat shoes (up 296%) and loafers (up 326%), with top brands to shop including Lacoste and Dior.”

One thing is definite: country-club flair has taken on a new form as Gen Z style the trend with messy hair and chunky urban accessories for an effortlessly chic look.

1. The polo

Little introduction is needed for this summer staple. The preppy polo is back with a vengeance and is incredibly versatile. Coming in the form of oversized rugby shirts and tight-Nineties minis, the polo made it’s debut during fashion week on the spring/summer runways of Miu Miu, Gucci and Diesel.

Plain polos can be an easy alternative to your classic crew neck, while striped shirts can be dressed up with a tailored blazer or edged down with distressed denim.

Mark Hogarth, Harris Tweed ambassador and luxury style commentator, notes, “As with any fashion movement or trend there are parameters, but you can input personal style within these boundaries,” something the Italians call ‘sprezzatura’, “this is loosely translated as a studied carelessness.” This nonchalant attitude lends itself perfectly to the re-appropriation of the polo.

Ralph Lauren Striped Cropped Jersey Rugby Shirt – Vermont Green/Vivid Pink, £132 (was £189)

Reiss Wonder Knit The Upside Oversized Cotton Polo Jumper, £130

2. Pleated tennis chic

With Zendaya’s highly celebrated tennis-turn-romance film, Challengers, hitting screens earlier this year, excitement for crisp whites and preppy pleats has ignited.

Country-club chic combines elements of quiet luxury, but builds on it with sporting motifs, as Panzoni notes, the trend “blends Sportscore’s comfort with the sophistication of old prep, creating a sense of effortless elegance reminiscent of classic sportswear.”

Retro athletic attire has been a welcome trend for a while now, but emerging brands like Alo Yoga and Varley have taken the tennis dress in a trendier direction than we’ve seen before. Elegant pleats paired with a sporty sneaker or oversized jacket is a sure way to modernise the classic tennis attire.

Varley Amar Dress, £96

Alo Yoga Grand Slam Tennis Skirt, £89

3. Chunky loafers

Mary Jane shoes have dominated autumn and spring street style – but late summer is beckoning in the chunky loafer. A quintessential country-club fad, the loafer has become a Gen Z staple thanks to Gucci’s bulky reinvention at Milan Fashion Week, sported by guests including model, Bella Hadid.

Many traditional brands have used this resurgence as an opportunity for a modern rebrand. “G.H. Bass could claim to be the quintessential for a chunky loafer,” notes Hogarth, “but Clarks are among the many other brands worth a look.”

Radley Cavendish Avenue – Colourblock Chunky Chain Loafer, £90 (was £129)

4. Heritage prints: modern cuts

A welcome twist to the aesthetic is taking classic styles and incorporating modern cuts. Heritage tweed often evokes thoughts of your grandpa’s suit jacket, but thanks to runways showcasing heritage prints with sparkle-threaded embellishments, this is no longer the case.

“The general rule would be to have a plain tweed jacket, or even a suit, and accessorise with brighter colours – scarf, socks, and tie,” says Hogarth. “Tartan is a bit more difficult as a bright pattern will dominate any look.” Hogarth suggests taking one colour out of the multi-toned print and leading with that as the palette for your outfit to avoid a look becoming too busy.

Taking a slouchy tartan blazer or a mini tweed skirt is the perfect way to bring old-age fabrics into 2024.

Sezane Christie Jacket – Pink Check Print, £170

French Connection Effie Boucle Skort – Bluebell/Classic Cre, £27 (was £69)

5. Coquet with colour

The biggest giveaway of any country club look is in its colour palette. Usually showcased through navy, creams and tans, this year is all about adding colour to the classic Sloane Ranger ensemble.

Going bold with prints, hues and accessories is the crème de la crème when it comes to modernising country-club chic. Elevating preppy staples with contrasting colours and finishing the look with a messy undone hair-do is the ultimate way to bring preppy into 2024.

Claudie Pierlot Cable Knit Cropped Jumper – Bubble Gum, £134.50 (was £269)

Wolf Evie Large Bag – Green Leaves, £199

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