Q & Answer: What Shoes Should I Bring On Vacation?

Ben writes: This May, my wife and I are honeymooning in Europe for two weeks. I know that I will be doing a heavy amount of walking. Do you have any suggestions for footwear that will allow me to keep pace with my wife without looking like the ugly American?

Packing shoes for a trip - especially one that requires more than one level of formality - is always tough. When I travel, I fight not to bring more than two pairs of shoes, with one of those pairs on my feet. I don’t always win the fight.

I’ve got plenty of dress shoes that are perfectly comfortable, but none that I’d want to walk miles in. So if I’m bringing a pair of dress shoes to make a big presentation or what-have-you, I’m usually looking to compliment them with a “walking shoe.”

Depending on the season and context, that usually boils down to one of two things: a simple sneaker, or a comfortable boot.

I actually own the Grenson chukka boots pictured above, in a slightly darker brown. I find they work great with jeans or khakis, though I obviously wouldn’t wear them with shorts were I headed somewhere hot. In fact, they’re sort of a three-season shoe - fine anytime but summer. Sometimes I’ll substitute the chunkier, hardier Alden Indy Boot for these. Most importantly, I can put in a few miles on these, and be happy to see them the next day.

I also frequently bring sneakers on trips that will involve walking. As usual, I’d say the simpler the better. Above are a classic, the Adidas Samba. I usually wear Common Projects, which are great but expensive. I’m hoping Kent Wang gets in a full size run of his plain white sneaks soon. And of course if it’s summer, there’s stuff like Jack Purcells and Supergas, among others.

Traveling’s really an exercise in building a capsule wardrobe. You want to carry as few pieces as possible, and have as much interchangability as possible. So: keep it simple, and you’ll be fine.

Kent Wang’s Plain White Sneakers
Kent Wang’s specialty is making simple, unbranded clothing. He aims to produce the quality of luxury brands, but without the marketing budgets and corresponding inflated price points. That’s a philosophy we can get behind at Put This On.
I’m pretty excited about his new sneakers. They’re a lot like the Common Projects Achilles, perhaps the ultimate fancy sneaker. Like the CPs, they’re plain, unbranded and relatively sleek. Unlike the CPs, though, they cost less than a hundred bucks. I bit the bullet and bought some Achilles last spring, and I’ve been happy with the decision, but at a retail price usually north of three hundred bucks, they’re what you might call stupid expensive.
For the moment, Wang is offering only sizes 7, 8 and 9, with more to come in the spring. At $95, these look to me like a heck of a deal.

Kent Wang’s Plain White Sneakers

Kent Wang’s specialty is making simple, unbranded clothing. He aims to produce the quality of luxury brands, but without the marketing budgets and corresponding inflated price points. That’s a philosophy we can get behind at Put This On.

I’m pretty excited about his new sneakers. They’re a lot like the Common Projects Achilles, perhaps the ultimate fancy sneaker. Like the CPs, they’re plain, unbranded and relatively sleek. Unlike the CPs, though, they cost less than a hundred bucks. I bit the bullet and bought some Achilles last spring, and I’ve been happy with the decision, but at a retail price usually north of three hundred bucks, they’re what you might call stupid expensive.

For the moment, Wang is offering only sizes 7, 8 and 9, with more to come in the spring. At $95, these look to me like a heck of a deal.

