I spent this past Saturday at my alma mater for my fraternity’s Initiation Banquet. Not only was it relieving to take a break from memorizing some neuroanatomy and pharmacology, it was also a nice reminder of my first foray into menswear. Before pledging, I really had no business wearing a suit, but alas, the tenets of being a gentleman demanded otherwise. I learned a few things over the years, including what tweed was, how to tie a bow tie, and that pastel doesn’t have to be incorporated into every aspect of your wardrobe.
College style is interesting. For a lot of us, it’s the first time we really get to dress ourselves without our parents having to approve what we wear. That’s awesome for a night out or days when you just want to wear sweats to class, which are most days honestly. But what about those moments when you have to actually look decent? There are meetings with professors, career fairs with prospective employers, dates with people (real dates, dining halls don’t count), or just wanting to transition to a more mature style. How do you make yourself stand out?
As mentioned in my previous post, there are several key items that you’ll want to have in your closet, one of which is the khaki sport coat. It’s an awesome alternative to the classic navy blue blazer, which can get a little too boring and prep school. With a piece like this, you’ve got an excellent base on which to build a solid wardrobe. It’s figuratively and literally a blank canvas, so don’t be afraid to play around with color and pattern here.
- These are fun, and probably afford you the most freedom regarding how you want to wear your blazer. If you’re going somewhere casual, this look goes great with a pair boots, jeans (dark or distressed work fine), and even a vintage-style graphic tee. If you’re headed somewhere a little more formal, try upgrading your shoe to a nice loafer and your pants to slacks or dark jeans with a gingham shirt for added color and pattern. You might also want to try pair of colored chinos (wine/merlot colors play off the khaki very well here, just don’t spill actual wine on the jacket). Make sure to keep your shirt solid and accessories relatively sedated, let your go-to-hell pants do the talking.
Meeting with a professor
- Whether you’re looking to go to med school, grad school, or planning on directly entering into the workforce, letters of recommendation are vital. Start building relationships with your professors early and get noticed (a topic I’ll discuss in future advice posts). One way to do so is to dress like you mean it when you show up to class or office hours. While I’m not saying you need to go full suit-and-tie, this occasion might require an intermediate level of formality (let’s say you were interviewing for a research position or asking for a letter of recommendation), so the outfit should reflect that. Try my look above, dark pants with an oxford (repp tie optional, but awesome). The look is classically collegiate and put-together without being too stuffy. If you want to try something a little more bold, a turtleneck would be an unexpected yet welcome addition here. Try to keep the fabric thin so it doesn’t interfere with the silhouette or add unnecessary bulkiness.
Career fairs/research symposia/formal events
- These situations are the most formal of the three; you’ll be meeting potential employers or presenting in front of department heads, so you should take these the most seriously. Normally I’d recommend dressing more conservatively and wearing a navy suit, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun. Depending on your industry, the nature of the event, or the pieces you pair with your blazer, you’ll stand out against a sea of blue and black if you can score a khaki suit. You can always wear the jacket as a separate! As always, fit is important; you don’t want to look like a boring beige blob. Additionally, use classic colors like blues and neutrals to help to ground your outfit and to provide contrast to the khaki. Feel free to try an accessory like a pocket square or a larger faced watch to keep your look interesting.
Bonus look (previously posted outfit for a dinner at school)
- Don’t be afraid to play around with your look, I’m wearing a blue shirt with white polka dots, a pocket square, and an air tie, you can too.
Until your next visit,