Fashion Pop Culture Style

Return of the Preps: J.Crew’s New Era

Walking into the Oak Brook Mall J.Crew with my mom and sister and promptly splitting to the “Crewcuts” section remains a vivid memory of mine. My mom would look for clothes for herself, while my sister and I argued over which one of us would get to wear the tweed dress with the pearl detailing on the collar on Christmas Eve. I grew up loving J.Crew. They had the most fashionable, most elegant clothes for an 8-year-old and now, as a college student, I recognize the brand for creating a style that’s classic and timeless. However, in recent years, this hasn’t always been the case. 

J.Crew began as a pioneer for affordable preppy fashion and was very successful at the start. They sold desired and admired clothes at a price point students, like those at UNC-Chapel Hill, could afford. Although J.Crew has recently made a comeback in the realm of preppy fashion, for a while there, the brand took a downturn and even filed for bankruptcy in 2020. 

J.Crew began as a high-quality, affordable brand that emulated vibes of coastal and outdoorsy without being overpriced. “The collegiate prep… kids who dug Ralph Lauren’s hit look but couldn’t quite swing Lauren’s price point,” said Maggie Bullock for Vanity Fair. However, in the 2000s, the brand established a new look under the creative direction of Jenna Lyons, who has since resigned. When Lyons was in charge, the quality of J.Crew clothing went down, and the brand started to stray from the original preppy staples. After resigning and leaving the company with fewer stores and in debt and going through different leadership, the company took on a new team. This includes Libby Waddle as CEO, Brendon Babenzien as creative head of menswear and Olympia Gayot (now micro-influencer) for womenswear.  

With this dynamic leadership, J.Crew’s reemergence looks very similar to its earlier days: sleek, preppy and coastal fashion. “Gayot’s mirror is the portal to a new era at J.Crew, and everyone from full-time editors to the average shoppers agrees that the store is back,” writes Halie Lesavage for Harper’s Bazaar. Their website features preppy staples like the European-esque lady jacket, cable-knit turtlenecks and thick topcoats but adds a youthful spin by incorporating trends with bright colors and patterns. 

J.Crew’s new leadership cannot take all the credit for its rebrand. Recently, the “old money” and “coastal grandmother” micro-styles have been taking social media platforms such as TikTok and Instagram by storm. These just so happen to be trending right amid this famous brand finally getting its groove back. 

J.Crew’s journey, even in my lifetime, has been a long and not always easy one. However, the recent return to preppy staples and the incorporation of youthful trends showcase a brand that has not only embraced its classic aesthetic but also adapted to the evolving fashion landscape. With a nod to its heritage and a pulse on contemporary tastes, J.Crew stands as a testament to the cyclical nature of fashion, proving true style is indeed timeless.

Latest posts by Annie Ascher (see all)
Share this article: