5 Easy Ways for the College Student to Upgrade His Style

by Antonio on September 22, 2011 · 116 comments

in Dress & Grooming, Hair, Shaving, Shoes, Style

The image above is of Don Wardlaw, a real college student who was featured in a 1954 issue of True Magazine for Men for an article entitled, “Look What Happens When You Dress as Smart as You Are” (The Art of Manliness had some fun re-posting the pictures from the article awhile back). On the left is how Don dressed before True Magazine gave him a style intervention, and on the right is Don back on “campus outfitted like a BMOC instead of a yardbird.”

What stands out about the images is that in the “before” shot, “sloppy” Don is far more dressed up than the majority of modern college students on a good day. A lot has changed in the last 57 years.

Today, students literally attend class dressed in the pajamas they slept in, show up to presentations in athletic gear, and have to be taught how to tie a necktie.

I know–I used to be an offender myself!

Back in my undergrad days, I once wore a t-shirt so offensive that four years later at a wedding I had a female classmate I barely knew remark about it.  She was so happy I wasn’t the kind of guy she had thought I once was.  This floored me–as I had worn that shirt many times thinking it was funny–never imagining that it could pigeonhole me as a type of person or offend.

I paid $20 to sully my reputation–what sane person would does this?  

The purpose of this article is to help the college student make small changes in his wardrobe that will lead to a big return on improving his personal presentation.  Individually–they will have little effect.  Act on them collectively, and you’ll elevate your personal style.

Why a College Student Should Care About His Appearance

Before we get into the practical ways you can upgrade your style, let’s take a minute to discuss why you would even care about implementing these changes in the first place. After all, most of your peers are probably letting it all hang out (and to be fair, girls are just as bad offenders as guys are). Why not follow the crowd?

Well, at the outset it should be said that no one is recommending you dress like Don, and wear a sweater vest, tie, and fedora to class. Times and standards have changed. But there are several reasons to consider simply taking your style and wardrobe up a notch or two:

Dressing Well Contributes to Your Frame of Mind

When you dress sharp, you think sharp. If you don’t believe me, try it out yourself. When you feel put together, you feel more alert, more confident, and more ready to tackle the day’s tasks. College used to be considered a serious business, the halls where learning took place, hallowed. If you think education is important, then dress to match that belief, and you’ll find you have an easier time getting into the learning frame of mind.

Dressing Well Shows Respect for the Professor and Will Create That Respect in Return

No matter how bright he is, a professor is going to have a tough time taking seriously the student in pajama pants and slippers. Dressing a notch up from your peers will show the prof that you take his class seriously and that you respect him. This will help you stand out and make a good impression, which may help your grade (likability counts for more with teachers than most people know), and can help you down the line when you need a recommendation. When your old professor is sitting down to write that letter, what will he remember about you and how you presented yourself in class?

You Never Know Who You’re Going to Meet

College is the best and easiest time to meet the woman who will become your wife–dating and meeting people gets a lot harder after you graduate. And you never know when you’re going to run into the future Mrs. Smith on campus. When you catch a cute girl’s eye in the student union, will you feel confident walking over to chat with her?

When you dress like a man, you feel like a man.

College is a time when young men are transitioning into grown men. While the path from boy to man involves the transformation of your inner values, how you dress on the outside symbolizes and reinforces how you feel on the inside. Changing your wardrobe helps you feel like you’re really beginning a new phase of your life.

Five Easy Ways for Male Students to Upgrade Their Style

Upgrade #1: T-Shirt to Polo

Anytime you reach for a t-shirt, ask yourself if a polo would work better.  And it doesn’t have to be a name brand designer garment from Ralph Lauren–Old Navy makes fine day-to-day polo shirts that because of their closer fit and collared necks, are always dressier than a T-shirt.  In addition, the knitted fabric, when made from a natural material, is cooler than the more tightly woven t-shirt. When you wear a polo, wear the collar down as opposed to popping it up or (wearing multiple polo shirts with popped collars).

Upgrade #2: Sweatshirt to Sweater

Although you may love your university sweatshirt, wearing it beyond Saturday football games and trips to the gym is asking too much of it.  Yes, most of your classmates dress for class as if they are headed to a track meet.  But are you a lemming or a leader?

Replace the sweatshirts with sweaters.  A few styles you’ll want to pick-up are:

The Polo Style Sweater – Very similar in style to the polo shirt, this knitted sweater is usually lightweight and a piece that can be worn with only an undershirt as it comes with its own collar.

Cardigan Sweater – A button or zipped front, cardigans come in a wide variety of styles and colors.  You’ll find them made from cotton, wool, and synthetic fabrics. You’ll want to have a collared button shirt underneath.

Turtleneck Sweater – A dark colored, close-fitting turtleneck sweater is a classic that is as masculine as it is versatile.  You can wear it with a sport jacket, layer a flannel shirt on top, or wear it by itself.  Try to select a lightweight material, preferably in wool or cashmere if you can find it.

Crew Neck Sweaters, Half Zips, Aran Sweaters, Vest Sweaters.  We could go on–but we’ve already written a comprehensive man’s guide to sweaters.

Upgrade #3 – Jeans

Faded & Distressed Jeans to Dark & Clean Denim – Light colored jeans with holes are fine for the young man looking to signal his personal style– for decades this look has been carried by rock stars and the punk movement.  A man moving into the professional world, however, wants to ensure his denim is less conspicuous and dressier.  In fact, with the common acceptance of dark colored denim in many workplaces, you may find jeans to be the de-facto uniform at your place of employment.  As such, make the transition to dark jeans within a year of graduation, so that you can transition out of any pairs that will not be wearable once you begin down your career path.

Low-Rise Jeans to Mid-Rise Jeans – Men in excellent physical shape are often drawn to jeans cut low.  Whether it be the way it changes their torso proportions, or the fact that they’re in fashion according to the cute sales clerk at the counter, many men will purchase jeans cut this way.  Long-term, especially in the next 5 years, you’ll want to migrate towards the classic and universally flattering mid-rise fit.  Not only does this better proportion the torso for the man approaching or over thirty, it helps insulate you from the effects of a slowing metabolism (aka increased midsection).  Low rise jeans and even a slight gut are a bad combination.

Skinny Jeans to Straight or Relaxed Fit – Similar to the reasoning above–skinny jeans compliment a lanky build.  However, once you start adding weight and filling out, those same jeans make you look like an over-the-hill 1980’s rocker and should be switched out with a classic straight fit or if you’re heavier, a relaxed cut.

Skinny and low-rise jeans are trendy and hip, but a young man transitioning into manhood should start investing in style pieces that are masculine and classic.

For more information on jeans:

Downloadable podcast overview of jeans for men over 30
An Overview of Blue Jeans

Upgrade #4 – Footwear

Running Shoes to Casual Leather Shoes – Repeat after me: Unless you’re going to be running, refrain from wearing running shoes.  Yes, they are comfortable, but so is the right pair of casual leather shoes.  Leather shoes come in a range of prices and builds.  I advise staying away from anything that is bright, overly contrasted, or of a style that draws too much attention to itself.  Instead, opt for a classic rounded toe in a dark medium to dark brown color.  Black is an option as well.  As far as styles, lean towards classic and conservative for your first pair, and if you have the funds for a 2nd then look to buy a pair that incorporates a fashion accent (if that’s your style).  I personally prefer simple slip-ons.  They work well when traveling through airport security, can take a shine, and look great with a wide range of casual trousers.

Flip Flops to Moccasins – Flip flops belong on the beach, at the pool, or in the shower.  They are not appropriate wear for attending class or meeting your study group, especially when you could just as easily slip on a pair of mocs.  Not only are moccasins more stylish and cover your toes, they are more stable and comfortable.  Worried about sweating in the heat and wearing shoes without socks?  Learn to use foot powder.

Sneakers to Bucks/Chukkas – This is where we separate the men from the boys.  A nice pair of canvas sneakers is a good piece of footwear; they’re easy to pull off and something most men have in their closet.  But if you’re looking for a pair of shoes that are classic, yet will help you stand out from the pack, look no further than a pair of Bucks or Chukkas.  Just as comfortable as sneakers, Bucks and Chukkas straddle the line between casual and formal.  They have the design of a dress shoe, a better quality build than sneakers, yet are casual because of the material they are made from.  They can be worn with dark denim, chinos, or even worsted wool trousers (a combination that can come in handy if you have to attend an event that’s a little more formal from time to time).

