Above: Compliments of Chloe Grace’s excellent student fashion blog.
I’m a closet fashion queen. Not very closet, as most people know I blow too much money on good clothes, but I’m too poor to be a true fashion queen in haute couture. And that’s OK. You can have an eye for style at any budget.
If you’re in college, your budget is shoestring. Even when you’re scarfing down ramen at late hours, getting too little sleep, and barely remembering to brush your teeth, it’s important to look presentable. Or better than presentable.
People notice. Professors notice. Particularly when your peers are showing up in gym shorts.
When you can, flip through magazines like GQ, Details and Esquire, even if you’re broke and will never be able to afford Mark McNairy clothes (most guys never will).
The sexiest part of men is smell. Maybe I simply have sharp olfaction, but scent is the first thing I notice.
In high school, I played this game with my friends. We’d be at football practice, and all the guys’ baseball caps would be thrown into a corner. By sniffing each one, I could tell who it belonged to.
Purchase good cologne. You’ll spend some money. Old Spice won’t cut it.
If you already use cologne, use less. A little goes a long way. Two squirts at either side of the neck, on the wrists, or on the shirt collar is plenty. Take it from the guy who notices when you’re wearing too much. Let your cologne accent your body, not overpower it.
If you don’t use any hair product, start. If you do, use half the amount you’ve been using. Guys put way too much stuff in their hair.
This is my hardest struggle. I catch myself hoping that maybe another dollop of pomade on my finger will make my hairstyle perfect. Eventually I have to face the fact that I’ve used too much and start over.
Stop using that shitty, sporty body wash that dries out your skin and has a silhouette of an athlete on the bottle. In the shower, I only use natural products. Humans have been caring for their bodies in nature for a long time, making the current onslaught of manmade chemicals for skin and hair needless at best, and harmful at worst.
Try Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap, which comes in a variety of scents. It’ll be the strangest bottle you own, with pseudo-Christian messages about “all-one cleanliness” and “a return to nature” printed in micro text around the whole thing, but it’ll clean you with no synthetic preservatives or detergents.
For my hair, I use Baxter of California Hard Cream Pomade. Hans de Fuko sponge wax is also great but has less hold. I also recently discovered Uppercut Deluxe‘s line of styling products, which are excellent, and the line offers something for all hair types. Added bonus: all these products are inexpensive.
For cologne, my current favorite Luna Rossa by Prada, which is what I imagine Daniel Craig wears whenever he leans in the doorway of his oaken bedroom. It smells deliciously clean and is incredibly versatile. I bought my last bottle in London for about £45, so it’s probably around $90.
I’m in college. I live on the cheap. You don’t have to spend a lot of money in order to appear put-together. Drink less, run more, hit the gym, brush your teeth. It’s not hard to look like you take college (and yourself) seriously.
If you’re spending your days lounging in your dorm room surrounded by pizza boxes and beer bottles, you’re going to develop bad habits. People don’t hire slobs and professors don’t notice them.
Don’t be sad if you’re not the best at styling. Not every guy is a GQ guy, and not every guy needs to be. There’s a popular image now of a rugged, outdoorsy man who also uses $300 cosmetics, wears distressed, worn-looking clothing that can’t be put in a dryer, and cleans himself with all-natural body bars that are hard to find and smell like lavender and hunting rifles. This image is sexy but unrealistic. We can’t all be the chic, modern man.
Wear clothes that fit from shops and brands that are higher than Target and Wal-Mart but lower than Prada. Topman offers great clothes that are fairly affordable. And while J. Crew runs a bit pricey, it’s a good place to get dressier essentials. If you’re trying to save, go to H&M, although their clothes won’t last with the same durability and longevity you get from sturdier, slightly pricier retailers like GAP, Urban Outfitters, and American Apparel.
And if you’re in college, you’re in prime time to explore secondhand. Get comfortable hunting through Goodwill stores and thrift stores. Make old clothes work. Now is the time.
Lastly — I know this is cliché — but confidence really is the key to making any outfit work. Chances are you’ve more or less worn what your parents bought you, or what your peers were wearing, up until this point. College is time to try new things and define your own style. Stand by it. Be proud of what you have on.