Style for College Students
There’s no kind way to put this: college students are some of the worst dressed people in America. I say that as man who has spent the last eleven years on college campuses – four as an undergraduate, two as a researcher, and five as a graduate student. This has been at three universities, but with many visits to other schools throughout the years.
To be sure, students are in a uniquely hard bind. They’re broke, very busy, and have little time for gainful employment. Not having a lot of time or money doesn’t lend itself well to picking up nice things. Plus, as a graduate student instructor, I’d rather see students spend more time on their studies than worry about what they should wear.
Still, dressing well in college isn’t that hard. Especially when the bar is set so low. So, in an effort to help students smarten up, I’ve come up with some tips.
Focus on Smart, Mid-quality Basics
The downside to being a student is that you’re broke, but the upside is that you can have a complete wardrobe with very few pieces. No need to worry about having separate weekend and weekday wardrobes; it’s just off to class and libraries for you. So, focus on buying mid-quality, versatile basics. Don’t go for anything too nice. Whether you’re getting straight-As or barely passing class, your lifestyle in college will be mostly rough on clothes and probably not very hygienic. Get things like decent jeans that can take a beating, or thicker merino sweaters, not thin cashmere-blends. Build your wardrobe off grays, blues, and browns, so things can easily coordinate without you needing to have to put in too much thought.
Upgrade 
The best way to not look like a college slob is to not dress like a college slob. Instead of graphic t-shirts, pick solid colors tees. Better still, try to wear shirts with collars, as they’ll help frame your face. Plaid flannels for fall, colorful madras for summer, and stripes year-round will help make those button-up shirts look less like office-attire. Long sleeve polos can also work, so long as they don’t look too fratty (I like Kent Wang’s). 
Instead of ratty or pre-distressed jeans, pick up a solid pair of dark, raw denim jeans that fit well. Levis is relatively cheap and easy. Maybe add a pair of chinos and corduroys too, so you have other things to wear.
Instead of college-branded sweatshirts, get merino sweaters. Club Monaco’s are pretty good on sale (they also offer a student discount year-round, which you can stack on top of sale prices). Cardigans can also work in theory, but they’re much harder to fit well than a simple crew- or v-neck sweater.
Instead of flip-flops and running shoes, get camp mocs, boat shoes, plimsolls, or desert boots. Clarks desert boots are a particularly good option if you’re on a student budget. You don’t have to put too much care into them besides applying some Obenauf’s LP for the beeswaxed versions or waterproof spray for suede, and the crepe soles will be comfortable for long-walks. Jesse has some other suggestions here as well.
Finally, there’s no alternative to cargo shorts, sweatpants, or basketball shorts. You just have to stop wearing those (unless, you know, you’re exercising or playing basketball).
Don’t Overdress
I know this site is often about sport coats and ties, but unless you’re a member of the Model United Nations or College Republicans, I encourage you to not wear ties as a college student. There are some campuses where this is normal, and you’ll know when you’re at one, but for everywhere else, you’ll just look out of place and over-dressed. For many campuses, sport coats may also make you stick out in a bad way.
If you really want to wear a sport coat, tweeds and corduroys can look a bit more natural on a college campus. For everyone else, I encourage reaching for more causal options. A vintage peacoat can be had for $50-75 through eBay, Vintage Trends, or a local thrift store. You can use this guide to help date your peacoat finds. For something new, check Fidelity.
There are also some go-to brands for decent, cheap(ish) outerwear. LL Bean Signature, Land’s End Canvas, and J Crew can be workable once they have their end-of-the-season sales (when things will be discounted 50-75%). J Crew also has a student discount, but only for in-store purchases. Additionally, Land’s End mainline is probably be less well-suited for a younger person, but this oilcloth jacket might be a good Barbour alternative. It can be had for under $100 if you wait for the right coupon codes. You can read Broke & Bespoke for a review. Lastly, Ben Sherman’s Harringtons can also be had through eBay for about $80.
And the Standard Advice
Add to this the standard advice.
Learn how clothes should fit. We have a few guides you can read through here. You have more wiggle room as a young, college student, but avoid things that are skin-tight or overly baggy.
Find a good alterations tailor and bring as much as you can to them. There are very few things a good alterations tailor can’t improve.
Make a wish list and tightly edit it. Make sure you’re building a wardrobe, and not just a collection of outfits. If something doesn’t mesh well with the other things you plan on buying, strike it off your list.
Set a budget and shop slowly. Especially at this age, your tastes can change rapidly, and if you buy everything now, you may find yourself regretting it next semester.
(Photo by John Morgan)