For more information on shoes:

A Man’s Guide to Footwear

White athletic socks to dark colored dress socks — I grew up with white tube athletic socks, probably in part to them being inexpensive, working well for sports, and being readily available at Wal-Mart.  My migration to dark socks was prompted by a stay in Europe when I discovered white socks were hard to come by; part of this was because they were not as practical from a cleaning perspective, and most of the pairs sold were higher quality and made from a more comfortable wool fiber.  I recommend college men start migrating to dark socks as soon as possible.  It’s easier on the laundry, they are easier to match, and if you select performance wool blends, much more comfortable.  Keep your old white ones for the gym.

For more information on socks:

 The Man’s Guide to Socks

Upgrade #5 – Your Facial Appearance

Baseball Cap to Brushing Your Hair – Wearing a baseball cap when you’re playing baseball or attending a sporting event is perfectly acceptable.  Wearing a baseball cap because you’re too lazy to get your haircut is a sign of sloth.

Your hair is a key part of your facial presentation–it frames the top of the face and sends signals about your personality.  When you think of a military man, a hippie, and a mobster–certain hairstyles come to mind.  Although it would be foolish to judge a man based off this one factor–opinions are formed.  Learning what styles work for him and his professional needs is something a young man should discover over time.  What you don’t want is to try to figure all this out during interview season or right before you start working at your first job.

For more information on haircuts:

How to Talk with your Barber 
Mad Men Guide To A Manly Haircut
Tips and Hairstyles for Balding Men

Cartridge razor to safety razor – In college you could get away with not shaving for a week; once you start working full-time though, many jobs will expect you to show up every morning freshly groomed, especially if you’re going to be in a position where you meet with customers or clients.  What you may discover is that shaving daily with an inferior razor is causing a lot of irritation, redness, and razor burn.  Unless you had a father who showed you how to shave properly, most likely you are using what is available at discount stores and have never considered the superior alternatives.

Every young man should be aware that he has options when it comes to shaving–options that provide a superior shave to cartridge blades and are often more cost effective.

For more on shaving:

Save $300 – Learn to Shave Like a Man
Shave Like Your Great Grandpa – Straight Razor Guide
Buy and Restore Vintage Shaving Gear

Hand Soap to Facial Soap - You should be using facial soap for your face and general cleaning body soap for your hands and body.  Yes, I am aware that up to this point you have done just fine with using Irish Spring on everything, including your hair when you have no shampoo.  Long-term though, you’re going to want a cleanser that is gentler on your face and made specifically for it.  The fact is your hard, calloused hands and feet get dirtier than your face and can withstand the harsher ingredients–your face, on the other hand, isn’t as tough.

For more on male skin care:

Downloadable podcast on how a man should take care of his skin.

A Final Note – Budgeting

Most students do not have a lot of money.  If you need guidance as to how to shop on a tight budget, please visit these other resources and articles:

When to Spend vs. When to Save – Great piece by the Effortless Gent
Blogger Unyime Akpanudosen has built most of his wardrobe on a very limited student’s budget
5 Thrifting Tips from Art of Manliness
An Affordable Wardrobe
Dress Like A Million For Under $200

You’re spending thousands – if not hundreds of thousands–on your education.  Do yourself a favor by dressing sharp and looking like a good investment!

Video Summary


Written by Antonio Centeno
Founder – A Tailored Suit Custom Wardrobes
Grab his Free 47 Page Mens Style Ebook   

{ 116 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Andrew September 22, 2011 at 3:58 pm

Wow, a blog that is extremely relevant to my particular age group and stage in my career! Thanks! I can’t wait to see more stuff like this in the future. However, one question I have is where to I buy good quality “facial soap”? The typical ORU student from Tulsa, Oklahoma shops at the Wal-mart right across the street or at Target about 2 miles away. They don’t seem to carry anything that is of higher quality. I would find it inconvenient to purchase and have it shipped via online. I visit this site on a frequent basis and it has a great amount of helpful advice that I appreciate but seem hard to implement at times.

2 Joe September 22, 2011 at 4:05 pm

That footwear example is hideous. There’s something to be said about enjoying being young. A lot of these clothing suggestions seem like preppy clone-making or at worst, making a sophomore dress like a generic, suburban dad. Let a college kid relax. When it comes to their junior and senior years, then it’s time to start taking the game up a notch when they start interning and going on job interviews.

3 Danny September 22, 2011 at 4:07 pm

This is really relevant and important information. I work with teenagers and it is amazing how many of them think that their shining personalities will draw attention away from their lack of grooming. Many think that nobody will care if they come to an interview in jeans and a t-shirt, They think that it won’t matter to a potential employer if they have a tattoo on their face. As nit-picky as some of this might sound it is important especially for the new college student.

4 Gristle McNerd September 22, 2011 at 4:10 pm

I agree with Joe. There are ways of dressing nice without looking like the cliché “rich kid”. I, for one, will never wear a polo shirt if I can help it. I actually prefer the “after” picture of Jon to any of these.

5 Jason September 22, 2011 at 4:12 pm

I found this post to be extremely useful. I’m a junior at Penn State, and have been wanting to up my style a little, but didn’t know where to start. I like how you laid it out. I’d also like to second the motion for AoM to do more stuff for college-age guys in general!

6 Mark September 22, 2011 at 4:14 pm

Excellent article.

I am actually doing everything in this article. I find this website to be great for personal growth, style, and for entertainment.

7 MB September 22, 2011 at 4:33 pm

Good article.

I advise a co-ed college fraternity chapter, and have been disappointed by how many of the members don’t know how to dress (men and women), and how some of the guys don’t even have a blazer. We we attend a formal banquet, many of the members don’t even know how to handle all the ‘extra’ utensils. I sometimes wonder if we should host a class on manners and dress, maybe at one of state conferences.

8 Superstantial September 22, 2011 at 4:36 pm

Thank you for coming out against the popped-collar trend. God, that’s awful.

9 Daren Redekopp September 22, 2011 at 4:41 pm

Even if I’m going to sit in Starbucks to write for the day, I am careful to dress well. I have found that it has a profound impact on the way I approach my work and carry myself. This, in turn, affects how others relate to me. Dressing like the man you want to be is a great step toward becoming that man.

10 Caleb September 22, 2011 at 4:44 pm

One of the best (and most relevant for myself) articles I have seen on here in a while. Definitely a struggle for most college students and its altogether too true that we are constantly judged based off our clothing and hair styles.

11 Benjamin September 22, 2011 at 4:55 pm

You should always, “Dress for the job you want, not for the job you have.” If you dress in your pajamas, don’t expect to earn the respect of your professors, fellow students or future employers. Even the guy flipping burgers at Mcdonalds dresses more professional than that.

12 Esen September 22, 2011 at 5:42 pm

Hey guys, I agree with Gristle McNerd and Joe. To be honest, to follow these guidelines feels to me like becoming just another machine in the system. Some people it may fit, but not me. Not yet at least. It kind of feels like I still have hope for my dreams, as long as I don’t confirm to all kind of rules from society. I actually, consciously, respect people for who they are, and not for how they look. I can hugely appreciate someone virtuous dressed as a tramp, not the person who betray their own personality to ‘fit’ in a certain society.

13 Joe September 22, 2011 at 6:06 pm

I do think these styles are sharp but they do not match my hairstyle which is a buzz cut 3. I look great with this cut.

14 Steve September 22, 2011 at 6:08 pm

@Joe & @Gristle McNerd
I agree with most of the article except the polo shirts. I can’t stand them, and haven’t owned one in twenty years. I prefer to wear a dress shirt, sports shirt (Sewn like a dress shirt, but of a more casual fabric), or any other kind of button-front shirt. A polo shirt on a young man screams douchebag.

Also, shoes. I’m not a fan of Bucks or Chukkas, but I do agree that something other than athletic shoes is a good idea. Almost any shoe expresses more style than an athletic shoe, even some that are very casual, like a Chuck Taylor (or knockoff). I work in an office with a casual dress code, but switch between brown leather shoes, black leather shoes, and a couple pair of Chuck Taylors. The Chucks get compliments regularly!

Flip-flops can be upgraded to Tevas, Chacos, or similar knockoffs.

15 Cody Loyd September 22, 2011 at 6:15 pm

fine article!

