Look What Happens When You Dress As Smart As You Are: Vintage Images From True Magazine

by Brett & Kate McKay on August 13, 2010 · 29 comments

in Dress & Grooming, Style

Tony’s post on how to change your style reminded me of a great magazine article I found awhile back ago in a 1954 issue of True Magazine for Men that I bought at an estate sale in Vermont. Entitled ”Look What Happens When You Dress As Smart as You Are,” the article highlights the style transformation of Columbia University student, Don Wardlaw.

Don was a highly successful college student, but didn’t dress the part. From the article:

Don Wardlaw is a pretty smart fellow. He’s a senior at Columbia University where he won a four-year, $4,000 scholarship while he was still a high school student in Little Rock, Ark. He’s a business manager of The King’s Men, Columbia’s popular barbershop singing group. Last year he was student coordinator for Columbia’s year-long bicentennial celebration. You wouldn’t have know it to look at him though. Not in the beat-khakis that Don-and most of his classmates- wore around the campus.

With the help of True Magazine’s style intervention, “Don returns to the campus outfitted like a BMOC instead of a yardbird.”

Below we’ve included images of Don’s transformation to provide some inspiration for you as you begin your own style transformation journey. Enjoy!

Ah, how times have changed. “Sloppy” Don is dressed like a modern college student who’s trying to dress up!

Back on campus with a new suit and a new attitude! Looking sharp Don!

Don Wardlaw. Lady Killer.

Donning a suit will give you all kinds of new confidence, like the chutzpah to try the old “Could you help me with my tie while I subtly cup your elbow” trick. Works every time.

Don’s bringing back handsome to mailing letters.

Quit acting like a crazy man, Don. They’re just new clothes for crying out loud.

Uhh…. I don’t know what’s going on here, but Don needs to knock it off.

{ 29 comments… read them below or add one }

1 John August 13, 2010 at 12:44 am

It looks like this man went on to become a pastor. Here’s a brief biography of him from a seminar he presented at. It outlines how he continued his education and his subsequent accomplishments.


2 John789 August 13, 2010 at 3:38 am

Ant notice in this picture, Don doesn’t bother with the suit anymore.


3 Jesse A Davis August 13, 2010 at 6:16 am

I hear Don Wardlaw once did the jitterbug with 3 dames in one night. Put that in your pipe and smoke it!

4 AMA3 August 13, 2010 at 7:14 am

Best. AoM Post. Ever.

5 Tweety August 13, 2010 at 8:28 am

Seems like he was doing just fine for himself being the smartest kid with his beat-khakis. Then they put a suit on him, messed up his head and he became a pastor.
Talk about screwing up someones life.

6 Jordan August 13, 2010 at 8:32 am

The ‘before’ picture would be a welcome improvement on most campuses.

7 Eric Granata August 13, 2010 at 8:43 am

Ha! Interesting and funny. I think that last photo is the beginnings of an 80s gang style dance-fight.

8 Sara Beth August 13, 2010 at 9:03 am

What a great post–thanks!

9 Dave August 13, 2010 at 9:26 am

Another benefit of Don’s new look is when it floods, his pants will remain bone dry! Taker that, you khaki wearing hippies!

10 Mike August 13, 2010 at 9:48 am

Haha if khakis are sloppy what would those writers make of the baggy soccer shorts, party tshirts and flip flops most of the men at University of Texas trudge around in these days ^_^

11 Rob August 13, 2010 at 10:10 am

This made me laugh out loud.

When its hot out and Don Wardlaw sweats, his clothes smell better and get more dry.

When cars spash puddle water on Don Wardlaw, he spashes them back with aftershave.

When Don Wardlaw smiles those pearly whites, birds drop out of the sky and Air Force pilots swear they say shining lights from a UFO.

When Don Wardlaw mows the lawn, the grass isn’t cut, it swoons over from his hunking manliness for a week.

When Don Wardlaw sneazes, the Pope is the only one that can say ‘Bless You’.

Girls must first get 3 Nobel Prizes, 4 Gold Medals and a ’65 Chevy before dating Don Wardlaw because a gentelman never tries to upstage his date.

12 Bob August 13, 2010 at 10:13 am

There is one in every crowd – Tweety. Its obvious (if you continued to read the linked articles) that ole Don was quite intentional in his academic and faith pursuits.
Atheists – quickly overtaking Christians as the obnoxious group pushing their beliefs, or lack thereof on the masses. Save if for another forum.

13 Rob August 13, 2010 at 10:19 am

Superman dresses up as Don Wardlaw on Halloween

When Don Wardlaw graduated, the GPA of Colombia dropped 42 points.