Style for College Students

There’s no kind way to put this: college students are some of the worst dressed people in America. I say that as man who has spent the last eleven years on college campuses – four as an undergraduate, two as a researcher, and five as a graduate student. This has been at three universities, but with many visits to other schools throughout the years.

To be sure, students are in a uniquely hard bind. They’re broke, very busy, and have little time for gainful employment. Not having a lot of time or money doesn’t lend itself well to picking up nice things. Plus, as a graduate student instructor, I’d rather see students spend more time on their studies than worry about what they should wear.

Still, dressing well in college isn’t that hard. Especially when the bar is set so low. So, in an effort to help students smarten up, I’ve come up with some tips.

Focus on Smart, Mid-quality Basics

The downside to being a student is that you’re broke, but the upside is that you can have a complete wardrobe with very few pieces. No need to worry about having separate weekend and weekday wardrobes; it’s just off to class and libraries for you. So, focus on buying mid-quality, versatile basics. Don’t go for anything too nice. Whether you’re getting straight-As or barely passing class, your lifestyle in college will be mostly rough on clothes and probably not very hygienic. Get things like decent jeans that can take a beating, or thicker merino sweaters, not thin cashmere-blends. Build your wardrobe off grays, blues, and browns, so things can easily coordinate without you needing to have to put in too much thought.

Upgrade

The best way to not look like a college slob is to not dress like a college slob. Instead of graphic t-shirts, pick solid colors tees. Better still, try to wear shirts with collars, as they’ll help frame your face. Plaid flannels for fall, colorful madras for summer, and stripes year-round will help make those button-up shirts look less like office-attire. Long sleeve polos can also work, so long as they don’t look too fratty (I like Kent Wang’s). 

Instead of ratty or pre-distressed jeans, pick up a solid pair of dark, raw denim jeans that fit well. Levis is relatively cheap and easy. Maybe add a pair of chinos and corduroys too, so you have other things to wear.

Instead of college-branded sweatshirts, get merino sweaters. Club Monaco’s are pretty good on sale (they also offer a student discount year-round, which you can stack on top of sale prices). Cardigans can also work in theory, but they’re much harder to fit well than a simple crew- or v-neck sweater.

Instead of flip-flops and running shoes, get camp mocs, boat shoes, plimsolls, or desert boots. Clarks desert boots are a particularly good option if you’re on a student budget. You don’t have to put too much care into them besides applying some Obenauf’s LP for the beeswaxed versions or waterproof spray for suede, and the crepe soles will be comfortable for long-walks. Jesse has some other suggestions here as well.

Finally, there’s no alternative to cargo shorts, sweatpants, or basketball shorts. You just have to stop wearing those (unless, you know, you’re exercising or playing basketball).

Don’t Overdress

I know this site is often about sport coats and ties, but unless you’re a member of the Model United Nations or College Republicans, I encourage you to not wear ties as a college student. There are some campuses where this is normal, and you’ll know when you’re at one, but for everywhere else, you’ll just look out of place and over-dressed. For many campuses, sport coats may also make you stick out in a bad way.

If you really want to wear a sport coat, tweeds and corduroys can look a bit more natural on a college campus. For everyone else, I encourage reaching for more causal options. A vintage peacoat can be had for $50-75 through eBay, Vintage Trends, or a local thrift store. You can use this guide to help date your peacoat finds. For something new, check Fidelity.