I’ll say, that while you don’t really have to go as far as this article explains, showering and putting your clothes on in the morning (as opposed to coming to class in sweatpants/athletic wear and matted hair) WILL set you apart from a good percentage of your peers… and a teacher’s perception of you definitely makes a difference in many ways.

I’d agree with all of the upgrades listed.. but the sweaters listed seem like odd choices to me.. what ever happened to the solid colored v-neck sweaters that everyone should own.. and why (WHY?!) would anyone wear a “polo sweater”?

might add to the list:
Upgrade #6
Buy clothes that FIT… to many dudes running around with too long and too loose trousers these days.

16 Max September 22, 2011 at 6:17 pm

I appreciate the sentiment of the article. I think it is well founded and great in many places. I think personally though you have to take into account the part of the country or world that you reside and the nature of the work you want to do.

For example, I’m a graduate student in Theatre Studies who in the past and present does a lot of youth work. I know what kids dress like but I also know that the nature of my work needs to make me assert authority but also accessible. I’m not that much older than them. If I’m running around a completely clean cut Yale styled man I will immediately put distance from them. At the same time, I have my clean cut ivy league style stuff in a closet when I need. So I wear polos, I wear beaten by excellent jeans, I wear tennis shoes. I shave occasionally.

Dress for the nature of your life and the life you want to lead. I hope to never have to wear a suit to work everyday because it isn’t me.

Good tips though.

17 Connor September 22, 2011 at 6:19 pm

I was really glad to see that An Affordable Wardrobe was mentioned in this post! The author there says it best…penury is not an excuse. I’ve paid close attention to my college wardrobe since I was in high school (heh), but reading the aforementioned blog really made we want to step it up a notch. I go thrift shopping much more, and I gear toward business casual and collars as much as possible. Brett, I’m not sure if this is on the site yet or not, but how about a guide for dressing for college during the winter?

18 Brian Splash September 22, 2011 at 6:38 pm

l am not one to conform , but to all those that think that this is baloney , pull your heads in , Antonio is talking about young men who are entering into ” higher learning ” with the main purpose to get a job , and as some of you have mentioned , who wants to look like ” cookie cutter rich kids ” well when those kids stop growing up to be the captains of industry , and pretty much the leaders that shape nations , you will have to suck it up and ft in or join the blue collar workers with me . There are the few places that this rule is exempt , but at the end of the day you still would be expected to scrub up for the interview , which would put you right back into the polo shirt and hush puppies .
End of rant . Splash

19 David September 22, 2011 at 7:22 pm

Joe and Gristle McNerd’s comments are pretty hilarious and definitely reveal their age. 18 or 19, maybe younger, like 16.

Stick it to the man and be a non-conformist by wearing t-shirts and pajama pants! What a brave and independent act.

In reality, there is nothing more conformist than dressing like a slob. Honestly, look around you. Everybody dresses in whatever they want. As the post says, that makes you a lemming, not a leader. Trying to dress up would actually be the rebellious thing to do in and day and age.

20 Scott McFadden September 22, 2011 at 7:30 pm

Duck Head is back and you can upgrade your wardrobe at http://www.duckhead.com or go to our Facebook page Duck Head Apparel and mention the art of manliness and I will send you a 40% off coupon!

21 David Y September 22, 2011 at 8:32 pm

I think these suggestions would help a lot of middle aged and older men these days as well as students. A couple of days ago I saw some guy in his fifties wearing a tacky t-shirt and baggy pants that stopped half-way between his knees and ankles.

Sometimes wonder if people I see in public have any mirrors in their houses. If they looked in one, there is no way they can think they look good.

If you don’t like the preppy look, then find your own style. But, the way you dress affects how others think of you and how you think of yourself.

22 Charles September 22, 2011 at 8:41 pm

What would you suggest for someone wanting to look stylish in Houston, TX where it is still 95 degrees?

23 Brian September 22, 2011 at 8:54 pm

I think that some people just aren’t ready to mature yet. I felt that these styles were “preppy” as well. Then I started not only getting older physically but also maturing and now I dress this way and had before I came across this site (only a couple of months ago). I was sick of being one of those lazy people that wore band t-shirts with cargo shorts and flip flops. Moral of my story… If it’s “just not you” then there’s no reason in judging others. You will grow up someday. Promise. I am also not looking forward to arguing with people (especially over the inter webs), just stating my opinion. G’day gents.

24 Ryan September 22, 2011 at 9:04 pm

I’m glad to know that I’ve been doing the right things on my own!!! I started with the shoes and worked my way up. As it gets colder I feel its easier to dress well. Adding a polo under a sweater allows for even more style options.

25 Daniel K September 22, 2011 at 9:08 pm

For me fit is the crucial factor. I agree that looking as if your jeans are painted on isn’t a great look, but slim jeans with a slight taper that fit well look tidier than most straight leg jeans which can get messy around the feet if they fit poorly. Also plain, well fitting t-shirts in simple colours or patterns (lewd jokes need not apply) can look really smart under a cardigan or v-neck. As far as casual but tidy shoes are concerned the canvas plimsole is my favourite, I have a pair of canvas oxfords which fit the bill nicely.

An interesting conundrum is when you find yourself dressed better than your lecturer.

26 Dom September 22, 2011 at 9:44 pm

Thanks for the article. Being in college, this advices come at a great time. Not nearly enough men dress the way they should, even if it’s just wearing jeans instead of sweats. And I have to say, it can be tempting to just go with the flow.

Thanks for reinforcing what I already thought.

27 C. G September 22, 2011 at 10:07 pm

This is quite relevant. I’m a first year Mech. Eng. student, and its easy to stand out among my peers by atleast making an effort to be presentable. I’m not trying to be that preppy university student, but a simple polo and non ripped pair of jeans is enough to show the prof. that you are serious and showing him respect. I don’t understand how other kids there think they’re cool by wearing oversized t-shirts, and hats with sports teams they don’t care about.

28 Antonio September 22, 2011 at 10:13 pm

Hey guys, thanks for the great comments. 3 things I want to address:

1. The main point of this article is to motivate young men to take small steps to improve their appearance. Men think dressing with style is hard – it simply requires effort and practice.

2. Appearances matter and a boy is never to young to start dressing like a man. Preparation, attention to detail, cleanliness…….if not taught early will not get easier to learn as a man ages.

3. Make sure to follow the links and explore the archives – most of the questions being asked are answered there already!



29 Eitan September 22, 2011 at 11:24 pm

Firstly, great article. I’m a college student and I always look to this website to supplement my style. Secondly, a question on footwear. I have a pair of leather sandals that I love in the summer. What’s your opinion on sandals as a substitute for boat shoes or flip flops in the summer?

30 Eric September 22, 2011 at 11:54 pm

One thing I’ve noticed (on my campus, at least), is SOCKS WITH FLIP-FLOPS.
Just…just why? Why would anyone do that?

31 marik September 23, 2011 at 12:09 am

First, it’s a pretty good article, Antonio. There’s almost never a reason to dress like a slob; and, you can always take small steps to look a little more dapper. One of the easiest things, that will make any existing wardrobe look better – even ripped jeans and sweats look – is to just stand up straight, put on a smile, and assume an air of confidence. That being said, a college student’s first priority is always to get a formal education, make good grades, survive those weed-out classes, and earn their BA or BS — if not, why go to college, right? If dressing in PJ’s, sweats, or sports gear is conducive to them, then so be it, as long as they perform academically.

32 Arkonos September 23, 2011 at 12:09 am

@David #19
We young people don’t want to wear the cloth of a long gone time.
Polo shirts, khaki-trousers and leather shoes are hardly the things appropriate for a boy in his 20s. (Poloshirt alone is fine, just don’t combine it with something similar) They express a mental state of conservatism and being square.
You wore your cloth, we wear yours. But just as there have been good an bad ways in earlier times, there are now. Flip-Flops are indeed something for your free time, but leather shoes are way over the top. Modern street shoes are sufficient, the Profs. don’t wear a suit either.

People should cloth themselves according to occasion and age and just as Madonna should not wear that training thing in her videos, a young man should dress like a young gentleman, not like one from 30 years ago.

Just to clarify, I don’t think young people are free from every dress coat there is, (I’ve never seen a person in sleeping cloth on the university) but it’s a different one as in the 70s.

The article is a nice cause for thought, but the styling tips themselves simply outdated and no one wants to make the impression he got stuck in a time he didn’t even lived in.