Champagne Taste on a Beer Budget: A Black Tie Guide
Yes, men wear jewelry, too. Our next Black Tie Guide installment looks at the precious metals used to fasten your shirt’s chest and cuffs — and what maybe shouldn’t be on your wrist.
Part 7: Cufflinks, Studs and Timepieces
Rarely do men wear jewelry items and like all jewelry items the price can go as astronomically high as your wallet wants to spend. Cufflinks, shirt studs and timepieces are no exception. 
The standard for black tie is gold and black onyx cufflinks and studs. It seems, however, gold is falling out of favor and silver is becoming an alternative and mother-of-pearl is sometimes used instead of black onyx. Regardless of what you pick, it’s important to also point out that your metals and stones should match. 
The best cufflinks are those which are double-sided, linked in between by a chain or bar. This allows the cufflink to be seen from either side without one looking like the “back” like you see on most modern cufflinks, a.k.a.: the swivel bar. 
A great place to look for cufflinks and stud sets are both eBay and Etsy. If you would rather purchase brand new, I’d suggest Kent Wang, which has a stud set for $75 and dual-sided cufflinks for $25 to $55, depending on the model. 
In regards to timepieces, the tradition is to either wear a pocket watch, but to avoid wearing a wristwatch. Wearing a watch signals to the host that you’re more concerned with the time than the occasion. 
Still, modern “tuxedo” watches exist as an alternative for those who want them. Typically they have a black face with no hour or minute markings and no second hand and a simple jewel at the 12-o’clock position. 
-Kiyoshi

Champagne Taste on a Beer Budget: A Black Tie Guide

Yes, men wear jewelry, too. Our next Black Tie Guide installment looks at the precious metals used to fasten your shirt’s chest and cuffs — and what maybe shouldn’t be on your wrist.

Part 7: Cufflinks, Studs and Timepieces

Rarely do men wear jewelry items and like all jewelry items the price can go as astronomically high as your wallet wants to spend. Cufflinks, shirt studs and timepieces are no exception. 

The standard for black tie is gold and black onyx cufflinks and studs. It seems, however, gold is falling out of favor and silver is becoming an alternative and mother-of-pearl is sometimes used instead of black onyx. Regardless of what you pick, it’s important to also point out that your metals and stones should match. 

The best cufflinks are those which are double-sided, linked in between by a chain or bar. This allows the cufflink to be seen from either side without one looking like the “back” like you see on most modern cufflinks, a.k.a.: the swivel bar. 

A great place to look for cufflinks and stud sets are both eBay and Etsy. If you would rather purchase brand new, I’d suggest Kent Wang, which has a stud set for $75 and dual-sided cufflinks for $25 to $55, depending on the model. 

In regards to timepieces, the tradition is to either wear a pocket watch, but to avoid wearing a wristwatch. Wearing a watch signals to the host that you’re more concerned with the time than the occasion. 

Still, modern “tuxedo” watches exist as an alternative for those who want them. Typically they have a black face with no hour or minute markings and no second hand and a simple jewel at the 12-o’clock position. 

-Kiyoshi

Champagne Taste on a Beer Budget: A Black Tie Guide
Today we go over the only two elements of white on a tuxedo ensemble besides the shirt in our Black Tie Guide. And they’re right next to each other.
Part 6: Pocket Square and Boutonnière 
The great expanse of black of the tuxedo can be visually jarring, so it’s good to have elements of your ensemble that break it up. This is where decorating the lapel and breast pocket comes in. 
Pocket squares should be kept relatively simple in most cases. A linen handkerchief with hand-rolled edges in a simple fold will work just fine. Alternatively, you could attempt to create a “puff” instead if you prefer a look that’s not as rigid and straight-laced. The option is up to you. 
Why not white silk? Frankly, there’s no hard rule about this, but linen won’t reflect light like silk will and your lapels, cummerbund and bowtie already are made of silk. It’s good to have some texture diversity. 
Pocket squares can be found cheaply at The Tie Bar for $8-$10, but I think they’re a bit smaller in size (11.5” square) and I believe their edged are machined. Update: I’ve been told by Greg at The Tie Bar that only their wool-blend and silk-woven squares are machine stitched. Their other squares — including their cotton squares — have hand-rolled edges. So, that makes them a pretty good deal.
I’ve found Kent Wang’s pocket squares ($20) to be really nice and they have hand-rolled edges. They’re also slightly larger at 12” square.
As for decorating the lapel, it’s fairly straightforward: go with a white carnation boutonnière. For this to work your boutonnière hole on the lapel must be functional and opened, which higher quality suits will have already done. If your boutonnière hole is sewn shut, you can have a tailor open it up and make it functional. 
If it’s not obvious, you don’t want the kind of fake boutonnière that’s pinned to your lapel. Not only will it ruin the silk facings but it looks tacky — better to go without. 
-Kiyoshi

Champagne Taste on a Beer Budget: A Black Tie Guide

Today we go over the only two elements of white on a tuxedo ensemble besides the shirt in our Black Tie Guide. And they’re right next to each other.

