The Cult Brand That’s Making Preppy Cool Again

Plenty of Instagram delights are liable to stop me in my tracks: this painting, this tattoo, this video. But few accounts do it as consistently as Kule, the New York-based basics brand famous for its stripes. Maybe it’s all the khaki, or the late 70s/early 80s motifs, or the steady drip of women wrapped in upwards of nine garments, but no account maintains a larger presence in my bookmarks folder.

Launched as a children’s line by Nikki Kule in 2001, it was later parlayed it into a “preppy luxe” brand for humans of all ages, some of whom you probably follow on Instagram. I’m an admitted Kule zealot — I’d happily trade all my T-shirts for every variation of The Modern. Or all my sweaters for The Remus. The clothes are the perfect marriage of good design and high quality; the kind that feel so nice you never think to wash them.

But it’s Kule’s style language that especially speaks to me. At a recent market appointment for the brand, I pored over the last four lookbooks — which were styled and imagined by Nikki herself — and had to resist pocketing them for future reference. Nikki does for Kule what Jenna Lyons once did for J.Crew: She makes preppy look painfully cool. Copy-it-immediately cool, which is what I invite you to do via the below breakdown, if it tickles your fancy, too.

1. The Post That Made Me Want Large Khaki Shorts

Roomy khaki shorts that hit just above the knee aren’t what the pope would call “universally flattering.” They don’t even look that sleek on the models, which is what I find so charming about them. They’re not here to impress. They’re just here to skateboard and probably attend prep school. Plus, and obviously, they look great with stripes.

2. The Post That Made Me Want to Wear a Track Suit to a Fancy Restaurant

If I were a rich grandmother who lived on the Upper East Side, this is what I’d wear to meet my granddaughter for lunch downtown. Or if I were me, this is what I’d wear tomorrow.

3. The Post That Made Me Want to Wear a Sweater Over a Jacket

Kule’s Instagram is chock-full of weird layering ideas, many of which involve the rather simple formula of wearing what would traditionally be the outer layer on the inside, et voilà! A cool outfit.

4. The Post That Made Me Want to Tie a Plastic Bag Around My Head

I like to imagine this bag was tied around the model’s head to keep her hair dry on a rainy set and just happened to look incredible. But the alternative — that Nikki or someone else had the spontaneous idea to use it as a scarf — is just as satisfying (and confounding). Either way I’m on board. Catch me at fashion week.

5. The Post That Made Me Want to Wear Tube Socks and Sandals (With My Large Khaki Shorts)

Welcome back, big boy shorts. You look even better with tube-socked sandals. I’ve long lamented not having a summer look, but wouldn’t this look work great with a big white T-shirt in July? Or would my ankles be hot?

6. The Post That Made Me Want to Wear a Striped Button-Down Under a Striped Turtle

Wear the outer layer on the inside, part two: this time featuring a button-down, a turtleneck, and a furry hypotenuse. In this case, the turtleneck needs to be roomy enough to accommodate a button-down, and bonus points for slightly conflicting patterns.

7. The Post That Made Me Want to Layer Two Oversize Tops (…Over Stirrups)

A final lesson in unexpected layering: an oversize sweater layered over what appears to be a sheer hooded coat, layered over bright blue stirrups, layered under white sling backs, punctuated by a black patent leather bucket hat. What a wild ride, and a reminder that anything’s an outfit if you just believe in yourself.

8. The Post That Made Me Want to Wear Red Tube Socks With Loafers (With My Large Khaki Shorts)

And for my final forthcoming khaki look (see you in June), a bold red sock with a black leather loafer. I’ve got everything but the shorts, so I’m nearly there.

Feature photo courtesy of Kule.

Haley Nahman

Haley Nahman

Haley Nahman is the Features Director at Man Repeller.

More from Archive