There are also some go-to brands for decent, cheap(ish) outerwear. LL Bean Signature, Land’s End Canvas, and J Crew can be workable once they have their end-of-the-season sales (when things will be discounted 50-75%). J Crew also has a student discount, but only for in-store purchases. Additionally, Land’s End mainline is probably be less well-suited for a younger person, but this oilcloth jacket might be a good Barbour alternative. It can be had for under $100 if you wait for the right coupon codes. You can read Broke & Bespoke for a review. Lastly, Ben Sherman’s Harringtons can also be had through eBay for about $80.

And the Standard Advice

Add to this the standard advice.

  • Learn how clothes should fit. We have a few guides you can read through here. You have more wiggle room as a young, college student, but avoid things that are skin-tight or overly baggy.
  • Find a good alterations tailor and bring as much as you can to them. There are very few things a good alterations tailor can’t improve.
  • Make a wish list and tightly edit it. Make sure you’re building a wardrobe, and not just a collection of outfits. If something doesn’t mesh well with the other things you plan on buying, strike it off your list.
  • Set a budget and shop slowly. Especially at this age, your tastes can change rapidly, and if you buy everything now, you may find yourself regretting it next semester.

(Photo by John Morgan)

Shawl Collar Cardigans

As legend has it, the original cardigan was invented for Lieutenant General James Brudenell, the Seventh Earl of Cardigan. He wanted a sweater that he could put on without ruining his perfectly coiffed hair. So, the front was cut open, buttons put in, and voilà – we have the cardigan sweater. How the shawl collar – a detail originally designed for the Victorian smoking jacket – got mixed in is unclear. Perhaps it’s because both were considered at-home pieces for lounge and leisure. Who knows.

In any case, shawl collar cardigans make for great autumnal sweaters. The elongated line of the collar nicely frames the face while the body of the knit keeps the wearer comfortable and warm. Today, you can get these from a number of companies, and they range from the stratospherically priced to the reasonably affordable.

I’ll start with the stratospherically priced. Even if we’re not able to afford them, they’re fun to look at (and talk about). These tend to be knitted in Scotland and made from multi-ply wool, cashmere, lambswool, or camelhair yarns. Multi-ply means that multiple plies are twisted together to form a thicker, stronger yarn. This gives the sweater more warmth and durability. The yarns are also usually made from longer animal fibers, which means there are fewer weak points that can break and result in pilling. Finally, the weaves tend to be denser and tighter, which helps ensure that the sweater will keep its shape for years to come. The result, while expensive, is something that’s incredibly chunky, plush, and warm. Wear one of these on a chilly morning and you’ll be immediately be impressed with the quality. 

You can find such cardigans at a number of traditional American clothiers. Ben Silver, O’Connell’s, Kabbaz-Kelly, and Paul Stuart have exceptionally nice ones. From Europe, there’s Drake’s, Berk, Johnstons of Elgin, and Peter Johnston. Ovadia & Sons also makes a nice, thick lambswool one that’s suitable for someone wanting a slimmer fit. All of these tend to be expensive, but some will go on sale at the end of the season. In fact, Ben Silver has some at 50% off now.

For something more affordable, check out J Crew, Rugby, Brooks Brothers, Gant, Land’s End, Orvis, and Save Khaki (one of which is on Gilt). These tend to be thinner than the ones mentioned above, and will likely have cheap, plastic buttons instead of animal horn. You can swap out the buttons yourself, however, for about $30-50. Finally, you may want to consider the options at Northern Watters, White of Hawick, and Black Sheep. I have no personal experience with their products, but nice things have been said about them across the various menswear forums. And although their websites aren’t terribly appealing, it’s important to separate out marketing hype from quality of clothing. They may just be the right middle point between the over-priced, under-delivered “fashion brands,” and the superlative, but incredibly expensive, Scottish knits. 

Three Types of Chinos

Khaki chinos are not, as they say, just khaki chinos. Though they’re always casual, they come in different flavors of informality, and it’s good to be sensitive to these differences when you’re choosing the right pair to wear for the day.