Part 6: Pocket Square and Boutonnière 

The great expanse of black of the tuxedo can be visually jarring, so it’s good to have elements of your ensemble that break it up. This is where decorating the lapel and breast pocket comes in. 

Pocket squares should be kept relatively simple in most cases. A linen handkerchief with hand-rolled edges in a simple fold will work just fine. Alternatively, you could attempt to create a “puff” instead if you prefer a look that’s not as rigid and straight-laced. The option is up to you. 

Why not white silk? Frankly, there’s no hard rule about this, but linen won’t reflect light like silk will and your lapels, cummerbund and bowtie already are made of silk. It’s good to have some texture diversity. 

Pocket squares can be found cheaply at The Tie Bar for $8-$10, but I think they’re a bit smaller in size (11.5” square) and I believe their edged are machined. Update: I’ve been told by Greg at The Tie Bar that only their wool-blend and silk-woven squares are machine stitched. Their other squares — including their cotton squares — have hand-rolled edges. So, that makes them a pretty good deal.

I’ve found Kent Wang’s pocket squares ($20) to be really nice and they have hand-rolled edges. They’re also slightly larger at 12” square.

As for decorating the lapel, it’s fairly straightforward: go with a white carnation boutonnière. For this to work your boutonnière hole on the lapel must be functional and opened, which higher quality suits will have already done. If your boutonnière hole is sewn shut, you can have a tailor open it up and make it functional. 

If it’s not obvious, you don’t want the kind of fake boutonnière that’s pinned to your lapel. Not only will it ruin the silk facings but it looks tacky — better to go without. 

-Kiyoshi

Champagne Taste on a Beer Budget: A Black Tie Guide

Our Black Tie Guide continues to help you find all the elements of an eveningwear ensemble. Today, we discuss finding the right shoes — at the right price.

Part 3: Formal Footwear

I don’t want to introduce hyperbole, but wearing bad shoes can take the sharp look of a tuxedo and throw it in the Dumpster. Few things are as disappointing as seeing a gentleman going to extraordinary lengths to wear a tuxedo to only see he’s slipped on a pair of cheap, sport-hybrid, corrected-grain, bicycle-toed “dress shoes”. 

Here’s some basic guidance on what to look for in formal footwear:

  • Black calf leather (patent leather optional)
  • Laced shoes should be balmorals; no blüchers
  • Plain-toe and cap-toes are acceptable; avoid brouging and wingtips
  • Opera pumps are an acceptable slip-on; avoid loafers

Some traditionalists would consider opera pumps as the only footwear choice for black tie (Jesse is a fan), but I can sympathize with those of you who have hesitation. Unless you find a way to score a pair cheaply (or you have disposable income), it’s probably not a good purchase as you can’t really wear it outside of formal events. As someone who only finds an excuse once a year to don black tie, it’s probably not practical. 

If you’re looking for a pair, Shipton & Heneage has two options for $245. And Brooks Brothers has their pair for around $450.

For most men, you probably will find the black cap-toe oxford to be the most accessible and affordable option. The cap-toe shoe will be versatile in the rest of your wardrobe for when you wear a regular suit, making it a better value purchase. 

The Allen Edmonds Park Avenue frequently turns up on eBay for prices below $150 — if not significantly cheaper. You can sometimes find them new and on sale at around $200, too. A retail budget option would be Charles Tyrwhitt, which has a full-grain cap-toe oxford for around $150. 