“Don Wardlaw has forgotten more than you’ll ever know”
-A. Einstein

Don Wardlaw, as quarterback, threw the winning touchdown of the Ivy League Championship Game to Himself. The ball was thought lost after the game, but then NASA realised that it was in orbit when Don Wardlaw spiked the ball in celebration after he crossed the line.

14 Hugo Stiglitz August 13, 2010 at 12:32 pm

Hey there, y’ole Donny! Say, where’s thata corn-cobbie pipe ya just made y’self, guy?

15 Christina August 13, 2010 at 2:07 pm

Hehehe @Rob those are awesome (:

16 CoffeeZombie August 13, 2010 at 4:04 pm

All I have to add is…

“Before he goes to bed, the Boogeyman checks his closet for Chuck Norris. Before Chuck Norris goes to sleep, he checks his closet for Don Wardlaw.”

17 John G Estabrook August 13, 2010 at 6:02 pm

I remember TRUE magazine. It was THE man’s magazine.

18 Brian August 13, 2010 at 8:06 pm

Don Wardlaw counted to infinity….twice. Once forward and once backward.

Don Wardlaw can set ants on fire with a magnifying glass…..at night.

Don Wardlaw can squeeze orange juice out of a lemon.

if you have five dollars and Don Wardlaw has five dollars, Don Wardlaw has more money than you.

19 Kyle August 13, 2010 at 11:06 pm

The last picture looks like they’re recreating the handshake in “Predator”. “The CIA got you pushing too many pencils?”

20 Days and Adventures August 14, 2010 at 5:52 am

These pictures really inspire me. Time to start collecting some new clothes!


21 kelly August 14, 2010 at 6:45 pm

Don Wardlaw went on vacation to the Virgin Islands, when he got back they were just called the “Islands”.
Don Wardlaw went to A&W and asked for a Big Mac. “He Got One”

22 Stefn777 August 14, 2010 at 7:57 pm

Jordan, Mike, I agree. I work at a local State University, and believe me, I would be happy to see even ten percent of male students dress in khakis instead of the sloppy rags they put on now.
However, I see a trend among African-American fraternity members to dress sharply for events that would be considered “semi-formal”. If only this would spill over to the other men on campus, it would be a great improvement.

23 Greg M August 15, 2010 at 7:54 pm

Don Wardlaw doesn’t run for public office, he struts.

24 James August 16, 2010 at 12:27 pm

Sometimes I wonder if 50 years from now, what we’ll look back on and laugh at. Was this piece considered ridiculous even in its day? I hope so…

25 Cambias August 16, 2010 at 8:40 pm

I don’t think anyone considers this article laughable. I mean, sure, it has the staginess of any men’s fashion shoot article — I’m sure Don Wardlaw dressed more “before” than “after,” especially when the photographer took the clothes back to Brooks Brothers or wherever when the shoot was done.

But my chief reaction is one of wistfulness and sadness. We’ve gone from a country where Don Wardlaw wore a suit to class in college to one where grown men wear t-shirts with obscene slogans to social events. This is progress? Anyone laughing at Don Wardlaw should be quietly weeping instead.

26 Lee August 18, 2010 at 4:37 am

I agree with you, Cambias (which, of course, means “you change” in Spanish), that even though the shots are stagey, I would rather see “men” dressed in college like Don Wardlaw (either before or after) than the way most of them do today.

27 Garryowen August 20, 2010 at 12:28 pm

I wore a light-colored linen suit and a vintage tie to a screening of _Key Largo_ the other night. My date wore a dress. Most everyone there wore the current American Uniform of the Day (jeans and t-shirts). Let’s just say that I can tell admiring looks from derisive ones and there was much admiration…

28 William August 21, 2010 at 1:39 am

I love putting on a suit. It doesn’t give me confidence, it enhances it. Just like when I was in the military; When I put on my Dress Blue Alphas my back went a little stiffer and my walk smoothed out (and my neck got chaffed, but that’s the price you pay). Yet back then no ones asked why I was wearing a suit or thought it odd to where my Dress Blue Alphas to special events. In fact I had more people commenting on how sharp I looked

Sadly, as I attend college, I get people asking me why I ware dress shirts, or even polo’s, to my Auto Tech classes when I might just mess them up. I just tell people that 1) I have coveralls that I change into for the classes. 2) No matter where a man goes, he must look his best.

In a tribute to Mr. Donald Wardlaw (but mainly to honor all of our sharply dressed forefathers) I shall turn Casual Friday into Classy Friday from now on.


29 Kel August 23, 2010 at 1:01 pm

Don “looking sloppy in khakis” looked a hell of a lot better than most of the under 25 sect today.

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