I think of chinos as being of three varieties. The first is your standard casual pair, which is what you most commonly find in shopping malls. These are distinguished by visible stitching on the inseams and outseams (the seams going up and down both sides of your legs). They’re also often made from cheaper materials, sit lower on your hips, and sometimes feature some kind of “wash” or “distressing.” That means they look a bit more beaten up – faded around the lap and slightly frayed along the pockets and leg openings. These, in my opinion, are best worn with casual shirts, such as those made from a rougher cloth (e.g. oxford) or feature bold patterns (e.g. bright madras, plaid flannels). They’re also fine with things such as t-shirts, polos, cardigans, and sneakers. If the length of your shirt permits, you can wear it untucked. They’re less optimal, however, with dressier shirts – such as shirts made from smooth poplin, have no chest pocket, and feature French fronts. Those would be too dressy for this kind of pants.  

Your second type is the workwear variety, which differ from the first category in their material and fit. Workwear chinos are made from tougher twill cottons and allowed to fit differently. Whereas traditional men’s pants should fit in a certain way, workwear chinos can have a bit more rumple in the leg line and seat (though they don’t necessarily have to). In short, these should feel and look a bit rougher. They are, after all, supposed to express a certain workwear sensibility. Such chinos can be worn with chambray shirts, plaid flannels, rugged outerwear, and heavy boots. In a way, some of the things you can wear here aren’t too different than what you can wear with standard casual chinos, but the effects will be different. A chambray shirt worn with RRL Officer Chinos or Left Field’s, for example, will look very different than if it’s paired with something from J Crew.   

Finally, the last type is what I’d call “dress chinos.” As oxymoronic as that sounds, dress chinos are distinguished by hidden stitching along the inseams and outseams. They sit higher on the hips, are made from nicer materials, and are generally made to much higher quality standards. They also typically come “unfinished,” meaning the lengths aren’t pre-hemmed. These are arguably the most versatile. They can be worn with casual shirts such as oxford cloth button-downs or proper dress shirts; long sleeve polos or cardigans; traditional sweaters of almost any variety; and even sport coats and ties. They shouldn’t be worn, however, with cheap, beat-up t-shirts or rugged outerwear, such as motorcycle jackets.

The photos above demonstrate good uses of chinos. Something like this, on the other hand, is a bit too incongruous, at least to my eye. It would be better, in my opinion, if the gentleman had worn dress chinos, a pale blue shirt, and some brown calf derbys. Or he could have ditched the double-breasted and tie, and picked a more casual shirt to wear with his very-casual chinos and suede chukkas. As is, the look is too formal up top and too informal down bottom. To be sure, clashing formal and informal things can make a very fashionable statement, but if one wanted to dress more harmoniously and less conspicuously, it would be good to be sensitive to the different kinds of sensibilities garments have, and then pair them accordingly. For chinos, that would be standard casual, workwear, and dress. 

Not to turn this site into just about sales, but this J Crew sale is certainly worth mentioning. An additional 40% off sale items with the code OURTREAT puts things such as madras shirts at $30, Billy Reid sneakers at $48, and summer OCBDs for $32. You can browse their sale section for other deals. 

Casual Summer Weekends
This is a great photo of maomao. Here he’s wearing a madras shirt, pair of sunglasses, and a beat up Panama hat. It’s a casual, easy-going summer style that’s perfect for weekends. Good for an afternoon drink with friends, stroll in the city, or general laying around at the park. 
What I like most is that every item here is easily obtainable at almost any price point. I’ve already written about where you can get madras shirts. I was recently at Ralph Lauren and J Crew, actually, and was fairly impressed with the colorful patterns they’ve chosen for this season. If you decide to not get something custom made, these are some pretty good options off-the-rack. Just make sure you know how they should fit before you buy. 
You can also read this post about Panama hats. Panama Bob is generally recognized as one of the best places to buy an authentic Panama, and he has two stores. His main store sells hats made from finer weaves. These will look better, and you’ll get to own something that’s from a dying cottage industry. If you can’t afford those, he also has an eBay store with more affordable options. These will be made from rougher weaves, but on the upside, they can be more breathable on those hot, humid days. Note that it’s generally easier to buy hats online if you’ve already had some experience with them. If this is your first hat, you may want to buy one from a local shop, just so you can try a few on in-person. Pay particular attention to the shape and height of the crown, as well as the width of the brim. 
Finally, I co-wrote this five-part series on sunglasses with my good friend Agyesh Madan. That should put you well on your way to getting a good pair. Of course, you can also search eBay for deals. Not everything in that search link looks good, but it contains the brands that Agyesh and I talked about in our series. You can use eBay’s navigation filters to make the search results more managable.
Not pictured here are maomao’s pants and shoes. I imagine he’s either wearing cotton or linen trousers, and maybe some leather slip-ons (e.g. penny loafers, boat shoes, driving mocs, and the like). I’ll cover those another time, but in the meantime, consider madras, sunglasses, and a straw Panama for your casual summer weekends. If you need to, you can throw on a linen sport coat, but even without one, you can look quite good. Just check out maomao. 

