Back To School Style 101

It's academic -- dressing for school is smart. Tamara Leigh breaks down men's back to school fashion.

By - Aug 25th, 2012 04:00 am

Are college frosh boys and grad school men wondering what to pack for back to school?

Probably not.

If you (or a guy you know) is about to be that man on campus, you might want to “think clothes,” for more than a minute and include a white lab coat in the suitcase.

According to a study out of Northwestern University School of Management, a white doctor-like lab coat could be the best investment in your education because of the connection between what you wear and how you think.

It’s academic. Psychology of Clothing 101.

Scientists call this phenomenon Embodied Cognition: the effect clothing has on the cognitive process.

Assistant Professor of Psychology at Barnard College and an expert in Embodied Cognition says, “when we put on certain clothes, we more readily take on a role and that affects our basic abilities.” The lab coat case in point–the symbolic meaning of the coat improved performance.

Dressing for school is smart.

Theory applied: there’s mental and emotional energy to be gained or lost. A night of partying doesn’t give you the pass to fail to step-up your style. Sweats do not equate to school attire, unless you’re actually hitting the gym or the practice field.

So how does a frosh fashion zero graduate with style?

2012 Fall guy’s fashions are over-achievers in the style department. Course offerings by designers from Gucci, AllSaints, and even Gap’s YouTube Fun “Fit for Originals” bring signature excitement into the pre-Bachelor’s, Master’s or Doctorate degrees wise guy’s wardrobe. Color intelligence in clothes, according to California forecast agency, Design Options, is also a pre-req.

Without cutting into your cafeteria plan or risking losing your fine threads to the frat house grab bag, you can gradually move to a professional wardrobe come commencement in much the same way you work towards the sheepskin.

Your style core Gen Eds. include:

Jackets, Sweaters, Cotton (smart) Tees, Dress or Button Down Shirts, Jeans, and Accessories.

Develop your personal style the same way you get more specialized each semester. That’s not to say you can’t change looks from urban to eclectic, classic, or even old school jeans and team jersey, but you should have a sense of who you are and be able to show it. By grad school, it’s time to be the man, but casually so, since you’re not in the real work-world of suit and ties or white lab coats just yet.


2012 layered for Fall. A jean jacket works with a hoody sweatshirt under it or a leather bomber or wool pea-coat over it, like the look in Topman’s Peacoat Project.

A suit coat and/or blazer should also be a basic in your closet (ok, well at least hung over a chair). On career-day or internship interviews, a sharp suit coat speaks well with a tie and dress shirt. As your academic and social life matures, the suit coat makes a great pairing with dress denim or khaki pants.


What college girl (or any girl) doesn’t love the look of a guy in a sweater? A patterned wool knit skier sweater or a lightweight cashmere of a bold or mellow hue in a turtle neck or v-neck make an approachable understatement. With all the focus on academics, let’s not forget that extracurricular activities make for a well-rounded education and the sweater can impress both the T.A. and the co-ed.


Time for smart-tees. Your soccer jersey is okay for a pick-up game of hoops but not for class. 100 percent cotton, lycra or silk blend feel rich—instant success association for your brain. They look grown-up whether its printed, silk-screened, in plain solids in a palette of colors, v-necks, short or long-sleeved. You probably can never have too many—unless you can’t find your bed, roommate, or last week’s late night munchies under the pile of them.

Dress Shirts

Dress shirts can be young and fun. Tucked in with trousers and suit, under a sweater, or unbuttoned with a tee—all impressive.

Jeans & Pants

If there’s a piece of clothing that comes close to a school uniform for college — it’s the jeans. Skinny jeans (color trend applied here) as in THEM Atelier Magma Distressed Skinny Jeans ($121) are the right side/left side meeting of the brain between practicality and artistic expression. As upper class status is achieved, a little wider legged jean should work it’s way into the rotation, as well as a pair or two of dress slacks.


Extra fashion credit earned here.

Finishing off a Fall look with a cap or scarf says this dude paid attention to detail–not unlike proofreading your term paper before turning it in.

Before heading back to school, remember to take the summa cum laude of style and smart to the top with class.

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