If you’re able to find it, the plain-toe oxford, in my mind, is a preferred option for footwear. Not so formal that it can’t be worn with a regular suit, but the cleaner, sleek look fits better with the tuxedo. You can see Fred Astaire’s pair (given as a gift to Dick Clark for his 50th birthday) above. One can only hope they dance in a tuxedo so often that their shoes look so well worn. 

The cheapest plain-toe oxford I can find is also from Charles Tyrwhitt, at around $200 in patent leather. For around $260 you can get patent leather pairs from Herring or Shipton & Heneage. My favorite though has to be from Kent Wang, whose $350 plain-toe balmorals aren’t patent leather, letting you wear them with a suit.

If you choose to go the laced shoe route, then you should consider buying a pair of black silk shoelaces, like on Astaire’s pair above. I only know of two places you can buy them: from George Cleverley (you’ll have to e-mail them) or from A Suitable Wardrobe’s online store. The cost is about $40 either way, but they definitely elevate the look of even a simple cap-toe shoe to something much more formal. 

-Kiyoshi

The Most Versatile Knit Tie

Jake over at Wax Wane already wrote about black silk knit ties this week, but I thought I’d give them another plug anyway. Black is, unexpectedly, one of the most versatile colors for knit ties. Better than the standard go-to colors for neckwear, such as brown, burgundy, and bottle green. Better even than the always wearable navy. The black silk knit was perhaps most famously worn by the literary version of James Bond, who was often described by Ian Fleming as wearing a dark suit, clean white shirt, and a “thin, black silk knitted tie.” It’s also heavily associated with other mid-century icons such as the fellas in The Rat Pack. In fact, one of the first ties I bought as an undergraduate student was a black silk knit, precisely because I thought Sammy Davis Jr. looked so great in them.

You can wear almost anything with a black silk knit tie: brown tweeds, navy jackets, or grey suits paired with white or light blue shirts in solids, stripes, or checks (knit ties are especially nice with checks). Given that many men today want to wear a tie without looking too formal, the black silk knit is about as good as you can get. Versatile in color; casual in form.

There are many places to score one. On the high-end, we have Drake’s, who makes them in a rather unique weave. They’re also commonly found at traditional American haberdasheries, such as Ben SilverBrooks Brothers, and J. Press (the last of which is having a 25% off sale right now). Additionally, Howard YountKent Wang, and Sid Mashburn sell them for between $60 and $75. For more affordable options, consider Land’s End and KJ Beckett. The stock at Land’s End doesn’t include black right now, but they regularly restock their knit tie inventory in wide range of colors and their navy blue’s more like a midnight blue. If you join their mailing list, you’ll be notified of when they do their 30-40% off sales (which happens a few times a season). That will knock down the price of their knit ties to something around $25. Not bad for a tie you can wear with almost anything. 

