Ivy League 2.0: The Coolest Preppy Sweatshirt Brands For 2023
Sporty sweatshirts are an integral part of a preppy aesthetic so we’ve rounded up our favourite brands producing them today, from heritage names to on-trend contemporary labels.
Who’d have thought that a look born out of early 20th-century British college rowing clubs would evolve to become the style du jour in menswear, but that is exactly where the modern preppy aesthetic came from.
Preppy style has, at its core, sporting influences, redefined and styled in a collegiate campus kind of way. The sweatshirt was integral to this look, catalysed by the televisation of sport and the middle class wholly adopting personal fitness in the US back in the late 50s and early 60s. Images of the likes of President Kennedy and Steve McQueen sporting classic grey loopback sweatshirts while sailing or astride a motorbike respectively helped to cement the image of the sweatshirt as a cultural icon, more than simply a functional sports garment.
Cheap to make and easy to wear, the sweatshirt became integral to the college student’s wardrobe, teamed with a pair of chinos or jeans, and a lightweight blouson or a tailored sports jacket. It even became official university merch for guys and girls alike – who can forget Princess Diana rocking a ‘Harvard’ sweat throughout the 90s?
Characterised by a marriage of varsity nostalgia, casual tailoring and vintage-inspired sportswear, it’s not hard to understand why the preppy sweatshirt is still extremely popular today. From knitted cricket jumper styles to classic loopback cotton jersey versions, they are a crucial piece to have in your wardrobe, whether you lean towards a preppy aesthetic or not.
What is a preppy sweatshirt?
The key characteristic that makes a sweatshirt ‘preppy’ is its simplicity. Plain styles hark back to the original styles iterations from the 50s and onwards, more often than not constructed from soft cotton jersey and featuring a ribbed neck ringer, as well as ribbed collars and hem.
Additional preppy details such as collar stripes, varsity logos and vintage badges all add to the vibe. Avoid on-trend logo and slogan treatments – the preppy sweatshirt most definitely has a retro heritage appeal to it, rather than an edgy contemporary look. That said, there are plenty of brands that are currently faithfully redefining preppy aesthetics for a modern audience, not least streetwear labels such as Aimé Leon Dore and Noah NYC.
The preppy sweatshirt is a timeless garment, so it’s easy to style within a variety of different menswear genres. For example, keep the vibe sporty with sweatpants and minimalist sneakers; layer it over a white tee and jeans, like Steve McQueen; or go full-on Ivy League with chinos, loafers and a Harrington jacket.
The preppy sweatshirt is also perfectly at home as part of your loungewear looks.
Best preppy sweatshirt brands for 2023
Aimé Leon Dore
The brainchild of Teddy Santis continues to make waves in the menswear community, and in many ways leads the charge for modern preppiness.
All of its sweatshirts, which come in classic collegiate colours, have a subtle logo treatment, often with a retro feel to it, and are constructed from a beautifully soft and dense 20oz French terry jersey fabric.
There’s no arguing that Noah’s classic crew necks are exactly that: classic. Available in a wide assortment of colours and with subtle embroidered logo detailing to the chest, the New York-based brand’s sweatshirts are constructed from 12oz brushed back fleece so they have a really soft nap to them that feels great on.
Understated with a minimalist retro appeal, it’s how all great preppy sweatshirts should be.
Founded in Brooklyn in 2015, Adsum NYC has developed a cult following for its high-quality staples inspired by the cities and countryside of the American Northeast.
With a clean minimalist aesthetic and utilising seasonal tones, Adsum has created a line of sweatshirts inspired by rugby shirt patterns, which are a must for preppy aficionados.
Most of its wares are made in Canada, too, so you can be assured of fabric and build quality.
While not strictly a preppy brand, Alexandre Mattuissi nevertheless has created a fine line of comfortable sweatshirts that are perfect for sliding into a preppy-leaning wardrobe.
With the subtle but instantly recognisable heart logo in various formats, AMI’s sweatshirts have a fresh minimalism about them and are available in some pretty outrageous colours too.
Another icon of American preppiness, GANT has stood the test of time thanks to its unwavering dedication to traditional preppy silhouettes.
From classic crew necks in myriad tones to zip-throughs and half-zip sweaters, as well as retro-styled versions with the archive shield logo, you’ll find plenty to indulge your modern Americana tastes.
The grandfather of modern preppiness, Ralph Lauren has built an entire empire out of collegiate cool, channelling all of the classic motifs via his Polo brand.
Naturally, the sweatshirt plays a key feature in the perennial Polo collections, and you’ll find literally hundreds of colours to integrate into your sporty preppy fits, from those with the inimitable polo player logo to many derivations of the Polo bear.
Rowing Blazers are without a doubt the kings of modern retro, using its passion for preppy nostalgia to create a fun, stylish brand from the ground up.
Its sweatshirts are hilarious, in the best way, with fun vintage logos, graphics and slogans. Never one to take itself too seriously, Rowing Blazers is perfect for those who are looking for a more tongue-in-cheek take on traditional Ivy League style.
Formerly of Clifford Street, London, and now pride of place on Savile Row, Drake’s is widely-loved and well-recognised for its excellent tailoring and modern preppy casualwear.
Its team takes the very best of both worlds and combines them in a uniquely relaxed way so that the tailoring feels casual and the casualwear feels elevated.
You can always count on exquisite fabrics and build quality at Drake’s and its sweatshirts are testament to this well-earned reputation, made from densely woven loopback jersey.
What you’ll immediately notice about J.Crew’s sweatshirts is that they feel substantial. That’s because the flag-bearer of modern Americana uses a dense 14oz cotton fleece that has been brushed to create a super-soft internal nap. Available in an array of colours, it’s great value at just over $100/£100.
Also check out its Wallace & Barnes line of sweats, modeled after vintage athletic gear and knit in a hefty, soft, brushed-cotton blend.
Oliver Spencer has always cleverly spun preppy silhouettes and motifs into his casually tailored collections, which also lean on traditional workwear silhouettes.
Recently his loungewear and jersey creations have been right on the money, using some unique waffle knit and terry cloth fabrics to great effect.
The British designer is a big advocate of using organic cotton, too, so you’ll find plenty of eco-conscious crew-neck sweatshirts that come without the consumer guilt.
James Bond’s favourite label, British icon Sunspel is masterful at creating modern minimalist menswear. Probably most recognised for its luxury T-shirts and polos, it goes without saying that the heritage brand also produces some stunning sweatshirts, namely the classic loopback style with the v-stitch insert, which comes in a variety of colourways.
Also check out the Paul Weller collaboration, which includes loopback sweatshirts inspired by vintage American college varsity tops.
Fear of God Essentials
Founded by Jerry Lorenzo in 2013, Los Angeles-based Fear of God made an instant splash on the luxury streetwear scene thanks to a clean minimalist aesthetic and tight muted colour palette. Its Essentials line is more of the same, replete with the collection’s signature fleece crew neck.
Featuring a tonal velvet flocking logo, its minimalist design and retro athletic feel make it ideal for layering with preppy polos, Oxford button downs and chinos.
When the avant-garde American designer isn’t creating fantastical runway performances with his seasonal collections, he’s settling down to make some pretty iconic sweats – the instantly recognisable four stripes on the left arm marking out a Browne sweatshirt from a mile away.
Crafted beautifully in loopback cotton in Japan and available in a variety of clean colourways, it will easily slide into an elevated preppy look with chinos or joggers.