Most women would agree that men who play sports are sexy. But you know what’s even sexier? Men who play preppy sports. Call me old-fashioned, but I would much rather sit on the sidelines at a Hamptons polo benefit Nacho Figueras match, watching men in pastel-colored Ralph Lauren polo shirts dominate on horseback, as opposed to having Staples Center courtside seats next to Jack Nicholson at a Lakers game. There’s just something about the traditional, Ivy League, prep school lifestyle that has always appealed to me. And I’m not the only one. This classic theme has served as the inspiration for many movies and books, such School Ties, Dead Poets Society, The Emperor’s Club, Cruel Intentions and J.D. Salinger’s iconic The Catcher in the Rye, not to mention worldwide clothing retailer Abercrombie & Fitch, which has turned the preppy East Coast lifestyle into a massively successful international retail brand.
For those of us who aren’t of Yale lineage and don’t spend our summers in the Hamptons, we can still be a part of the scene by enjoying any of the numerous sports that are associated with the lifestyle, whether as a player or simply a spectator. So without further adieu, here are some of the most celebrated preppy sports.
Polo– Often depicted in Ralph Lauren, Lacoste and Tommy Hilfiger ads and dubbed “the next big global super sport” by Forbes Magazine, polo is centered around riders on thoroughbred ponies who try to score goals against the opposing team using long-handled mallets. Originally a game that was played among royalty and Iranian nobility, nowadays spectators flock to high-profile events like the Maserati Miami Beach Polo Match to place big bets on the ponies (and by big, we’re talking multiple zeros on the end).
Tennis– Another blue-blood sport often affiliated with wealthy country-clubbers and retired older couples, some of the major tennis events include Wimbledon, the French Open and the US Open. Also known for its fashion sense, tennis has become synonymous with classic clothing brands such as Lacoste and Fred Perry. Some of the famous faces of tennis include: Anna Kournikova, the Williams sisters, and Andre Agassi. Rumor even has it that style icon and Fashion Week favorite Anna Wintour likes to play tennis every morning before she heads into her office at Vogue’s headquarters.
Sailing/Yachting– Often viewed as a leisurely Sunday afternoon sport held in the Caribbean Islands among the uber-wealthy, sailing/yachting involves racing against other boats. There are various types of races, from short course races in protected waters that last a few minutes to coastal and offshore races that span longer distances and can take up to several days to finish. At least it gives you a good excuse to work on your tan.
Golf– Exclusive country clubs with six-figure membership fees, rubbing shoulders with Tiger Woods, being shuttled to the next hole via golf cart, and a private caddie to carry your bags and clubs? All you need to do is master your swing…and pick out the perfect polo shirt to match your pants and hat. This sport is as baller as it gets.
Lacrosse-The ultimate preppy sport with roots in affluent neighborhoods across the country, lacrosse became the poster sport for New England boarding schools and is especially popular on the Ivy League circuit. The object of this contact game involves shooting the ball into the opponent’s goal via a stick, although it’s a lot harder than it sounds. Fun fact: Senator John Kerry was a member of Yale’s lacrosse team back in the day.
Fox Hunting-I am in no way an advocate for the killing of animals, but this sport deserves a mention simply due to its place in history and culture. Fox hunting dates back to the 15th century in Great Britain and developed into a national pastime for the upper classes. The sport is conducted by the hunt “master,” who leads an entourage of huntsmen on horseback, and accompanied by a pack of hounds, they spend the day in hot pursuit of a fox (which in some cases is substituted with a hare or stag). After the kill is made, the hunt is then thrown to the hounds.
Skiing-Does the image of twenty-somethings from an ‘80s movie spending their weekend at someone’s dad’s winter cabin in Aspen come to mind? Or perhaps Wham’s music video for “Last Christmas?” Skiing is the ultimate preppy winter sport, with people heading to places like Tahoe, Breckenridge and even Switzerland to engage in both the sport and the lifestyle that surrounds it.
Crew– If you’ve ever been guilty of flipping through one of the vintage Abercrombie & Fitch Quarterly publications, chances are you’ve seen a full-page spread depicting shirtless men in rowing boats pulling on oars. Nicknamed a “sport of the gods,” crew is the ultimate test of endurance, physical exertion, poise, balance and timing.
Rugby-For those who want to be rugged while keeping it classy, rugby is the way to go. GQ France describes rugby as the sport for “the preppy on the weekend in the country…The type who visits a village pub on Sunday on a bicycle…The next day he’s working in the city or in a Boston law firm.” Even the rugby shirt has made a name for itself in the fashion world, and includes a line of form-fitting rugby blouses for women.
Dressage– Another competitive equestrian sport, dressage (French word for “training”) is defined by the International Equestrian Federation as “the highest expression of horse training”, and the main purpose is to train a horse, prepping it for a series of levels and tests that require precise patterned movements and competency from both the rider and the horse.
Squash-A game with roots in 18th-century England, squash became popular at Eton and Harrow, an exclusive private schools for boys. Opponents stand side–by-side, facing a 15-foot front wall where two horizontal lines are painted, and the players rally the ball until one of them misses. The three top universities for squash are Harvard, Princeton, and Yale, and the sport is extremely popular on Wall Street and at the Pentagon as well.
Fencing– The sport of fighting with swords – it doesn’t get any more noble than this. Fencings roots stem from 18th century Italian schools during the Renaissance and was most popular among males of aristocratic backgrounds who were training for duels. The goal of the game is to land a hit on one’s opponent, as well as to defend one’s self against a hit.
Chess– Many view chess as a game for socially awkward people that takes place in a library. While it doesn’t require much physical activity, this is a sport of the mind based on strategy. A true test of endurance, the longest chess match in history took place in Belgrade, Serbia and lasted for 20 hours. Now that’s a true test of endurance.