We Got it for Free: The Tie Bar’s Grenafaux
The Tie Bar recently released a line of solid-colored, textures silk neckties that vaguely resemble grenadines. These aren’t true grenadines; they just somewhat look like them from a few feet away. Curious about the quality, I contacted Greg Shugar, one of the co-founders of the company, to see if he would be interested in sending me one for review. It arrived last month and I’ve worn it a few times since.
The tie is better than what one might expect. It compares well to the mass-manufactured neckties you might find in a department store – the Perry Ellises, Tommy Hilfigers, Calvin Kleins, and the like. To be sure, I don’t think any of these brands make particularly nice ties, but I appreciate that The Tie Bar has a bit more honest pricing - $15 for such a tie, rather than $50 in a department store, regularly discounted to $35, then $25, then $20, in hopes that customers think they’re getting a steal.
Obviously, a $15 tie will have its limitations. The grenafaux they sent me lacks the body on a truly, well-made tie, and the fabric has a slight sheen to it. It’s a bit light and flimsy, and not particularly enjoyable to knot. On the upside, the interlining is a wool-poly blend, which isn’t as ideal as a pure wool interlining, but at least it dimples better than a tie lined with polyester, and the wrinkles fall out a bit more easily at the end of the day.
It’s become a bit of a cliché, but I strongly believe in the “buy less, buy better” philosophy. Better one tie from EG Cappelli than three from Brooks Brothers, and better one from Brooks Brothers than three from Alfani. Men don’t need as much clothing as they think do, and if they traded many of their purchases for nicer things, I think they’d be left more satisfied. The most affordable grenadines I know of are from Chipp2 ($47.50) and The Knottery ($55). After that, there’s Kent Wang ($75), Sam Hober ($80), J Press ($90), Henry Carter ($100), Drake’s, Vanda, and EG Cappelli (~$120). I would feel more comfortable recommending any of these - or even a non-grenadine from a mid-tier maker - over The Tie Bar.
At the same time, I remember there was once a point in my life when I couldn’t afford a $50 necktie. It wasn’t that I was being stingy; it’s just that all my money went to rent, food, and my education. For people who on a truly tight budget, but still wish to dress well, I think The Tie Bar’s grenafux ties are an option. They’re not the best ties in the world, but I couldn’t say someone would look terrible for wearing one. As you can see above, it does indeed kind of look like a grenadine, and The Thrifty Gent wore one a few weeks ago and still looked pretty sharp. Plus, if you needed to skimp on your wardrobe, it would better to cut out $50 from your necktie wardrobe than, say, footwear. There, $50 could mean the difference between full-grain leather shoes and corrected grain, the latter of which you should never buy.
My standard recommendation for affordable neckties remains the same: Land’s End and Brooks Brothers once they hit their sales. They usually discount stuff to under $40 a few times a season. If you can’t afford those, try thrift stores or eBay. If you don’t have the time, however, then consider The Tie Bar’s grenafaux. I still believe people should buy the best they can afford – as they’ll be happier in the long run – but the same can be said about buying what you can afford, and not spending outside of your means. 
(Pictured above, from left to right: The Tie Bar’s grenafaux, Drake’s navy grenadine, E.G. Cappelli blue grenadine)

We Got it for Free: The Tie Bar’s Grenafaux

The Tie Bar recently released a line of solid-colored, textures silk neckties that vaguely resemble grenadines. These aren’t true grenadines; they just somewhat look like them from a few feet away. Curious about the quality, I contacted Greg Shugar, one of the co-founders of the company, to see if he would be interested in sending me one for review. It arrived last month and I’ve worn it a few times since.

The tie is better than what one might expect. It compares well to the mass-manufactured neckties you might find in a department store – the Perry Ellises, Tommy Hilfigers, Calvin Kleins, and the like. To be sure, I don’t think any of these brands make particularly nice ties, but I appreciate that The Tie Bar has a bit more honest pricing - $15 for such a tie, rather than $50 in a department store, regularly discounted to $35, then $25, then $20, in hopes that customers think they’re getting a steal.

Obviously, a $15 tie will have its limitations. The grenafaux they sent me lacks the body on a truly, well-made tie, and the fabric has a slight sheen to it. It’s a bit light and flimsy, and not particularly enjoyable to knot. On the upside, the interlining is a wool-poly blend, which isn’t as ideal as a pure wool interlining, but at least it dimples better than a tie lined with polyester, and the wrinkles fall out a bit more easily at the end of the day.

It’s become a bit of a cliché, but I strongly believe in the “buy less, buy better” philosophy. Better one tie from EG Cappelli than three from Brooks Brothers, and better one from Brooks Brothers than three from Alfani. Men don’t need as much clothing as they think do, and if they traded many of their purchases for nicer things, I think they’d be left more satisfied. The most affordable grenadines I know of are from Chipp2 ($47.50) and The Knottery ($55). After that, there’s Kent Wang ($75), Sam Hober ($80), J Press ($90), Henry Carter ($100), Drake’s, Vanda, and EG Cappelli (~$120). I would feel more comfortable recommending any of these - or even a non-grenadine from a mid-tier maker - over The Tie Bar.