Casual Summer Weekends

This is a great photo of maomao. Here he’s wearing a madras shirt, pair of sunglasses, and a beat up Panama hat. It’s a casual, easy-going summer style that’s perfect for weekends. Good for an afternoon drink with friends, stroll in the city, or general laying around at the park. 

What I like most is that every item here is easily obtainable at almost any price point. I’ve already written about where you can get madras shirts. I was recently at Ralph Lauren and J Crew, actually, and was fairly impressed with the colorful patterns they’ve chosen for this season. If you decide to not get something custom made, these are some pretty good options off-the-rack. Just make sure you know how they should fit before you buy. 

You can also read this post about Panama hats. Panama Bob is generally recognized as one of the best places to buy an authentic Panama, and he has two stores. His main store sells hats made from finer weaves. These will look better, and you’ll get to own something that’s from a dying cottage industry. If you can’t afford those, he also has an eBay store with more affordable options. These will be made from rougher weaves, but on the upside, they can be more breathable on those hot, humid days. Note that it’s generally easier to buy hats online if you’ve already had some experience with them. If this is your first hat, you may want to buy one from a local shop, just so you can try a few on in-person. Pay particular attention to the shape and height of the crown, as well as the width of the brim. 

Finally, I co-wrote this five-part series on sunglasses with my good friend Agyesh Madan. That should put you well on your way to getting a good pair. Of course, you can also search eBay for deals. Not everything in that search link looks good, but it contains the brands that Agyesh and I talked about in our series. You can use eBay’s navigation filters to make the search results more managable.

Not pictured here are maomao’s pants and shoes. I imagine he’s either wearing cotton or linen trousers, and maybe some leather slip-ons (e.g. penny loafers, boat shoes, driving mocs, and the like). I’ll cover those another time, but in the meantime, consider madras, sunglasses, and a straw Panama for your casual summer weekends. If you need to, you can throw on a linen sport coat, but even without one, you can look quite good. Just check out maomao. 

Madras Shirts for Summer

I love madras - the colorful, airy fabric named after the Indian city from which it originally came. The stuff is lightweight and very breathable, which means it makes for the perfect summer shirt. Madras shirts are a wonderful accompaniment to trousers or suits made from cotton or linen, and of course should be worn with summer appropriate footwear, such as loafers or suede bucks. Unfortunately, good madras shirts are hard to find these days, and not because all the new stuff is colorfast, instead of bleeding and fading easily like the ones from yesteryear (for that truly dégagé look). Rather, it’s because most don’t fit me well or they lack the design details I want. 

My solution has been to get ones custom made. You can buy madras fabrics online through Atlantis Fabrics. They have two web pages - here and here - dedicated to them, and many are just $6 a yard. Given that the average sized man only needs about two yards per shirt, that’s just $12 for materials.

You can also check fabric stores to see if they have anything suitable. Above are some swatches from Rosen & Chadick, a fabric shop in Manhattan. Though they’re in New York City, they’re more than happy to send out fabric swatches for free. After you’ve figured out what you want, you can call them and pay for your order with a credit card. Most selections are $15 a yard. 

