First impressions are crucial.
For many young men who go off to college, there are many things you must learn how to do on your own for the first time. Wake up on time, do your homework, and how to eat properly are all things our parents drilled into us when we lived at home, and most are able to adapt to these new responsibilities fairly quickly. However, not all adaptations come as easily as the others. Hygiene and proper dress are some of the quickest things to go when a young man realizes the ultimate freedom that comes with college. In this article, we will discuss how poorly college-aged men dress, and how you can present yourself in a more mature and attractive manner. As for hygiene, if it stinks, scrub it.
I imagine right you’re probably thinking to yourself, “But Thomas, I’m only going to class, why should I dress up?” Good question. Look around in any of your classes and see what your fellow dudes are wearing. More than likely you’ll see a sea of sweatshirts, crumby old t-shirts, sweat pants, and gym shorts. And to complete the ensemble,a pair of old gym shoes — or worse — boat shoes, “bean” boots, or construction boots. These guys clearly aren’t taking their appearance seriously, so in turn, you don’t take them seriously. Dressing lazily tells your professors, your fellow men, and (perhaps most importantly) the women around you that you don’t care, so why should they care about you? Now don’t get me wrong, I’m no fashionista. I’m not strutting around campus wearing Gucci belts or Armani suits. But I take myself seriously, and take a few minutes every morning to make sure I’m dressed like an adult. If you want to be taken seriously, to set yourself apart in your classes, enhance your professional life, and maybe attract a few ladies along the way — you must dress like a Man.
The first step to dressing like a Man is literally at the very base of your garb. Shoes are an incredibly important aspect of any outfit. Having the appropriate footwear to go with your attire is vital to looking put-together. As a rule of thumb, gym shoes should be exclusively reserved for the gym. There’s a reason they’re called gym shoes, after all. The same applies to tennis shoes, running shoes, and any other sort of athletic shoe. If you aren’t playing tennis, running, exercising, or lounging around the house, they should be avoided. Just as there are more fish in the sea, there are more shoes to choose from.
For a more casual or summer time ensemble, some sort of canvas sneaker (think “Chuck Taylor”-style and expand in fanciness from there) is a quality option. When wearing anything other than shorts, a solid casual leather boot is the way to go. “Chukka”-style boots look great with just about anything, and can be easily worn with jeans or dressed up in slacks. The Chukka is one of the most versatile pairs of shoes one could own. Getting fancier, a pair of leather wingtip shoes are another adaptable shoe that can be dressed up or down, and look great. Please — for the love of God — stop wearing boat shoes, “bean” boots, and “Tim” construction-style boots. They look juvenile, and for some unexplainable reason are often worn with laces untied — a look that is as impractical as it is stupid. Also, socks should match your pants. As Mr. Miyagi once told a young Daniel Larusso in The Karate Kid Part III, strong roots make a strong tree.
“As for hygiene, if it stinks, scrub it.”
Moving up the body, quality pants are vital to looking good. As with shoes, sweat pants and gym shorts should be reserved for times when you are sweating or in the gym, fairly self-explanatory. Next up, unless you are backpacking through a forest and need quick access to a vast array of tools and miscellaneous items, avoid cargo shorts and pants like the plague of dorkiness they are. Consider a good pair of chinos — a flat front khaki style pant — as a go to for day to day operations. A nice pair of hole free jeans also look great for casual days. Finally, a nice pair of slacks are vital for looking sharp when required.
Perhaps the most important thing to consider when speaking about pants is the fit. They should fit at the waist, not too big and not too small. If the back pockets hang beneath your cheeks, you should do one of the following: A) buy smaller pants. B) pull up your pants, or C) do some squats. When in doubt, go for a slim-straight cut pant. These will fit you properly, but not make you look like an angsty early 2000’s boy band member wearing skinny jeans. Also, get yourself a brown leather belt. If you’re wearing pants, you’re wearing a belt.
And the final aspect of a solid outfit — the shirt. Tank tops? Hard pass. Even in the gym, avoid those bad boys. When simply going to class, T-shirts are acceptable, just ensure that they are in good shape and fit well. Not too big, not too small. To step up the class a bit with no more effort, throw on a nice Henley shirt, and unbutton it a bit. Henley’s only look good when a few buttons are undone. To look even better, consider a nice flannel — keeping design in mind. Typically, less is more when it comes to flannel design. If flannels aren’t your thing, a lightweight shallow V neck sweater is comfortable, casual, and looks great on anyone. To wrap up the shirt discussion, every man should own a light blue and solid white button up dress shirt. Ensure that these are well fitted, and can be tucked in without extra material billowing out of your pants. These are must haves for a basic professional wardrobe, and like almost everything I have mentioned to far can be dressed up or down depending on the environment.
As for your head, get a haircut and don’t ever put a fedora on top of it.
Whether or not you like my choice of shoes or my detestation of cargo shorts, I think we can all agree that looking nice is a good thing. When one dresses like a Man, they will find themselves more confident. More confident to ask your professor a question, to step up and lead a group, and to strike up a conversation with that pretty lady in the hallway. When unsure, look at what you’re thinking about wearing and ask yourself “Is this something a child would wear?” If yes, pitch it and dress like a Man.
By the way, none of this counts if you smell bad. Please wash yourself.
Follow this author on Twitter: @ThomasZimmCR