At the same time, I remember there was once a point in my life when I couldn’t afford a $50 necktie. It wasn’t that I was being stingy; it’s just that all my money went to rent, food, and my education. For people who on a truly tight budget, but still wish to dress well, I think The Tie Bar’s grenafux ties are an option. They’re not the best ties in the world, but I couldn’t say someone would look terrible for wearing one. As you can see above, it does indeed kind of look like a grenadine, and The Thrifty Gent wore one a few weeks ago and still looked pretty sharp. Plus, if you needed to skimp on your wardrobe, it would better to cut out $50 from your necktie wardrobe than, say, footwear. There, $50 could mean the difference between full-grain leather shoes and corrected grain, the latter of which you should never buy.

My standard recommendation for affordable neckties remains the same: Land’s End and Brooks Brothers once they hit their sales. They usually discount stuff to under $40 a few times a season. If you can’t afford those, try thrift stores or eBay. If you don’t have the time, however, then consider The Tie Bar’s grenafaux. I still believe people should buy the best they can afford – as they’ll be happier in the long run – but the same can be said about buying what you can afford, and not spending outside of your means. 

(Pictured above, from left to right: The Tie Bar’s grenafaux, Drake’s navy grenadine, E.G. Cappelli blue grenadine)

Champagne Taste on a Beer Budget: A Black Tie Guide
Our series on putting together an ensemble for black tie affairs on time and on a slim budget continues. Today we discuss finding the proper shirt. Click here to read the rest of the Black Tie Guide. 
Part 2: The Evening Shirt
While you can find fairly good deals on eBay for the tuxedo, it can be tougher when it comes to the shirt, especially if you have a preference for something that fits a bit more trim in the body and sleeve. 
A few things you want to look for in a tuxedo shirt:
French cuffs
Placket should allow for studs (bib front) or use mother-of-pearl buttons (pleated front)
White cotton that’s thinner, i.e.: poplin or broadcloth — avoid heavier weights
Spread or wing collar 
Bib or pleated front (this means no pockets)
Which collar should you go with? Wing collars come from a more formal tradition — white tie — and it depends if you believe they have their place in black tie ensembles. I think their visible points compliments tuxedos with peaked lapels. If you have a shawl-collared jacket, which relates closer to the casual smoking jacket, then consider going with the less formal spread collar. 
As for bibs or pleats, it’s again worth looking to the traditions of white tie for stylistic cues. The bib front often is made with a pique fabric (also called “marcella”) that’s associated with white tie and considered a more formal choice. Still, I think you could safely pick either and just go with your personal preference. The vertical lines of a pleated front could be beneficial to those looking to elongate their torso visually. 
Unfortunately, off-the-rack options for such shirts are limited under the $100 pricepoint. Charles Tyrwhitt’s shirts start at around $80 and they offer a slim fit version. The next best deal is the bib front from Suitsupply at $99 (slim fit) and for $20 more you can get a pleated front instead (extra-slim fit). 
I’ve personally owned the Hugo Boss Black slim fit bib front with a fly placket and darts on the back and found it to be quite good for $125. Remaining south of $150, you can pick among Brooks Brothers, Polo Ralph Lauren and Kent Wang.
Of course, when you’re around $150, then you might want to consider going with made-to-measure, at which point your options really open up quite a bit. But at this point, you might be pushing your luck with receiving your shirt in time for New Year’s Eve depending on your shirtmaker and shipping time. 
Finally, remember to avoid wearing a regular white dress shirt with your tuxedo — especially one with barrel cuffs, plastic buttons and a chest pocket. 
-Kiyoshi
(Photo via Time/Life)

Champagne Taste on a Beer Budget: A Black Tie Guide

Our series on putting together an ensemble for black tie affairs on time and on a slim budget continues. Today we discuss finding the proper shirt. Click here to read the rest of the Black Tie Guide

Part 2: The Evening Shirt

While you can find fairly good deals on eBay for the tuxedo, it can be tougher when it comes to the shirt, especially if you have a preference for something that fits a bit more trim in the body and sleeve. 