Once you have your fabrics, you’ll need to find a shirtmaker who is willing to take them from you. If you don’t have someone local you can go to, I recommend Cottonwork. They can custom make something to your body measurements or, if you’re hesitant about the process, they can copy any existing shirt you have. Just send them your best fitting shirt along with any notes about things you’d like tweaked (if any). They charge about $45 per shirt if you’re supplying the fabrics. 

If you’re reluctant to go the custom route, there are a bunch of ready-to-wear companies you can consider, such as O’Connell’s, J PressBrooks Brothers, and Dann Online. Some of these will fit quite full, such as the ones at Dann Online, while others can be very slim, such as Brooks’ Extra Slim Fits. 

You can also check out Gant Rugger and Ralph Lauren. Gant Rugger’s shirts are very slim and mostly meant to be worn untucked, while Ralph Lauren has the fuller ”Classic Fit” and slimmer “Custom Fit.” Finally, for something cheaper, try J Crew. In the past, they offered disappointingly drab designs, but this season’s are pleasantly colorful (as madras should be). If you wait till the end of the season, you can easily find their madras shirts discounted by 40-50%. 

(Cottonwork will be a Put This On advertiser next month, but our advertising and editorial processes are separate. - Jesse)

For $50 You Can Buy …
There are two major sales right now, both of which are yielding a ton of good deals for under $50. The first is at Land’s End, where you can get 40% off any one item, and free shipping to boot if your order is over $50. Just use the code SNOW (pin 1174) or FROST (pin 9471) at checkout.
Given the stock of already reasonably priced items at Land’s End, this promotion makes for some partiuclarly good offers. For example, there’s a quilted jacket for $40, StormRaker jacket for $25, and brown herringbone wool necktie for $35. I generally find that Land’s End stuff fits a bit big, so you may want to call their customer service to get advice on sizing. Their promotion ends tomorrow.
The second is at J Crew, which is offering an extra 30% off all sale items. Use the code MUSTHAVE at checkout. Here you can get Spring Courts for $35, summer oxfords for $30, and swimming trunks for $20. Their promotion ends Sunday.

For $50 You Can Buy …

There are two major sales right now, both of which are yielding a ton of good deals for under $50. The first is at Land’s End, where you can get 40% off any one item, and free shipping to boot if your order is over $50. Just use the code SNOW (pin 1174) or FROST (pin 9471) at checkout.

Given the stock of already reasonably priced items at Land’s End, this promotion makes for some partiuclarly good offers. For example, there’s a quilted jacket for $40, StormRaker jacket for $25, and brown herringbone wool necktie for $35. I generally find that Land’s End stuff fits a bit big, so you may want to call their customer service to get advice on sizing. Their promotion ends tomorrow.

The second is at J Crew, which is offering an extra 30% off all sale items. Use the code MUSTHAVE at checkout. Here you can get Spring Courts for $35, summer oxfords for $30, and swimming trunks for $20. Their promotion ends Sunday.

J Crew Final Sale

J Crew is offering 30% off their Final Sale items right now. For example, with the current sale discount, this dress shirt is about $30 and this anorak is $90.

The sale also applies to their third party brands, which tend to be made to higher quality standards. Spring Courts are $35, Baracuta Harrington jackets are $160, and Saturdays swim shorts are $35. Not too shabby.

Use the discount code SHOPNOW at checkout.