33 Jeremy September 23, 2011 at 12:10 am

What a good post! I’m representing the Kansas City, MO area at William Jewell College! This post was so relevant to me, bravo! Sure, we are college students. We study all night long and it’s hard to find motivation to tie a tie in the morning, I get that. But, I think we have all forgotten what it means to be a good lookin’ fella when it comes to wardrobe. This post isn’t meant to be a “do this or you will be a slob” type of thing – it’s meant to give reasonable options. I know I always feel like I could take on the world if I break out the jacket, tie, and oxfords. I’ll be working on looking less like I am going to go work out all the time and more like I am going to eat dinner with the president of the college. Thanks!

34 Joshua Call September 23, 2011 at 2:33 am

I’m really glad to see an article that pertains more to my particular age group! I’d really like to see some more posts like this, not that I don’t enjoy the other arenas of discussion, quite the contrary. Thank you for these pragmatic steps to enhancing my wardrobe!

35 Belligero September 23, 2011 at 3:12 am

During the past 80 years, the United States has gone from one of the best-dressed nations on the planet to one of the worst. This article is clearly aimed at those that contribute to keeping the average down, although it’s unlikely that they’re paying attention. Following the advice here would be an improvement over the track pants and t-shirt look common on North American campuses (though not by a whole lot in some cases). Most of the advice is sound (no light jeans, no running shoes), but the examples shown here are uninspiring at best.

I agree with Joe that the shoes given as an example of what to wear are absolutely terrible. The ones with the jeans photo are quite good, however.

Instead of dressing in the uniform of the typical suburban doofus (loose polo shirt, dad jeans and department-store low-quality-leather shoes), why not take the opportunity to develop some personal style? Different types of clothes suit different builds, and it’s beneficial to find out what works for you while before you’re out in the workforce.

36 Andrew K September 23, 2011 at 4:14 am

I think there is a couple of things at work regarding the going to school in your pajamas. One is either when they were in high school, they had to throw on something or they were required to confirm to wearing official school attire. Not having to do that because you’re late, lazy, etc. is sort of the first thing that happens when you find yourself on your own in college.

The other thing is look what is given away for free the next time you happen to be on campus. It’s t-shirts, small satchels with adult items inside, maybe a plastic drinking cup. Look what they sell for clothes at the university bookstore: athletic wear, hoodies (where do we stand on the hoodie?) sweats (which is what I typically wore going to class, which is better than pajamas). You might see a tie or two, but it’s probably in the campus’ school colors and they don’t always go well together.

I would like to see three things happen on campus to maybe reverse this:
1) If the campus has a home economics or a textiles school, I’d like to see them get involved in making some sort of manly suit and tie combination that they could sell or perhaps offer as an alternative. Perhaps a tie or handkerchief give-away?
2) In a similar vein, schools or alumni groups should offer local tailors the opportunity a chance to entice students to come and be fitted for a business suit when maybe they are looking for a tuxedo for a formal college dance.
3) I know my alma mater started to have formal dinners where students were asked to dress up and networked with other alumni. Maybe that would be a good place to have a topic of good business dress ware.

37 Robert Weedall September 23, 2011 at 4:17 am

Buy a Fedora!

Seriously, it does wonders for you confidence and makes you look so sharp you’d cut yourself.

38 Brian September 23, 2011 at 7:19 am

@Marik… Really? Most people go to college to get a formal education and “survive the weed-out classes”? I’m not sure which professional college you go to but mine is a college of little kids trying to get drunk, laid, and a plethora of other things. Personally, I upped the way I dressed (even in class) to set myself apart from most of the children with pencil beards and Lil’ Wayne t-shirts with their hats barely on their heads. Maybe it’s just me but people in our age group NEED to step up and stop looking like complete wastes of life.

39 Burton Rhodes September 23, 2011 at 8:19 am

Great Article! This has always been one of the most annoying things to me is under dressed classmates. I have all ways dressed like a business professional and my professors appreciate it.

40 Belligero September 23, 2011 at 8:24 am

Robert, a guy had better have some very well-developed sartorial skills and a suitable wardrobe before he starts wearing a fedora. Otherwise, he will inevitably look like a clown or a child molester. Also, hats come off when you’re indoors, so it’s not terribly salient to this discussion.

41 Matt Bauccp September 23, 2011 at 8:48 am

I have nothing against dressing up, but I disagree with many of the premises in this article (I also think polo shirts scream “spoiled rich kid”, but I’m a child of the eighties).

First and foremost, uniforms are for sports. Acceding to a culture where the outward show is more important than inward qualities is one reason why a blog named “The Art if Manliness” has to exist at all. We are always being told by the media that the show is far more important than the substance, and “clothes make the man” was a cliche invented by people who want to sell you things.

I work at a college campus and if you have to dress up to impress your professor, change colleges immediately, unless you’re majoring in apparel design. I agree that you shouldn’t wear pajamas, but as long as your clothes are clean and reasonably inoffensive you’re good to go.

You can be a clotheshorse and a man, but you can also run the risk of looking like an spoiled dandy. Wearing clothes that make you feel comfortable and that take other people’s sensibilities into account is a better measure of maturity than trying to dress like a GQ model whether it fits your individual style or not. Diogenes was a great man, and he walked around naked and lived in a barrel.

42 TC September 23, 2011 at 9:21 am

Getting a little tired of the AOM “learn to use and sharpen a straight razor” fluff. I did a little research on this a while back while I was in a sharpening kick (Bailey planes – irons). As I asked around various barbers over time how they sharpened their straight razors, guess what I find out – they don’t sharpen these things anymore, they use “disposable” straight razors. Google product search “barber disposable straight razor” if you don’t believe me.

Sure you can buy a kit to sharpen a straight razor, spend time doing that, but my gosh, how much time do you people have on your hands? Do you mend your socks and use cloth diapers on your kids that you wash also – I mean, isn’t that the manly thing to do by recycling and being thrifty?

P.S. The best professor I ever had, and now a good friend many years later, had a wardrobe that consisted of t-shirts with some graphic on the front (a few that come to mind are Bart Simpson saying “Don’t have a cow, man.” and another “Summit Racing”..) The guy would have a heart attack from laughing if you suggested to him he should have dressed with “more style”.

43 kirk September 23, 2011 at 9:29 am

Not all poorly dressed people are slackers, Quite the opposite in fact; that baggy eyed, unshaven, dishevelled looking waste man you saw walking back to his room isn’t actually coming just coming back from a party he’s just finished a 36 hour stint taking measurements that will win him the nobel prize in 10 years. Sometimes, people just have far more important things to do, and some people people feel downright uncomfortable in ‘smart’ cothes. That being said, I don’t necessarily disagree with this article. If I was a professor I would certainly favour a smartly dressed student over a flip flop and slacks wearing stoner. But I dont think the smartly dressed student would win over a mohawked-leather-and-chains punk/metaller type. Isnt that what college is all about? meeting new types of people?

44 Alexander Hamilton September 23, 2011 at 9:44 am

Before this comment box goes completely out of hand between people who adore the outfit changes and those who are knee jerking the notion of polo shirt, sweater vested, chukka wearing dandies is to remember the ideas behind these posts are less of a demand and more of a mindfulness lesson.

Personally, I am of the latter category, taking each day in a pair of tan square toed cowboy boots, blue jeans, and a black t-shirt (and have no real desire to change that), but the idea of this post was not to target people who don’t dress this way and turn them into 50s suburbanites; it is to get the mass image of P.J.s and baseball caps and reach out to those who may find this article and allow them to expand their wardrobe concepts. Those who take the blue-collar approach to their outfits can also take the time to find clothes that compliment their style as well as their body type, creating a distinct style that presents themselves, and if that is the case then they are not the issue at hand.

The post was at the college male (which I am part of), and I see people walking around with unkempt hair, PJ pants, and flip flops, which does not communicate a positive work ethic, or any real drive. Changing those extreme outfits to something that properly presents who the person is, is key. It was never intended to follow these guidelines to look like you belong in an episode of “Leave it to Beaver”, it was to put out the notion that “hey, try something new”

Also in regards to T.C’s comment on the AoM about stropping a straight razor, or mending socks (coining them fluff articles), check out this article:

It shows the economic benefits of using older technologies such as shave soaps, and safety razors, or even cutthroat razors. If you choose not to partake in these practices and spend money on disposables, Yes it does take a lot of time to maintain technologies (and even longer to master the effective upkeep), but some people enjoy it; nobody can tell them otherwise.