A few things you want to look for in a tuxedo shirt:

  • French cuffs
  • Placket should allow for studs (bib front) or use mother-of-pearl buttons (pleated front)
  • White cotton that’s thinner, i.e.: poplin or broadcloth — avoid heavier weights
  • Spread or wing collar 
  • Bib or pleated front (this means no pockets)

Which collar should you go with? Wing collars come from a more formal tradition — white tie — and it depends if you believe they have their place in black tie ensembles. I think their visible points compliments tuxedos with peaked lapels. If you have a shawl-collared jacket, which relates closer to the casual smoking jacket, then consider going with the less formal spread collar. 

As for bibs or pleats, it’s again worth looking to the traditions of white tie for stylistic cues. The bib front often is made with a pique fabric (also called “marcella”) that’s associated with white tie and considered a more formal choice. Still, I think you could safely pick either and just go with your personal preference. The vertical lines of a pleated front could be beneficial to those looking to elongate their torso visually. 

Unfortunately, off-the-rack options for such shirts are limited under the $100 pricepoint. Charles Tyrwhitt’s shirts start at around $80 and they offer a slim fit version. The next best deal is the bib front from Suitsupply at $99 (slim fit) and for $20 more you can get a pleated front instead (extra-slim fit). 

I’ve personally owned the Hugo Boss Black slim fit bib front with a fly placket and darts on the back and found it to be quite good for $125. Remaining south of $150, you can pick among Brooks Brothers, Polo Ralph Lauren and Kent Wang.

Of course, when you’re around $150, then you might want to consider going with made-to-measure, at which point your options really open up quite a bit. But at this point, you might be pushing your luck with receiving your shirt in time for New Year’s Eve depending on your shirtmaker and shipping time. 

Finally, remember to avoid wearing a regular white dress shirt with your tuxedo — especially one with barrel cuffs, plastic buttons and a chest pocket. 

-Kiyoshi

(Photo via Time/Life)

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)

Grey, Grey, Grey, Grey, Brown

Your first, second, third, maybe even fourth pair of dress pants should be grey. Get them in different shades, fabrics, and weights. Light- to mid-grey are the most versatile and can be worn with almost any jacket without you needing to put too much thought into it. Charcoal is much less wearable, but once you already have a large wardrobe of trousers, I suppose one pair can’t hurt. You can pick these up in an assortment of flannel and twill wools. The former looks and feels better, but the latter will be harder wearing. Flannels worn day in day out won’t last long, but if you plan to wear them often, get them in worsted flannel instead of woolen. Finally, you can pick up a few seasonal greys, such as an open weave tropical wool for summer, so that your legs can breathe, and an extra heavyweight wool for winter, so that they’ll stay warm.

At some point, however, you’ll have enough grey trousers and need some variety. I suggest turning to a solid brown first. Like how brown is a wonderful color for sport coats, I think it exhibits the same richness and warmth in trousers. You can go as light as tan, or get something as dark as the golden-cast pair you see above (no longer in stock, unfortunately, but the company does have something similar). These can be worn with sport coats in navy, olive, or if the shade differs enough, even brown. For example, the dark pair pictured here could be worn with some kind of tan checked jacket for a nice autumnal look. Regardless of the kind of jacket you choose, dress shirts should probably be kept to a light blue if you’re going to the office. If it’s the weekend, try putting on a navy flannel cotton shirt or maybe even a long-sleeve polo.

Either way, pick up some brown trousers at some point. This and grey are really the only colors you need.