For $50 You Can Buy …
It’s been a while since I did one of these entries, so I thought I’d make up for it by building an entire ensemble for fall, head-to-toe, out of things you can buy for under $50. 
Shirt: Ralph Lauren Rugby has this "antique striped shirt" on sale for $49.99. I’m not crazy about Rugby’s designs when they have a bunch of collegiate stripes and emblems, but this one is simple enough. It also looks like it could go quite well with most casual ensembles. 
Pants: Sierra Trading Post has a bunch of Bill’s Khakis in a variety of colors and fabrics, and this vintage twill in olive would make for a nice fall chino. They cost $79.95 right now, but if you sign up for their DealFlyer newsletter, you’ll get their “special coupon” notices. Lately, they’ve been giving 35% off any one item, which brings these down to about $52 (hey, I’m just $2 off, cut me some slack). Depending on how skinny your legs are, these may need some tapering, however, so you should account for that cost. 
Belt: Narragansett Leathers makes handsome, custom-made belts for under $50. They have a variety of styles, but I like their plain 1.25” belts the most. If you want something more unique, they also have double ring and hoof pick belts for about the same price.
Shoes: It’s hard finding shoes for under $50! Obviously, if you’re willing to pay $100+, and look on eBay, then all sorts of decent options are available to you. For under $50, however, I’ll recommend these Land’s End chukkas. I’m not crazy about the stitching on the back quarters of the shoe, but they’re advertised as being full grain leather, and only cost $49.95. 
Wallet: I really like Chester Mox wallets. They’re completely handmade, built from Horween leather, and produced by a family in Los Angeles that has been working with leather for over a decade. Right now they’re running a promotion where they’ll etch your name or initials into the wallet for free (use the code FREEPRSLZ at the end of the Paypal checkout process). They have a bunch of designs for under $50, but this model only costs $35. A customized, handmade wallet for $35 ain’t bad. 
Watch: Big faced Timex, you got two of those. Well, at least that’s how many you can have for $50. Get the Easy Reader model for $20.24 on Overstock.com. If that one sells out, just check out their other Timex options. Many of them can be had for about $25 each.
Socks: You can get a pair of Gold Toe socks for about $3 at Belt Outlet. Read my review of them here. 
Key fob: This is a bit of a superfluous purchase, but the leather is 225 years old, and it was found at the bottom of a sunken ship! For $24, it’s a pretty cool thing to carry around. You can read more about the special leather in this old article I wrote. 
There we have it. Head-to-toe everything you need for fall, and nearly every item costs less than $50. It’s not the most sartorial of looks, but not bad for a budget. 

For $50 You Can Buy …

It’s been a while since I did one of these entries, so I thought I’d make up for it by building an entire ensemble for fall, head-to-toe, out of things you can buy for under $50. 

  • Shirt: Ralph Lauren Rugby has this "antique striped shirt" on sale for $49.99. I’m not crazy about Rugby’s designs when they have a bunch of collegiate stripes and emblems, but this one is simple enough. It also looks like it could go quite well with most casual ensembles.
  • Pants: Sierra Trading Post has a bunch of Bill’s Khakis in a variety of colors and fabrics, and this vintage twill in olive would make for a nice fall chino. They cost $79.95 right now, but if you sign up for their DealFlyer newsletter, you’ll get their “special coupon” notices. Lately, they’ve been giving 35% off any one item, which brings these down to about $52 (hey, I’m just $2 off, cut me some slack). Depending on how skinny your legs are, these may need some tapering, however, so you should account for that cost. 
  • Belt: Narragansett Leathers makes handsome, custom-made belts for under $50. They have a variety of styles, but I like their plain 1.25” belts the most. If you want something more unique, they also have double ring and hoof pick belts for about the same price.
  • Shoes: It’s hard finding shoes for under $50! Obviously, if you’re willing to pay $100+, and look on eBay, then all sorts of decent options are available to you. For under $50, however, I’ll recommend these Land’s End chukkas. I’m not crazy about the stitching on the back quarters of the shoe, but they’re advertised as being full grain leather, and only cost $49.95. 
  • Wallet: I really like Chester Mox wallets. They’re completely handmade, built from Horween leather, and produced by a family in Los Angeles that has been working with leather for over a decade. Right now they’re running a promotion where they’ll etch your name or initials into the wallet for free (use the code FREEPRSLZ at the end of the Paypal checkout process). They have a bunch of designs for under $50, but this model only costs $35. A customized, handmade wallet for $35 ain’t bad.
  • Watch: Big faced Timex, you got two of those. Well, at least that’s how many you can have for $50. Get the Easy Reader model for $20.24 on Overstock.com. If that one sells out, just check out their other Timex options. Many of them can be had for about $25 each.
  • Socks: You can get a pair of Gold Toe socks for about $3 at Belt Outlet. Read my review of them here.
  • Key fob: This is a bit of a superfluous purchase, but the leather is 225 years old, and it was found at the bottom of a sunken ship! For $24, it’s a pretty cool thing to carry around. You can read more about the special leather in this old article I wrote

There we have it. Head-to-toe everything you need for fall, and nearly every item costs less than $50. It’s not the most sartorial of looks, but not bad for a budget. 