45 Daniel Kiser September 23, 2011 at 10:19 am

This is the best article i have read in a while. great great advice here.

46 Andrew September 23, 2011 at 11:14 am

Additional idea: Lose the Axe body spray. Yeah in high school you could skip showering and spray the axe on, but this is college. Shower regularly and use a MODERATE amount of after-shave or cologne.

47 Jay September 23, 2011 at 11:40 am

Its a good article with great tips. From a personal point of view I’ve been doing essentially everything suggested here for a few years, and I think you have discounted the psychological element created by the environment where most people do not dress ‘to impress’.

in my experience, and it could very well be wrong, people tend to ignore what you are wearing unless they have invested in what they are wearing(and are now checking the competition) and they won’t think higher of you if you dressed better than them in fact they won’t really like it, and on a college environment they might see you as being a snub. As a student I am almost always better dressed than my peers yet many times the teachers went harder on me for that assuming I am more serious or some such and it resulted in some people who were wearing PJ’s having to do less than me.

Good cloths help in many situations regardless.

48 Giovanni September 23, 2011 at 12:51 pm

As a college student I agree with most of the changes and have made most of them before this article. The only piece in this article I do not like the advice wearing jeans. Chinos should have gotten the nod instead of dark jeans. Chinos are better because they come in multiple colors( I know jeans do but they look bad when not a dark blue).
I like the shoe section but he should have mentioned wearing a casaul oxford. Overall this was a great article.

P.S. Advice for cardiagan wearers always wear a collared shirt under one, trust me it looks bad.

49 Average Girl September 23, 2011 at 1:11 pm

I love this website. I absolutely agree that college is the perfect time to upgrade to a more sophisticated look. Unless you’re at an art school, please refrain from looking grungy.
I disagree about the tee to polo upgrade though. Polo’s (to put it delicately) scream douche. T-Shirts are conversation starters, and (if void of holes/pit stains and in general, stains) can be used as an everyday outfit staple. Slacks and a tee is the perfect combination for someone who does not want to look sloppy, or over dressed. After all, when you get home at three am and have to make it to class at eight, your priorities shift.

50 Antonio September 23, 2011 at 2:06 pm

Those of you that discount the polo, I suggest you look at this website http://notapolo.bandofoutsiders.com/ You’ll see vintage pictures of Clint Eastwood, Stevie Wonder, Sidney Poitier, James Dean, JFK, Harrison Ford, Sean Connery, Arnold Palmer, and others wearing a Tennis Shirt “aka Polo”.

It probably won’t change your opinion – but it might open your mind to the history this garment enjoyed before it was hijacked by the preppy crowd you want to distance yourself from.

Have a great weekend ladies and gents – Antonio

51 Therese Z September 23, 2011 at 2:08 pm

And polish your shoes, while you’re at it. The wrong shoe, polished, is better than the right one all grungy.

52 John September 23, 2011 at 2:39 pm

In my student years at Ohio State I wore what worked for me – i split my time between classes and working an off campus job as a maintenance mechanic.

Footwear: leather work boots – lasted through the daily miles of walking without shredding the soles, plus were sturdy and comfortable. I didn’t shine them with military precision but a weekly cleaning and oiling kept them looking OK

Pants – jeans. not the 100 dollar trendy jeans, but the sharp looking yet still rugged kind you can buy at Tractor Supply

Shirt – normally a collared “work” (Dickies) shirt. Worn tucked in with a belt. polo shirts occasionally as they were frequent giveaways by vendors at my job. I thought then, and still do now, that t-shirts are undergarments or sleepwear, period.

jacket – instead of sweatshirts which would shrink with each drying, I always had one or two of these v-neck pullover lined windbreakers. They’re fine with a collared button down shirt underneath, a turtleneck, just a plain t-shirt under them, or can be used with a shirt and tie too. Colder weather brought out the carhartt.

Hat – ball cap in warmer weather, knit cap in colder. I was the one weirdo that took my hat of as soon as I walked in the door of any building and would either hold it when standing, or put it down on/in my backpack when seated. Since I have always worn my hair in a very short high-and-tight style, combing the hair underneath was irrelevant.

And yes, i shaved daily regardless of the perceived “need’ to .

53 Penn September 23, 2011 at 3:47 pm

Please also remember that undershirts are just that — UNDERshirts. For a man to walk around with just his undershirt on is the equivalent of a woman wandering around in public with just a brassiere on. Legal, yes… Appropriate? No.

The same goes for your undershirt collar — it should not show from under whatever you are wearing on top of it. Again, this is like showing ladies’ bra straps. It looks sloppy. There are two types basic undershirt necklines: V-Neck and Crew Neck. Coordinate your underclothing with your clothes and never let it show, or go without.

54 Trev September 23, 2011 at 4:51 pm

Awesome article, as others have said.

Anecdote: I am currently sitting in class for my Bachelor of Education degree (actually an after degree: all students have an undergrad already in another subject discipline). I wore the “Slim cut” eddie bauer dark jeans, zip brown boots, a purple/grey gingham type patterned shirt with a purple plaid tie, and funky fly fishign tie clip; finishing off the look was a tweed blazer picked up for less than 200$.

Everyone, literally everyone, commented on how “smart” or “spiffy” I looked. I agree. They also mentioned I looked fancy, which I thanked them for, but privately thought to myself that I could look a lot fancier than this and still be appropriate for an elementary school teacher.

Point is: dress nicely.

55 Bobby September 23, 2011 at 5:12 pm

This was a good article, and I definitely got something out of it, but let’s not go overboard with the association between fashion and manhood. “This is where we separate the men from the boys”, seriously? The cloth that a man drapes over his body does not determine his manhood.

56 BruceVilanche September 23, 2011 at 5:56 pm

in my opinion, the (often poor) college student should not be worrying about what their clothing says about them. as the quality of a man’s garments says little to nothing of him. as one could look at an untidy looking person and say that their untidy look is a reflection of an untidy mind, i will say that it’s possible they have bigger fish to fry. you could just as easily point to a well dressed person and say they put so much thought into their appearance that they could be occupying their mind more shrewdly.

“Cultivate poverty like a garden herb, like sage. Do not trouble yourself much to get new things, whether clothes or friends. Things do not change, we change. Sell your clothes and keep your thoughts.” – thoreau (i think he has more suitable quotes for this but i don’t have walden with me)

it seems more important to me to be comfortable than clean-cut. however it is true, to most, if not almost all people, we are more comfortable when we feel like we look good. let the college students dress down if they are comfortable in doing so. there is no need to try to create an atmosphere where those people who are comfortable in what they can truly afford feel the need to spend more of their money/life on fancier garments which they can not afford.

i do think this is a good guide for someone new to a business casual workplace. although i think it’s an outdated practice for an employer to give much mind to their employees appearance (unless it’s a health issue); their look does not dictate their effectiveness.

57 Jay September 23, 2011 at 8:10 pm

To start, let me state that I am a current college student at a major public university in the United States. I acknowledge the importance of appearance and looking your best. However, to me, if I were to follow the suggestions in this column, I would be dressed exactly like the fraternity guys at my university–the same ones that disrespect women, are disingenuous, self-absorbed, and arrogant individuals. I’ll do my best to dress nicely, but I will not dress like your average frat boy; I’d much prefer to find my own style and let others judge me by my actions. After all, if they aren’t willing to take the time to get to know me as an individual and the man I really am, are they truly the sort of people I want surrounding me?

58 Jazz September 23, 2011 at 8:12 pm

I feel that chinos are more suitable, or at least I would rather wear chinos when wanting to feel more intellectual or proper.

59 Matt September 23, 2011 at 8:55 pm

a decent piece with decent advice, but you forgot the most common error and the simplest thing any college student can do to instantly upgrade his style.

Buy. Clothes. That. Fit.

In a choice between a fitting t-shirt and a XXL polo on a guy that wears an M….the t-shirt wins. In a choice between fitted faded jeans and dry denim three sizes too big with a subterranean crutch…wear the fades.

Upgrading the wardrobe wont make that big a difference when everyone buys stuff in circus-clown sizes.

