I had someone ask me on Twitter about college style. More specifically, how one should dress stylishly for college. This is a great question and I have a few things I want to say about the topic.
First of all, you need to know your audience and your environment. There’s an idea floating around out there that dressing well is synonymous with dressing up (i.e. wearing a suit or a blazer with a shirt and tie, that sort of thing). This is simply not the case. A big part of dressing well is dressing for the occasion.
And this brings me to college. If everyone around is wearing casual basics like denim jeans, t-shirts and sweatshirts, hoodies etc. you will look absolutely silly strutting around campus in a three piece suit and double monks. I’m not saying there is never a time and place for a college aged guy to don a suit, it’s just not something that makes sense most of the time.
Instead, what you want to focus on are the same types of items your peers are wearing but executed much better.
College aged men generally live in casual basics like denim jeans, hoodies, sweatshirts, sneakers etc. However, the problem with most college style is that the fit is awful, the pieces are mismatched or not complementary, and the colors are less than flattering.
What should you do instead? Here are 5 ways you can dramatically improve your style in college:
- Eschew all logos. Forget about brands, graphic tees, or any other logoed clothing. Instead, go for simple basics free from any advertising for a cleaner, more mature look. College is a time for men to start building their identities and one way you can kick start the process is by refusing to be a walking billboard for mega corporations. Now, if you are having a hard time eliminating all logos, at least keep them discreet and in good taste.
- Dial in the fit. College guys (like most guys) wear clothing that is 1-2 sizes too big. This makes you look sloppy. Aim for clothes that fit your physique and flatter your shape.
- Be wary of activewear. Another issue common with college guys is they tend to live in the same clothing they wear to the gym. Do better than this. There’s nothing wrong with activewear you just need to choose the right pieces.
- Keep your clothes clean (especially your shoes). This almost goes without saying.
- Carry a nicer bag. A backpack is fine but upgrade it from the Jansport you’ve been carrying since high school. If you want something different look for a nice canvas messenger bag or even a small duffel.
Items worth including in your wardrobe: hoodies, crew neck sweaters and jumpers, v-neck t-shirts, henleys, denim jeans, chinos, cords, sneakers, Chelsea boots.
For outerwear consider items like bomber jackets, denim jackets, and pea coats or top coats worn casually.
Here are a few looks for some inspiration. This is what you want to be aiming for when dressing for college:
These are all simple pieces but they look sharp because of the fit and the combination of the different patterns and colours.
Here are a couple more ideas for outfits you can wear to college following my guidelines above:
In this outfit I’ve combined a simple and cool Active Faux Sherpa Crew Neck Shirt by American Eagle with a white v-neck t-shirt, stretch Sutton Jeans in Austin wash by J.Crew Factory, canvas sneakers by H&M and a canvas belt by Vineyard Vines.
All of these pieces are relatively inexpensive (aside from the belt which is a pretty pricey at $75 but hey, it’s one fine looking belt). You’ll note the small logo on the American Eagle shirt. This is still within good taste. What you want to avoid as a big AE emblazoned across the chest. That doesn’t look good.
Stepped up dark denim jeans:
In this outfit I’ve combined Shawl Pocket Cardigan by Goodfellow & Co with a light blue Thompson dress shirt from J.Crew Factory, Driggs selvedge denim jeans by J.Crew Factory, Clarks Gobi Chelsea boots, and a braided leather belt by L.L. Bean.
This is an awesome look if you need to step up your game a little bit but don’t need to go all out with a suit and tie. Once again these are all relatively inexpensive pieces. When wearing the cardigan just remember to leave at least the bottom and top button undone for a more relaxed aesthetic.
My style was awful when I was college. Baggy jeans and sweatshirts. Scuffed, dirty sneakers. I was a sorry sight indeed. Don’t make the same mistakes I did. Heed my advice and start upgrading your style today. You’ll be glad you did.
Here’s to looking sharp!