Dear Budget Fashionista I am a poor undergrad who is very tired of seeing hordes of banal A&E, Hollister, and Abercrombie zombies wandering my campus. What style advice do you have for men looking to make a tasteful and rather classical appearance with a minimum amount of damage to my pathetic wallet?
A: College campuses, once the seat of all things cool and hip, now look like something the Gap threw up after a wild night of partying at the local bar. No longer is college the place to experiment and try out new things. Campus fashion has become as boring and as tedious as an 8:00 am class.
The first stop on your way to dressing classically is to purchase the book “Dressing the Man” by Alan Flusser . This book is an excellent reference for any guy looking to develop his own classic style. We suggest that you check if your bookstore will allow you to pass the book off as a “textbook” (tell them it for a class on reconstructing the current paradigm of the contemporary definition of masculinity through the use of apparel).
After getting the book, head to the nearest Salvation Army or Goodwill. “Sally” and “Goody” are the best places to score key finds like classic suit jackets, overcoats and more. Look for jackets that are fully lined, made of either 100% wool or cashmere. Leave the polyester alone. Tweed is always in for men, so pick up a few here. These stores are also great places to land trench coats (think Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca)—a must for any classic male wardrobe. Take your thrift store finds to the nearest dry cleaners and have them tailor the items to fit you perfectly. In fact take all of your finds (whether they are from a thrift store or from the Nordstrom’s) to a tailor. If you are daring enough, ask the tailor to throw on a couple of suede patches at the elbow for good measure.
As far as pants go, you can still shop at the same spots as your unfashionable brethren. The Gap, Banana Republic, and Abercrombie are great places to purchase basic pants. Again, look for pants made of 100% wool, cotton, or other natural fabrics. Pay attention to the rise (the distance between your crotch and waist). Your pants should hit you right at your waist. They should not be low risers, as is the current trend. The inseam (the length of the pants) is also very important. As a rule of thumb, the pant leg should “break” at the front of the shoe and approach the top of the heel at the back. Cuffs add additional weight to help pants drape well. Make sure your tailor adds an additional 1/4-inch to the length. Pants, even when they are dry cleaned, tend to shrink a bit.
Now to complete the classic look, you need accessories. Wearing a tie is a classic option and is something that will definitely set you apart from your college mates. Learn how to tie a Windsor knot (the fat knots wore by bankers) and you might be able to score a free lunch or two from friends who want to learn how to make such a stylish knot. The tip of your tie should hit the top of your pants—no shorter, no longer.
Stay away from designers like D&G and DKNY, all of whom tend to be a little trendy with their menswear designs. Also, always wear a nice belt. You local Marshall’s or TJ Maxx is a great place to find these items. For shoes get a pair of classic loafers or driving moccasins from http://www.minnetonkamoccasin.com. If you are brave enough, buy a pair of Dexter penny loafers and put a dime in the shoe.
As a Southern California transplant now living in the Midwest, Catherine has turned layering into an art form and accepted that UGGs actually do have a place in the stylish lady's wardrobe. She's been featured in Woman's World Magazine, DrLaura.com, Refinery29, Wellness.com and has made appearances on ABC7 Chicago, FOX2News St. Louis, KCAL9 Los Angeles, Fox19 Cincinnati, WGN TV Chicago and WCPO TV Cincinnati.
Thanks for stopping by! I'm Catherine, your Budget Fashionista style editor. I'm a bargain shopper at heart, as I love nice things but hate paying for them! I'm also a personal finance writer who's been featured on USA Today and MSN Money.