60 zeus September 23, 2011 at 10:36 pm

This is a very imformational article that shows that not only college students should dress nicer but all men should. Dressing sloppy is one of the main compliants that women have with their boyfreinds or husbands. It’s one of the main problems I even address on my own site.

61 JeffC September 23, 2011 at 11:36 pm

Express the thought that there is indeed a dress code in the working world, or even that young men should abandon boys’ style and dress as men, and the boy-men instantly come out of the woodwork to say “I shouldn’t have to make the effort: people should get to know me before they make any judgements” or some-such other ego-centric retort.

That may be psychologically comforting to you now, but it just isn’t the real world. Better to prepare yourself for it, as the article so gently encourages, than suffer for your unwillingness to listen when you enter the world of adults. See their bemused smiles? It’s not because they’re digging your personal style, Dim.

Thoreau didn’t get much attention from the ladies, or get many job offers, beyond one-night engagements as an eccentric speaker.

62 Nick September 23, 2011 at 11:51 pm

It’s easy to see the difference between a frat boy and a well dressed young man (at least in Florida). Frat boys follow the unofficial frat boy dress code, aka Dockers shorts, Sperry Top Siders, those stupid as hell fisherman shirts with the back flap, and cheap knock-off Wayfarers with a stupid saying like “I’m So Bro” on it with the cheesy neck strap to hold them on as if you just came from a fishing excursion. A well dressed young man wells well fitting clothes and carries himself confidently. (sorry for the frat rant, but if anyone reading this dresses like that, please stop)

People may think it doesn’t matter how you dress in college, but they do not realize how often people around them notice this. I cannot remember the last time I did a double take for a girl in pajamas. I can, however, remember the last time I did a double take at a well dressed girl, (and that was today).

63 Hutch September 24, 2011 at 2:43 am

I’ll go as far to say take the effort to put on good looking clothes that fit right , but making a huge deal over t-shirts is dumb. I could conquer the world in a t-shirt. But for all the is holy, ditch the running shoes unless you’re running!

64 Bill September 24, 2011 at 5:28 am

@Eric #30

I heartily agree. What is with SOCKS WITH FLIP-FLOPS? It further drives me nuts when those socks are black.


Wearing pajamas is not non-conformist. It’s childish. Just as you would not wear a tuxedo to a football game, you should not wear sleepwear in public.

65 David September 24, 2011 at 10:05 am

Slacks and Tees?
A homeless person with more integrity than someone who dresses nicely?
Cogs in the machine?

Oh man. There are some people on here that exist only within a microcosm of their immediate surrounding. On a college campus you may think those things, but when you are in the real world (and let’s face, College isn’t the real world. It’s not even a close representation of what the real world is), you are going to have a hard time fitting in.

Woe be to you who feels like society is keeping you down because you get “unfairly” judged because you are wearing skinny jeans and an ironic-yet-hip T-Shirt, or baggy shorts/sandals/tank-top combo.

Grow up.


66 Josh Knowles September 24, 2011 at 12:18 pm

Thanks for the article. I think this sort of thing is needed. I am currently attending seminary, working on my masters degree in theology. There is also a college on campus, and sometimes I just cringe when I see the college students walking to or from class or chapel. Now, in fairness, I should say that it wasn’t that long ago that we had a fairly Bob Jones University type of dress code here. And of course, things do have that tendency to go from one extreme to another. But my goodness, I think I’ve had my fill of guys wearing skinny jeans, v-neck t shirts, and zip up hoodies. But the one that takes the cake for me every single time is the toque (beanie to Americans?) that perches on the back of the head and sags. I just shake my head.

Sadly, as we’ve already observed, it seems that as soon as you try to explain why this sort of thing isn’t professional or isn’t mature everyone gets offended. The “don’t judge me till you get to know me” or “this is what’s comfortable” or “I’m an individual” statements start to fly. And sadly, sadly, this well meant advice falls on deaf ears.

Now, I will admit that not everyone can afford the expensive brands. That’s fair. College students are often strapped for cash. However, it seems to me that how much you spend is almost irrelevant here. Those trendy v-necks and zip up hoodies aren’t cheap either. At any rate, wearing clothes that actually fit shouldn’t cost you any more than buying clothes that don’t. If you genuinely lack the cash you can often find decent things at a thrift store. I found a pair of Allen Edmonds shoes this month for $25. Check out garage sales too. Sometimes people get rid of perfectly good (and high quality) stuff simply because it doesn’t fit any longer.

Also, the argument that you don’t want to look like a preppy frat boy… Well, I suppose you may have something there. However, if you don’t want people to judge you based on your sloppy clothes, don’t judge people because of their nice clothes. As someone has pointed out, college is not the real world. Once you leave, the distinction between “douchey frat boys” who wear nice clothes and “everyone else” will not exist. You will simply be trying to find gainful employment where, guess what, they expect you to wear nice clothes. Where they expect you to dress like a man and not like a teenage boy.

67 Mr Rui September 24, 2011 at 1:29 pm

once you start adding weight
excuse me, once I start working out, I’ll be needing regular fit jeans

68 Alberto Oliveira September 24, 2011 at 2:29 pm

I love the idea of the post, and I as a college student, and even before as a high school student, made a point of wearing good clothes that fitted me well. However, I do not consider a polo shirt to be anything CLOSE to dressing up. To me, it represents sloppiness of the highest kind.

A polo shirt is essentially the halfway between a dress shirt and a t-shirt, but it has none of the benefits of either: it looks like you’re at the same time too lazy, insecure, or ignorant to commit to the dress shirt or the tee.

A well-fitted, plain button-down can be bought cheap. And avoid the sissy blues and browns, go for solid black or white, or colors if you’re into standing out (I am, because I am a musician, and I don’t get paid if I fit in the crowd). Wear them with well-fitted jeans, not baggy ones. Notice the amount of times I use the words “well-fitted”, cheap clothes that fit you perfectly look better than designer clothes that are too small, or more likely too big.

If it’s too hot for a shirt, wear a plain t-shirt, with nothing whatsoever resembling patterns, words, drawings, logos, or anything else that can go on a shirt. Wear your actual size, which is probably two sizes down from what you think (I’m 6ft 3in and I wear size M t-shirts from H&M, so you probably have no business buying anything over an L, even if you’re fat). Wear these shirts with the jeans, and avoid anything resembling khakis, dress pants, and slacks. Shorts are also prohibited, unless you live in a really hot country, and even so should be used sparingly.

Now, you can dress these down by just going with classy sneakers, like Converse (in boot format, not the low-cut slip-ons), which I wear to the exclusion of all other sneakers, in classic colors such as black, red and white, or other more creative ones if you, like me, are in the creative arts area. Add maybe a chain wallet if you want to rock n’ roll the look a bit, and maybe a simple, black leather wrist accessory or watch (no spikes or overly fancy or big monstrosities).

You can dress up either the button-down or the tee with, again, a well-fitted BLACK or GREY blazer, or in some other color AFTER you are comfortable wearing a black or grey one, without looking like it’s your first time wearing a jacket that doesn’t have a hood. Add a good pair of black leather shoes (probably the only expensive part of this wardrobe, if you’re doing things right) or your least showy Converse, a nice metallic watch, and stick with a classic belt instead of a showy one. You might add a fedora matching the blazer, but only after you feel comfortable in the look, or your lack of confidence will ruin the whole effort. You can also keep the chain wallet if want to go rock n’ roll classy, but I ditch it for interviews other more upscale events.

In short, black or white tees, black, white or grey button-downs, 3 pairs of jeans at most (1 dark, 1 light, 1 black), Converse boots, blazer. Accessories to taste AFTER you get a feel for the look.

69 JT September 24, 2011 at 7:47 pm

LOL. Love the irony of the “don’t judge me by my clothes” crowd being the same ones that say people wearing polos are “douchey frat boys.” Oh well. I guess one expects college students to be immature and irrational, hence the need for the article.

70 Mike Pine September 24, 2011 at 10:28 pm

For the shaving part of this, try a drop of either coppertone or plain old baby oil on the blade of your razor. Old USCG trick for us lads who had to shave three times a day during boot camp. Mike

71 Tom Sawyer September 24, 2011 at 11:04 pm

As a former university who regularly attended class in tracksuit pants and a dirty tee-shirt, I wish I’d read this post three years ago! There is a way to be comfortable and stylish – this is what college students should aim for.

