Fashion Advice: How to be a Stylish College Guy

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Dear Budget Fashionista,

I am a poor male undergrad who is tired of seeing hordes of banal A&E, Hollister, and Abercrombie zombies wandering my campus. I adore the classic styles of silver screen icons like Cary Grant and Clark Gable. How can I make a classical appearance with a minimum amount of damage to my pathetic wallet?

Dear Desperate Dresser –

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 classic is the purchase the book “Dressing the Man” by Alan Flusser. This classic book is an excellent reference for any guy looking at developing their own classic style. We suggest seeing if your bookstore will allow you to pass the book off as a textbook (tell them it for a class on dereconstructing the current paradigm of the contemporary definition of masculinity through the use of apparel).

Once you read the book, head to your nearest Salvation Army or Goodwill. “Sally” and “Goody” are the best places to score key finds like classic suit jackets, overcoats and more. Find jackets that are fully lined, made of either 100% wool or cashmere—leave the polyester alone. Carefully check the inseams to make sure the stitching is tight. Tweed is always in for men, so pick up a few here. These stores are also a great place to land classic trench coats (think Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca)—a must for any classic men’s wardrobe.  When searching for trench coats make sure the trench is lined which will help it keep its shape. Take your thrift store finds to the nearest dry cleaners and have them tailor the items to fit your perfectly. In fact take all of your finds—whether they are from a thrift store or from the Nordstroms—to a tailor. If you are daring enough ask the tailor to throw on a couple of suede patches for good measure.

As far as pants go, you can still shop at the same spots as your unfashionable brethren, khakis are not the base of fashion evil. As with any piece of clothing, it fits is more important than what brand you wear. 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 slightly below your waist—not low rise like the current trend.  The inseam (the distance from your crotch to the natural break 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 in to the length. Pants, even they are dry cleaned, tend to shrink a bit.

Now to complete the classic look, you need accessories. Ties are always a great look and something that will definitely set you apart from your college mates. Learn how to make 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 the tie. The tip of your tie should hit the top of your pants- no shorter/no longer. Check out or for classic ties from designers like Zegna and Cerutti.  If you’re bold, try an ascot. Also, always wear a nice belt. You local Marshalls or TJ Maxx is a great place to find these items. For shoes get a pair of classic loafers or driving moccasins. If you are brave enough, buy a pair of Dexter penny loafers and put a dime in the shoe.

Clean, collegiate, and classic.

Happy Shopping,

The Budget Fashionista