My Back Pages: Perfume in The Preppy Handbook

Looking back, I still don’t completely understand my teenage obsession with The Official Preppy Handbook.  I purchased a copy of this novelty bestseller (published in 1980) from a remainder bin in some bookstore, and I read and re-read sections of it until many bits were committed to memory.

I was (and am) not a “prep,” either in background or in personal style, but I was fascinated by this volume. And, looking back, I’m noticing a perfume reference that probably stayed lodged in my subconscious with all the other commentaries on colleges, clothing, and country clubs.

In a spread dedicated to “Accessories,” one perfume bottle is displayed amongst an array of belts, handbags (including a classic Coach design!), gloves, and jewelry (fig. 18).

The accompanying text reads:

“18. Eau Sauvage. Men’s cologne, but that’s all right. Perfume is a little too feminine for Preps.”

An iconic Dior fragrance! That was probably the first I’d ever heard of it. (If you’d like to know more about Eau Sauvage, read this.)

Obviously, I’ve ended up wearing and loving many perfumes (and not just traditional citrus colognes), so once again, I turned out not to be a preppy. Still, I can’t help enjoying this book when I look back at it.

Images: photographs of The Official Preppy Handbook (ed. Lisa Birnbach, Workman Publishing, 1980) by Tinsel Creation.

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2 comments

  1. I remember this book very well! But I must confess that it annoyed rather than entertained me. In my head, I re-titled it “The Book of Plain Blondes who Fancy Themselves to be My Superiors.” Why yes, I do have a mean streak, why do you ask? ;)

  2. Just call me Kiki. I totally missed the parody and absorbed it, too. (My well-worn copy even had my puppy’s teethmarks on it.) It tapped into my class insecurities. It must be a hoot to read now.

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