72 Nick M. September 25, 2011 at 11:29 am

I’m a college student and I try to live by this. When the weather gets a bit cooler I have “suit Thursdays.” People would ask me “What’s with the suit, bro?” I would usually reply: “Since when does a man need a reason to wear a suit?”

But the majority of college aged men dress like bums.

73 Sol September 25, 2011 at 12:31 pm

I am a student at Hillsdale College. One of few old and very prestigious Midwestern colleges, the students are extremely well-dressed. Men routinely wear blazers and wool slacks, many women wear long dress skirts and heels. There is even a big “tweed” culture on campus. Flat caps are sometimes worn, too. Fashion is an important part of academia for all the reasons this article mentioned…Take it from a reformed slouch. I don’t care what the conforming-nonconformists say, pajamas (and even most t-shirts) are a childish thing to wear in public, let alone in a collegiate environment. And the article need not even cater to us “broke” college students; a decent blazer and tie is maybe $3 from the Salvation Army. In fact, thrift clothes are my most heavily-complimented. Stay sharp.

74 Nick Pierce September 25, 2011 at 1:15 pm

Great article as usual. Personally, I’ve found that a great way to upgrade my appearance was to buy sports jackets and blazers at thrift stores for ten bucks or less, and incorporate them with nice jeans and either solid colored tee shirts or polos. Same with shoes.

If I may add one upgrade of my own it would be to ditch the ski jacket or typical winter coat, and to invest in some more official looking outerwear. Not necessarily a long overcoat or trenchcoat, but a black or grey pea coat, or something in that vain.

75 JeffC September 25, 2011 at 2:07 pm

I don’t think wearing a pea coat would be vain at all.

76 Will September 25, 2011 at 4:20 pm

Dressing well doesn’t make you a smarter person. Show your manliness through knowledge, not through vanity. Looking smart isn’t the same as being smart. (see: hipsters who wear nerdy glasses)

77 Rich September 25, 2011 at 5:58 pm

Great article! One thing i got from that though – i think college students in the US must dress VERY differently to here in the UK…

78 Tyce September 25, 2011 at 6:57 pm

Well, in regards to the fraternity comment, I don’t think it is fair to place all fraternity members like that. I don’t walk around degrading women or strangers (just my friends, but I self-deprecate as well, it is a part of my humor) and I am a brother in a fraternity. I also tend to wear athletic wear, all year round. Athletic shorts even in the winter (Montana winters ain’t got nothing on my self-made pants (leghair)) and summer.

I have always hated dressing up, and wearing jeans, but after reading this and dressing up for a few tests, I think I could step it up a “notch or two.” Along with my soon to start new dietary habits and exercise regimen, as well as being far more well off than last semester and hopefully waking up earlier (I love these blog posts) I am going to try dressing more sharply. I however DESPISE polos. I find them extremely flamboyant, at least the ones I have seen, and I am a gay man saying that. I found a few golf shirts made of very comfortable material however, that looked very sharp and I enjoy wearing.

Pants and slacks have always been something I don’t care for as well. I find them very uncomfortable and I end up spending more time thinking about how uncomfortable I am and if I look alright than the task I’m actually trying to accomplish. I strongly dislike ties as well but am forced to wear them to my chapter meetings, which is fine since I knew that when I signed up for the fraternity.

I’m torn. I don’t think I can dress nearly as fancy as some of the things mentioned here, but I can definitely step it up. I find no problem with T-Shirts or using tennis/athletic shoes as daily shoes. I guess I’ll figure out what I want while I ride out the rolercoaster that is life.

79 Craig September 25, 2011 at 11:13 pm

I can never find jeans short enough for my 5’5″ self. I probably should get a few button ups, dark socks, and some nice polos. A sweater.

Shirts with words on them(band or whatever company) I’m moving away from finally, third year in college.

80 Connor September 25, 2011 at 11:21 pm

Tyce – your anecdote about ties reminds me of a funny story our current president told me a few days ago. Our chapter meetings are casual, but the first two chapters of the year are coat and tie. When he was a freshman, he thought all chapters were formal, so the third week he showed up in a coat and tie like before. Needless to say, the brothers thought it was pretty funny.

That being said, I quite like this article, and on of our brothers just sent it out over our email list as a reminder to always look your best, even at college. Typical summer attire for me is a pair shorts (that end at or above your knees, please) and a polo shirt. Winter – jeans or khakis with a button up and sweater. Simple, easy, and clean. I do need some new shoes though…

81 The Dutch Dastard September 26, 2011 at 2:59 pm

Very nice article. A student myself, people still have a problem with me wearing a tie on ‘normal’ days. Okay so far, it’s perfectly acceptable to not wear a tie to a lecture, and a suit is a little over the top (quite agree on the ‘since when does a man need a reason….and used that myself too).

I wholeheartedly agree with the comment about coats in general style. I often see fine suits paired with nylon ski-jackets, sometimes even too short to cover the jacket. Disgusting. A man really looks serious in a good overcoat. Something about first appearances and the likes…..

82 Arnold September 26, 2011 at 3:50 pm

Men in the sun belt seem to slack off more on dress and wear shorts and tee’s, jogging shoes or sandals during the heat of the summer on weekends, days off work. Retirees likewise. Some look downright sloppy. I seem more motivated to dress better in cooler time of year wearing polo’s, sweaters and leather shoes.

83 Janiece September 26, 2011 at 5:43 pm

Thank you, thank you, thank you for this article! My boyfriend recently came to me expressing an interest in upgrading his wardrobe and appearance… I’ve helped him with things like skin care, hair cuts, clothes that fit, but beyond that, I was unsure of how to ‘style’ him.

Now I’ll be looking into polos, some sweaters, and maybe some Moccasins (he already wears slip on leather shoes).

This was an extraordinarily well-written article, and I sincerely appreciate your time and effort.

84 Jason W September 26, 2011 at 9:45 pm

I love articles like this because I am absolutely clueless about fashion. I have no idea how to present myself in a good gentlemanly way without coming off like I take myself to seriously. I don’t think that the quality of clothes makes the man, but I know that when I dress to the nines I feel confident and sharp all day. It makes a big difference in my day, and is more than worth the investment. As a college student with barely a dollar to my name, I need cheap solutions; something I think this article achieves quite well. In regards to shaving, I can tell you that since I restored my straight razor and started using shaving soap, I have felt more lively in the morning, and received countless compliments on the closeness of my shave. Go for it! There’s nothing to lose!

85 Keith Wilson September 27, 2011 at 12:47 pm

This is a fantastic article. I am going to start upgrading my wardrobe tonight.

86 YG September 28, 2011 at 9:00 pm

I’m having a lot of time transitioning to the “adult” appearance. I would love to, but no matter what I try, nearly everything makes me look like a kid in adult clothes. Which makes sense – I look 21 at most. I’m 23, 5″8, with a build that isn’t slim but isn’t wide either. I’ve got big muscles(for my size, due to years of lifting), very low body fat, but also a very average skeletal frame with particularly wide hips.

I’ve perfected my skinny/slim jeans with very slim tshirts/hoodies/jackets wardrobe, but when I tuck shirts in or try pants that aren’t slim, my hips look MASSIVE, and I look short and childish. Even “slim fit” dress pants look ridiculous.

I look great in suits though…but without the jacket it all falls apart. The midsection just obliterates the whole “professional” appearance, making me look like a kid in my dad’s clothes. I’ve tried EVERY damn store imaginable – from department stores such as macy’s etc to express, zara, le chateau….and I already get damn near all pants tailored.

With a build like mine, my best fitting “business casual” pants are slim fit khakis from pacsun, which basically fit like slim fit jeans…

If anyone’s got any advice on this situation, I’d very much appreciate it. Weightlifting and running marathons is my idea of a good time, so “filling out” is not an issue….but damn, I’d like to wear a regular business casual outfit without looking like I’m borrowing it from my dad(who must clearly be bigger than me). I just can’t see myself ten years from now in a director/VP level position being able to get away with pacsun slim fit khakis….

87 LG September 29, 2011 at 3:00 pm

YG, this girl’s advice:

1. Pull your pants up. Most men nowadays wear their britches too low — and if they do, they’re probably wearing pants a size big (or a size small, if they’ve got a belly; but the wrong size in any case), so trying going down a size too — and on all but the slimmest dudes, a droopy waistline makes your hips look much bigger than they should. It’s like a hula girl’s skirt. Not a cute look. This goes with the “midrise” advice above. And for the love of everything holy, never let a pleat near you. Pleats are like drawing arrows to your junk. Just say no.

