Thank you all for your patience and support. Fear not, all is well, and I am back in the saddle.
I am late with my traditional back to school wardrobe list, but good information is good information, regardless of its delivery date.
Before we get into the actual articles of clothing, I did want to repeat a sartorial concept that I shared with a young man who was starting his first year of college. He had quite a few questions about what to wear as he entered higher education.
I suggested this: dress like the British royal family when they’re in the countryside: functional, durable, discreet ensembles that work with the weather and never go out of style. The wool sweaters, sturdy cotton shirts, khakis, tweeds, and all-weather coats and footwear are casual, not sloppy. They’re timeless, not trendy. Most importantly, they’re versatile: you can dress them up or down with the addition of a jacket or tie, depending upon the occasion.
Of course, the inevitable tide of denim jeans and sneakers (trainers) will come in to the mix, but if students hold to the ‘royals in the countryside’ concept, I think they’ll be well served as they curate pieces of their wardrobe that will look good and last, from freshman to senior year, and beyond.
The practical reasons for adopting this concept are numerous: this wardrobe isn’t going out of style because it wasn’t created for style. It was created for function: being comfortable while one is walking and working, staying dry and warm, wearing well for a long period of time, and mixing easily as an ensemble.
For the college student, these attributes might come in handy when closet space is limited and clothes have to work for class, leisure time, and evenings out in fall, winter, and spring. Sturdy, traditionally styled clothing can also be an asset when you’re involved in a (literal) pub crawl one night, and running late to class the next morning (no need to try to match the right shirt with the right sweater, etc. Everything matches everything, and wrinkles are no concern.)
To put it bluntly, well-made traditional clothing looks great new, and might look even better when it’s well-worn…or even beat to hell. This can’t be said for a lot of fashion items.
So, let’s go down the list of the Back To School Basics that I think will serve every student well.
- Ralph Lauren or Lacoste polo shirts (navy blue or dark green to start, pink, white, sky blue as you add on).
- Mercer and Sons or Brooks Bros. oxford cloth button down dress shirts (iconic blue to start, white to follow, blue and white stripes as you add on).
- Banana Republic merino wool sweaters, V neck or crew (grey or navy blue to start). If you’re going top-shelf for cold climates, the J Press Shaggy Dogg wool sweater in grey.
- Lands End khaki pants, Levis jeans, grey wool slacks for the gentlemen.
- Khaki skirt, grey, navy, or black skirt for the ladies. (Talbots…?)
- Weejun penny loafers in brown leather.
- Sperry Topsiders in brown leather.
- Adidas sneakers in white (Stan Smith model or the basic white model with 3 black stripes).
- LLBean all weather boots.
- The North Face McMurdo for all weather, cold climates.
- Peregrine wool socks from the UK.
- Harris Tweed sport jacket.
- 100% wool blue blazer from O’Connell’s of Buffalo, New York. (Also investigate Ralph Lauren or other traditional brands.)
Okay. I think that’s a good start. Of course, you’re going to have your comments and additions. These will be critical in rounding out the list and adding nuance to the philosophy.
One last piece of advice for college students, especially freshmen. Don’t over-do it. Not with clothes, not with cars, not with jewelry, not with name-dropping. You are in a new environment. There are rules–written and unwritten–that you do not know. It is best, therefore, to ease into this brave new world without attracting undue attention to yourself, and learn those rules before you spread your wings.
You do, however, want to present yourself well, as you will be making a multitude of first impressions. Old Money Style, what we’ve described in this post and what we’ve advocated for years on this blog, will enable to you to strike this balance effortlessly.
It will also make your shopping for clothes–Back to School or otherwise–economical and efficient.
Dressing this way will make it difficult for strangers to ascertain how much or how little money you have. They will be left to learn who you are from your manners, your work ethic, your intelligence, and your integrity.
So, parents and students alike, I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts on the list.
Bonne rentree, mes amis!