At a place like Yale, a certain level of preppiness is to be expected. But with the instantaneous popularity of “Gossip Girl” — which has slipped preppy some serious steroids — people around campus seem to be taking the classic polo to a whole different level of Hampton Classic-chic.

Gone are the days of the understated. A style that once simply entailed wearing a cashmere sweater has turned into a competition for who can sport the biggest flower in headband form. Don’t get me wrong. I, myself, fall prey to the irresistibly adorable flowered headbands at J. Crew (on sale now!). My secret is out: I dressed as Blair Waldorf for Halloween. The combination of argyle tights, suede boots, pleated skirt and Oxford is my guilty pleasure.

Someone once told me that preppiness is not just an aesthetic, but also a way of life. So how can you tell a true prep from a “Gossip Girl” fan? Five true prep must-haves:

1. Boat shoes, Topsiders, loafers (or whatever you call them). The staple of any good prep’s closet. The shoes make for a great, unisex look that spices up jeans or dresses down a skirt and tights.

2. The cable knit. V-neck or not, a cable knit sweater is the way to go during the fall season when it’s not yet cold enough to whip out the North Face.

3. Argyle, plaid and pearls. All are cliché, but with good reason. Just don’t go overboard with mixing and matching.

4. A pony or an alligator on the left chest. I’ve said it before: “Ralph is my homeboy.” Ralph Lauren that is. He and those people at Lacoste know what they’re doing.

5. Seersucker anything. Who said Martha’s Vineyard can’t be brought to “The ’Have”?

Any good prep knows that simplicity is key. If your outfit would go along well with a cigar and an equestrian whip, you’re probably on the right track.