2. I haaaaate when guys blouse their shirts out. This is not 1993. And along those same lines, make sure you clothes fit you. Nothing makes you look like you’re borrowing your dad’s clothes like bagginess.

3. On the topic of fit: lots of stores right now have Mad Men inspired menswear lines, with lots of slim-cut, close-to-the-body styles that are unbelievably chic and sexy. This is NOT the same as your PacSun khakis (which, yikes: EVERY SINGLE guy in their online catalog looks like he has a full diaper. Sagville). Check out Banana Republic’s Mad Men collection for a little style inspiration — the KEY is where they hit your waist and how they fit your leg.

4. There’s a big difference between slim-fit and tapered. Slim is what you want — how Roger Sterling dresses, how Obama dresses. Fitted. Tapered pants look like OMG Sk8er Boi! and you should walk away from them if you want to look put together. But you know that already! :)

88 Collin October 1, 2011 at 12:24 am

The “I’m not going to dress well because people who do dress well disrespect women” argument may be one of the most idiotic things I’ve ever heard. It’s time people stopped giving college students a pass for being sloppy. You look like a bunch of hobos. Either that, or you look like you can’t let go of the fact that your athletic career ended in high school. Athletic apparel is for just that. Athletics. You’re not fooling anyone when you wear baggy shorts and a sweatshirt.

Clothing items to drop: Anything “distressed” or remotely Hollister-ish, all shorts below your knees, cargo shorts, undershirts, Oakley sunglasses, black dress shirts, baseball caps, flip flops, hoodies, and glasses with those lenses that double as sunglasses. I could go on, but that’s a good start.

For fall, my biggest suggestion is a good pair of khaki chinos. I got mine at TJMaxx for like $30, and not only are they incredibly comfortable, but they’re a great compromise between casual and dressy. Then start investing in dress shirts. Button downs are better than point collars in my opinion, so go ahead and buck the trend. Tie it all together with a pair of boat shoes, and you’ve got a look that not only looks put together but will never look dated. Trying to be trendy and fashionable is what causes people in fifteen years to think to themselves, “What was I wearing?”

Finally, if you have to question whether or not you can pull off a fedora, you can’t.

89 Austin October 4, 2011 at 12:47 pm

Very well written article, and some great style tips. I would like to add something to the first two tips on here though. It does say that the polo collar should be worn down, and while the past ten years of trend have made people look more like tools than actual men, there are exceptions to this rule. By itself, the polo collar should be worn down, but if it is paired with a decent quarter zip sweater that has a stand up collar, I belive a well matched polo underneath does look quite stylish with the collar turned up. Especially worn with nice dark, relaxed jeans, and brown leather shoes. Mind you, if you are wearing a brown sweater, you dont want a lime green polo underneath. Use judgement please. If you think brown and lime green look good together, please ask the closest woman for help matching colors. Quickly.

90 Edward October 4, 2011 at 1:27 pm

It is also good to wear a nice tailored shirt that would go well with the sweater. Another tip would be is to keep those shoes polished and looking good.

91 Chris Tyson October 6, 2011 at 6:45 am

The preppie look is in fashion not only on campus but everywhere. Whether bright hues or more subdued earthy colors, the look great. With the resurgence of bow ties and pocket squares to finish the outfit, this style of dress is hopefully permanent.

92 Jason October 6, 2011 at 4:11 pm

I want to know about the shoes in the “upgrade #3-jeans” photo… where the hell can I find those?

93 Michael October 10, 2011 at 1:27 pm

Some miscellaneous comments:

Someone on this board claimed that the polo shirt is a sort of sloppy halfway house between a dress shirt and a T-shirt and said to avoid it. On the contrary, the polo shirt is a classic item of warm-weather casual wear with roots going back over 80 years!

This bears repeating: Unless a shirt is of a type that has squared-off shirttails, it should be TUCKED IN TO THE PANTS always. The exceptions are polo shirts and certain causal summer woven shirts (camp shirts) with squared-off tails, which MAY (note, not MUST) be worn out. An uneven shirttail hanging out of pants looks unsightly, and the fact that half of the male population does this does not make it right.

94 Markus October 11, 2011 at 11:25 pm

To Collin:

What is so wrong with Oakley sunglasses? Oakleys are the only sunglasses I buy because for me the clarity and sharpness of images seen through the lenses compared to all other brands.

This article is very informative and I have showed it to a couple of friends and they all agree that they need to upgrade their wardrobe.

95 Alan W October 12, 2011 at 8:59 pm

my question is cowboy boots…i’m not talking the gaudy snakeskin etc. but i have a pair of nice brown boots (square toed) that go well UNDER my jeans…but sometimes i’m not sure it goes with this dressed up style

96 Collin October 15, 2011 at 5:50 pm

Markus: There are a couple pairs that Oakley makes that are ok, but the vast majority of their options are gaudy gaudy and juvenile. If you like the wraparound look, upgrade to Costa del Mar. If you want a more classic look, go with Ray Ban Wayfarers or Aviators. You’ll want to go to a store so you can see what different lenses are available and which ones you like better. Don’t waste your money trying to get frames that are too trendy, because you don’t want to look dated in a couple years.

Alan: Go for it, especially down south or out west.

97 John Gehringer October 17, 2011 at 6:13 am

Excellent article, Antonio. I’m consistently shocked by the inability of my classmates to dress themselves for everyday existence on campus. Although I’m certainly guilty of occasionally trudging to class unshaven and wearing a t-shirt after an all-nighter, I absolutely NEVER show up in pajamas, undershirts, athletic shorts or flip-flops. As a result, I’m given more consideration and credibility by my professors, can get a beer or a table far quicker when I walk downtown between classes, and have more luck meeting ladies than my taller, fitter friends.

This being said, I find a few minor issues in your sartorial argument. Firstly, as many others have echoed, I believe the polo shirt is little dressier than a plain or striped tee, while issuing a fraternity sentiment that is off-putting to many. When it’s too warm for a jacket, I find untucked casual button-up shirts (military styled, two-pocket, epaulettes, etc.) paired with less dressy ties (knit ties, bold stripes/patterns. PLEASE, NO NOVELTY TIES) to be a much more versatile solution. When worn with jeans and canvas sneakers, this combination tells others that you’re dressed for a casual environment, but still concerned enough with your appearance to appear put-together.

Also, the suggestion to cut out skinny jeans is good advice for some, but certainly not law. A closer fit always appears dressier, making proper-fitting skinny jeans an excellent accompaniment to a blazer on a casual date or good contrast against a thicker sweater on cold days. Also, as a man of only 5’7″, the tapered appearance of good skinny jeans does wonders for creating an illusion of height. I’ve come to enjoy the tapered pant look so much, I’ve had my suit pants tailored with a taper just as extreme as some of my jeans. As long as they’re not so tight as to threaten your future fertility, I’m all for the occasional skinny pair in one’s denim rotation.

98 Richard October 19, 2011 at 1:24 pm

“this combination tells others that you’re dressed for a casual environment, but still concerned enough with your appearance to appear put-together.”

Son, it tells others that you dress like a douche. I mean, for pete’s sake, you wear skinny suit pants and won’t wear a polo shirt because you don’t want to look like you’re in a fraternity. Get over yourself. It gets the fraternity association because they were the ones in college who cared about how they looked, while the other 95% of the people in college couldn’t be bothered to go to class in anything more than flip flops, pajama pants, and a hoodie.

99 manigabbles October 31, 2012 at 12:23 pm

I found this to be a useful guide for aspiring gentleman in that people sometimes forget that appearance really does matter. Perhaps, not in the traditional sense, but how one presents himself is absolutely crucial to leaving a good impression. In the working world, in the military, a crisp, clean, dress code is mandatory for those looking to be taken seriously. Certain clothing and mannerisms demand respect, while others can have you overlooked as a non-serious contender. These are great tips, for students especially, that are looking to start dressing to better look like that man they want to be in the near or coming future.

100 Josep January 2, 2013 at 10:47 am

I think the backpack is a relevant issue you haven’t talked about. In my college (in Madrid, Spain), you can tell who is an american exchange student by the backpack. They carry these huge North Face backpacks with a plastic bottle included. I always wonder if they have a machete or a camping gas stove inside.

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