Dopp Kits: A Nice Accessory for the Traveling Man

Dopp kits are designed for men who need something to hold their toiletries while they travel. They were invented by Charles Doppelt, a German leather-goods maker, sometime in the early 20th century. Doppelt scored a contract with the US Army during WW2 and provided millions of American GIs with them while they fought abroad. When these soliders came home, they brought their dopp kits with them and thus began their civilian use. 

Now, unless you’re off fighting a war, nobody needs a dopp kit. You can get along fine by triple bagging your toiletries in plastic bags when you travel. Unless you’re hanging out with really lame people, nobody’s going to judge you for it, assuming they even notice. However, these pouches are still nice to have. There’s something about them that help you feel a little less like you’re living out of a box, and they inspire a better sense of organization. With plastic grocery bags, even if I bring my nicest ones, my toiletries randomly wind up on different tables in my hotel room. As well, dopp kits just feel a bit more “grown up,” and that’s what this site is all about, right?

So for readers who travel, I thought I’d run through some dopp kit options. I’ll separate this out into three price tiers.

Over $100: Mulholland Brothers sells some nice basic models in both waxed canvas and leather. Nothing fancy here, just your standard dopp kit in great materials. If you want something a bit more interesting, there’s this Kenton Sorenson, which will darken to a beautiful patina over time. Jack Spade also makes some. My personal dopp kit is by Jack Spade and I love it, but I’ll admit that I think their products are slightly overpriced for what they are. However, Jack Spade dopp kits go on sale every once in a while at Gilt and Nordstroms, so check there. Lastly, there is Col. Littleton, which looks amazing, but is pretty expensive. 

Between $50 and $100: As with a lot of things, Filson and Orvis always makes very nice mid-priced items. There’s also this leather piece by Buxton Accessories, which has one of the nicer organization systems I’ve seen. 

Under $50: If you’re on a tighter budget, there are many dopp kits priced under $50. The first is Lands End’s SeaGoing and Square Rigger models. The SeaGoing is designed for really wet environments (perhaps if you’re bringing your dopp on a boat) while the Square Rigger is a bit more traditional. There are also affordable waxed canvas options by Marc New York and J Crew, as well as a leather model by Dopp Delegate. Additionally, Potterybarn has one you can monogram. I’ve handled this one before and wasn’t very impressed with the leather but - well - it’s $39. Lastly, MUJI has a variety of affordable options - this one’s $17. Jesse uses a MUJI bag not unlike this one and recommends them, and I can see the hook coming in real handy for situations where you can’t take up a lot of counter space. There are more here.

As for what to pack in your dopp kit? For me, I work off of this list:

The Essentials: Travel size bottles of shampoo and conditioner; toothbrush and toothpaste; floss; nail clippers; facial scrub; lotion; hair products; Q-tips; hand salve; a comb; deodorant; sunscreen; and a shaving kit. 

Optional: Lip balm; Band Aids; Tylenol; $20 bill; LintUps; breath mints; ear plugs; Emergen-C; condoms; and my own soap (since hotel soaps usually suck). 

Also, be sure to squeeze out the air from your travel sized bottles. This will help make sure they don’t explode during the flight. You can buy travel sized bottles at almost any Longs Drugs or Walmart, or online through Flight 001

Lastly, a word of caution when selecting your dopp kit. The goal here is not to get the biggest sized bag you can. It’s much wiser to know what you typically bring and buy an appropriate sized bag for your gear. If you get something too big, it will just take up unnecessary room in your luggage, so know thyself before buying.