I’m going to be unapologetically specific for this article. Partly because many of you are students, and it is therefore relevant, and partly because students also seem to be some of the worse dressed people I have ever encountered.
As my time at university comes to an unfortunate close, I can take time to reflect on what I’ve learnt and how I, personally, have developed over the past three years. But I can also watch those that follow take their first, faltering steps into the world and make astute judgements of their dress sense.
Of course, I’m not THAT much of a fashion fascist – I don’t walk around campus judging the clothes on everyone I see. But there does appear to be a discouraging trend among students at universities across the country to not really give a damn about how they look, or to have absolutely no clue as to what to wear.
Granted, those just beginning their uni lives usually still have a lot of growing up to do (I did an awful lot of this) and their perception of style is still locked in a kind of twisted other dimension that contains just them and their friends – but it doesn’t hurt to make some effort.
Style, or at least a sense of personal style, develops slowly. You have to play the long game, but uni is the perfect place to start working on it. No longer will you be dragged around the underwear department of M&S by your mother and no more shall you wear horrible shirts because “ooh, that looks nice”, you are completely free to make your own decisions and spend all of your student loan in the first three weeks of term!
The time spent at university and (more specifically) on campus is a fantastic proving ground for your own experimentation and helps provide an excellent source of inspiration. With so many young people grouped together it becomes a huge melting pot of styles, trends and ideas that you can learn from, if you’re willing to put in the work.
Beginning the process whilst studying gives you time to experiment, push your boundaries and find what’s right for YOU. Standing out from the crowd, not because you’re the idiot that wears a onesie every day but because you’re the one that is consistently well dressed at every lecture, every seminar and every workshop is a brilliant achievement and will set you in good stead for the years to follow.
Believe me when I say this: dressing well really will make a huge difference to how people perceive you, how people talk to you, how people react to you, how they treat you and whether they’ll sleep wit-. The guy that looks well turned out will be the one that sticks in peoples’ minds – whether you are handing out CVs or making new friends.
However, whilst we would all like to spend huge sums of money on expensive clothes, eating does usually take priority and drinking HAS to take priority over eating. My bank account usually contains nothing more than the couple of quid that I saved by not buying chips the previous night.
So to help those of you with more cobwebs than cash, I’ve restricted myself to the cheaper end of the market when choosing product picks and lookbook items for this article. You CAN dress well on a budget and you don’t necessarily need to invest in brands, just look around for the pieces that work best for you.
We took a look at the field jacket a couple of weeks ago and it’s definitely a great investment. With our unreliable weather it’s a versatile piece of outerwear that you can layer up without overheating.
A pair of slim jeans and boots (jeans rolled up, not tucked in) is a fashion forward pairing, whilst a simple plaid shirt and sweater combination will keep the chill off the bones.
When we talk about field jackets a lot of people immediately think Barbour but you can find loads of cheaper alternatives in any number of high street stores. I’ve been rocking a green field-esque jacket from H&M for the last five years and it only cost me £30.
We talk about a leather jacket being an investment piece; one that you need to spend good money on so that you get the most out of it. Very true, but when on a budget spending £300+ on one item is often a stretch too far.
There are reasonably good quality, cheap leathers available, you just need to shop around. Avoid anything with a hood and don’t be tempted by ‘leather look’ – vintage shops are once again a great ally.
The classic biker look doesn’t require much thought – pair it with a plain tee, jeans and a pair of boots. In this instance, desert boots.
An old school duffle bag is a great way to add individuality, keep the overall aesthetic masculine and give it an edge whilst still allowing you to carry around all your work. Throw it over one shoulder and you’re good to go:
Any consideration of university outfits wouldn’t be complete without a nod to the preppy looks of America. Collegiate style is the perfect mix of smart and casual and it’s so easy to wear – throw on a pair of chinos, an Oxford shirt and a chunky cardigan and you’re good to go.
Suede shoes will retain the casual edge and a denim jacket is another versatile addition to your outerwear arsenal. Finish off with some classic sunglasses and a stand out bag:
Following on from the prep inspired look above, mixing aesthetics is another way to showcase your fashion forward tendencies whilst ensuring you remain refined and stylish. A pair of tailored trousers and structured loafers covers the smart, whilst a denim shirt (in almost any wash you fancy) will take care of the casual.
Throw on a lightweight trench or pea coat and carry your books in an on point tote. You can then wile away the hours in the library knowing that you’re probably the best dressed person in there.
Whether you like it or not sportswear/hipsters etc. are here to stay – and I personally welcome it. Sift through the looks worn by the vast majority and you can find some really nice ideas: clever use of textures, interesting patterns and great colour mixtures. You just have to make sure you don’t end up looking like everyone else.
Whether you go for a different t-shirt, opt for a worker inspired jacket instead of a bomber or you choose to wear colourful socks instead of hideous white tube socks, make sure you put your own unique twist on your outfit:
As young and increasingly image conscious young people, students are arguably at the fore-front of developing fashion. They consume the latest trends, push boundaries and exist in a world that is constantly providing inspiration and new ideas.
Yet some (in fact many) still don’t seem to understand the difference between being interested in how you look and being able to dress yourself well. You don’t need loads of money, you just need to put in some work.
As always, I want to know what you think. How do people at your university dress? Could they do with a bit of an education?
Let me know in the comments section below…