in: Outfit Guide, Style

• Last updated: September 25, 2021

Back to College Wardrobe From 1948

A poster of back to college wardrobe.

Editor’s Note: As college students head back to school, they’re probably doing so dressed in cargo shorts, flip-flops, and hoodies. Yet if we turn back the clock half a century, a college man’s wardrobe was quite different! The following feature appeared in the September 1948 issue of PIC Magazine (an old magazine for young men). Hope you enjoy this sartorial blast from the past, and if you’re in need of style tips for the modern college man, be sure to check out this post.

“Back to College Wardrobe”
From Pic Magazine, Sept. 1948

At home on the campus

College men dressed in coats.

Your clothes for college will fall into four general categories: class and campus, sportswear, dress-up suits, and formal wear. Despite sectional modifications, a well-planned, basic school wardrobe will cover these classifications, as illustrated below.

Odd jackets and slacks are worn at colleges from coast to coast and will be your everyday campus uniform. Shetland type tweeds, corduroy and camel’s hair are popular for sports jackets. If you’re going to school in the south you can substitute gabardine, linen, seersucker or cotton cord.

Slacks worn in the east are mainly in flannel and natural color covert; in the west, gabardine, flannel, corduroy, and tropicals; in the mid-west, tweeds, flannel, covert, and gabardine; in the south, tropicals, corduroys, covert, gabardine and light weight flannel.

Suits worn at eastern universities have narrow shoulders and are straight-hanging, with little waist suppression. In the mid-west, broad-shouldered suits are preferred, with full chest. In the west, college clothing goes casual, the California influence being apparent in long point collar shirts, leisure jackets and cardigans. In the south you’ll need gabardine, cotton cord or seersucker suit. Summer formals are worn — white jacket and black trousers.

At schools in or near snow bowls, ski clothing is worn on campus and for class wear. At many western schools typical cowboy clothing is worn off campus.

In addition to your clothing, don’t overlook such important equipment as a reliable pen and pencil set, pipes, a lighter, electric razor, typewriter and luggage. Also a framed picture of your best girl and the folks at home.

Choose an upper classman’s suit

Vintage college students in suits.

These suits might impress even the dean. Advantage of choosing a tweed or flannel, as these are, is that the jackets and trousers may be combined with odd jackets and slacks. With the herringbone tweed suit, a sleeveless pullover, striped bowtie, Argyle hose and wing-tip brogues. With the flannel suit, a spread collar shirt, crochet knit tie, Norwegian peasant slippers and porkpie hat. Both outfits have an authentic college flavor.

When it’s an important date

Vintage college men talking with woman in car.

For fancy cutting-up you’ll want a dress-up suit. Your best bets are the plain blue doublebreasted worsted suit seen at the left, or a Glen plaid as worn by the college man of distinction at the right. Conservative pattern or striped ties, spread and regular collar shirts, white pocket handkerchiefs, give a distinctly town effect to clothing you’ll need for dress wear.

College-wise topcoats

Vintage college men wearing overcoats.

These are typical university topcoats – take your choice, you won’t go wrong with either. At the left, the fly front, notched lapel gabardine coat with set-in sleeves, worn with the narrow-brimmed Scoop hat, deerskin gloves and brown oxfords. The other, a Donegal tweed coat in balmacaan model with raglan sleeves, worn with a heavy knit muffler and glove set, two eyelet plain toe blucher shoes and university hat. Foulard bowties are well-liked.

Campus-right rainwear

Vintage college men wearing rain coats in stadium.

Your college wardrobe is incomplete without a raincoat. Regular university fashion is the singlebreasted fly-front coat seen at the left, with Bal collar and raglan sleeves, which is worn over a covert suit. The poplin rainhat is another university favorite. A doublebreasted trench coat, with all-around belt and military epaulets is in the collegiate tradition and is fine for wear at the stadium over your sweater, jacket and slacks.

College classic: polo coat

Vintage college student wearing polo overcoat.

Wise choice for all-around university wear is the double-breasted camel’s hair polo coat, which is perfect for traveling to and from school, for wear at the stadium over sport clothes and for week-end wear in town. You can even wear it over your dinner jacket at school. Worn for travel with a rough mixture felt hat, pigskin gloves, moccasin front brogues with rubber soles. Sturdy, well-built luggage is a good investment.

For frat dances and proms

Vintage couples talk each others at home stairs.

Formal affairs at school call for a dinner jacket, sometimes known as a tux. The doublebreasted type is most popular. Both the peaked-lapel style as seen at the left and the shawl collar model worn by the student at right, are correct. Midnight blue is the popular color. You will also want a turned-down collar dress shirt, a pointed or square end bowtie, patent leather oxfords, black silk or lisle hose and a white pocket handkerchief.

When you root for the home team

Vintage men sitting on bench and talked each other.

It can get mighty cold up in the stands, no matter how hot the game, and you’ll need warm, rugged clothing. Left, a processed lined jacket, a cardigan sweater which comes in school colors, tweed slacks. Next, a poplin zipper jacket with detachable lining, a plaid shirt, long-sleeved sweater, and gabardine slacks. For really cold weather, the alpaca-lined coat with mouton collar. Shoes are the types preferred by students, built for wear.

For dorm study and bull sessions

College students sitting in a room.

When burning the midnight oil studying for next day’s classes or exams and for dormitory conferences you will want warm, comfortable pajamas and robes. Knit pajamas are worn by the conferee at the left, a wool flannel robe by the undergraduate in the center, who also likes leather mules. Pajamas in large check are favored by the college contingent. The visitor wears a blazer, gray flannels, Norwegian peasant slippers.

For west coast campus wear

A group of students standing around the professor at bicycle.

Casual comfort is what you want on the campus at west coast colleges. The cyclist wears a cashmere sweater, white shirt, gabardine slacks, argyles, crepe-soled moccasins; his classmate, a plaid shirt, covert slacks and ankle high chukka boots. Next, a cardigan sweater over a white tee shirt, gray flannels, brogue shoes.

A woman walking toward men standing in suit.

Left, a processed zipper jacket, long point collar sport shirt, gabardine slacks, crepe-soled bluchers. Right, a wool sport jacket, spread collar shirt, panel tie, gabardine slacks, wing tip oxfords.


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