College Trad: advice to young men, from another young man.


Active Member with Corp. Privileges
Hey guys, I am a returning member with a new name. I posted the below in another, less fashion-conscious internet forum. It was aimed towards my peers and I put some effort into it so I wanted to go ahead and post it here too (with a few minor edits...mostly language lol). Alot of it is elementary advice for you veterans and you may recognize the pictures (taken from The Trad, Ivy Style, etc), but I figured it's a good starting point for those starting out in traditional American style. Let me know your input!


Part I: Introduction.

Looking good and developing one's own style should be on everyone's priority list. You look mature and respected when you know how to dress. Obviously the style of choice ITT follows a certain mindset but it represents a classic American attitude towards men's fashion. We always complain how today's generation is going to sh*t and how badass the old guys if this is what your grandfather and father wore, why not follow in their footsteps?

Now let me preface this by saying that there are NO concrete rules to clothing. Fashion is subjective. My own personal 'Sperrys and Polos' look may be more conservative and formal than yours so it is your job to decide what you like and mold it to fit your personality. And even I don't follow my own guidelines 24/7. What I wear to school and what I wear to the club are two different things. So keep this in mind. Happy reading...

Part II: Prep is, and always has been, in.

Same goes with the recently named and more conservative brother of prep, 'Trad' (short for traditional), which is known also as the the Ivy League look.

Brooks Brothers, the king of traditional American outfitting, has been around since 1818. J Press since 1902. Sears Roebuck since 1886. Abercrombie and Fitch (yeah that one, before they turned into tight fitting rags) since 1892. The list of heritage brands goes on, but BB and the like didn't start out as preppy or trad clothing outfitters. They were just clothes to the normal person. Everyone wore suits and sportcoats on a regular basis.

These are pictures of the lower class in NYC in 1941....not even the rich people today look this cool.

Obviously, the east coast had a major impact on American style. The prep style took hold when wealthy New Englanders would send their kids to preparatory schools to prepare them for the elite ivy league universities. But it was also our American GI's from WWII that had a major influence on our 'Sperry and Polos'. When they got home from the war, they brought back with them their chinos (khakis), their aviator sunglasses, their bomber jackets, their desert boots, and so on. Along with the New England lifestyle, the military influence is huge in prep culture. Then when the 1960s came, the baby-boomers' children (our dads) were getting into college. Things got more casual and this was the first appearance of slim cut-clothing. The collars and ties got smaller. The suit lapels and padding became trimmer. The pants got shorter and socks disappeared. The 1950s-1960s were the Golden Era of American clothing. This is when JFK, Cary Grant, Steve McQueen, Paul Newman, Miles Davis, and James Dean strutted their stuff. Those guys knew how to dress. No average joe looked better before and certainly after this time period.

Boston Street Corner 1965

UNC Chapel Hill 1965

In the 1970s and 1980s, 'Prep' became mainstream and suddenly everyone started wearing Lacoste Polo shirts with popped collars. Use of color and GTH, which means Go To Hell (a "don't care attitude" that involves the likes of plaid shorts, patchwork jackets, bright blue pants, and so on) became widely popular. The 'Official Preppy Handbook' came out. Prep style evolved from the 1960s but some of the same key elements were still there.

From the 1984 movie 'Making the Grade'

So what do you see on today's college campuses? The wide majority of us wear our sweatpants, pajamas, cargo shorts, baggy shirts, loose jeans, and flip flops. What the F*ck happened?

1960s college party. Notice the blazers, the wayfarer sunglasses, the coeds wearing pearl necklaces.


Present day college party. Notice the huka necklace, the sideways hat, and the man nipples.

Ok obviously two exaggerated pictures but you get the point.

The great thing about traditional American clothing is that it's so damn hard to mess it up. Once you have the basics down, you can pair anything together and step out your front door without a second thought. And look at the guys in the photos above. Is that not how you want to look when you're 70 years old showing your grandchildren old pictures of yourself? Would you rather look timeless...or dated with those emo jeans and Aeropostale t shirt.

It's ok if you're still in high school wearing baggy shorts and flip flops. That's fine but once you get into college and the mid-20s age range, it's best to start dressing like a man should. So take pride in wanting to dress better than your peers. It's time for us to get back to a more classic and timeless style of clothing.

Next up: My clothing advice...


Part III: Clothing Advice

I lean towards 'trad' (traditional) style of clothing. It's basically prep minus the overly GTH attitude and it looks to the past for modern day dress. It's not even a style, its just what men have worn for decades. Most people would see this as boring but it's certainly better than looking like a preteen shopping at American Eagle. There is also 'southern trad' which is more colorful and akin to prep and adapted to the warm weather in the south.

The mindset for trad is that clothing you would normally consider dressy is actually casual and wearable on a daily basis. It consists of American minimalism and it follows all the classic styles. Practicality > Fashion. It prides quality items that will literally last you a lifetime. It pays tribute to when men would not dare go to work without a suit and tie on. When men actually cared how they looked.

My clothing rules:

1) Investing in one item of high quality from a reputable brand is better than three items of lesser quality from a cheap brand. Keep it for decades.
2) Buy clothes that complement your build.
3) Generally, anything made in USA, England, France, etc. > China, Mexico, Malaysia, etc.
4) Buy the staple items that will be the backbone of your wardrobe first (see list below). When you've got the basics covered then you can build on it.
5) Honor the classics. Embrace minimalism.
6) Find a good tailor. Use him or her to custom fit your clothes.
7) Prefer the originals. Sperry Boat Shoes, Brooks OCBD, Ray-Ban Clubmasters, Levis Jeans.
8) Darker colors are more versatile.
9) Natural material is better than man-made. 100% cotton or wool > polyester.
10) NEVER BUY FULL PRICE. Be frugal. Clothes can be cheap if you know where and how to look.

Wardrobe basics that should be in every young man's closet:

-4 Oxford Cloth Button Down shirts (OCBDs): white, light blue, university blue stripe, university red stripe
-3 Solid color polos: white, gray, navy
-1 White straight collar dress shirt
-2 Chino pants: khaki, stone
-1 All season wool pants: gray, charcoal or navy
-2 Shorts: khaki, stone
-2 Jeans: light and dark denim
-3 Sweaters: v neck, crewneck, cardigan
-2 Outerwear: 1 light jacket, 1 heavy wool coat
-1 Blue Blazer
-1 Suit: dark gray, charcoal, or navy
-3 ties: repp colors
-5 Shoes: boat shoes, penny loafers, black captoe dress shoes, desert boots, sneakers
-Socks, underwear, etc.

-1 watch
-2 sunglasses: one wire frame, one athletic frame
-3 belts: one light brown leather, one dark brown leather, one navy surcingle

Invented by Brooks Brothers, the buttons on the collar were to prevent it from flapping on Polo players during matches. I love wearing these shirts. I wear them to class, work, and social situations. The secret to wearing this casually is to treat them as you would with any other shirt, because after all they were the original polo shirt and not meant to be worn for dressy occasions. Keep them rumpled and don't iron them. Roll up your sleeves. Put your sunglasses in your chest pocket. Rough them up a bit. Overtime, the natural fraying gives it character. I generally wear OCBDs tucked in. They can be worn with pants and shorts alike. NO short sleeve button downs...roll up your long sleeves when it gets warm.

Of all the items, this should be most slim cut to show off your jacked fiberz. I don't usually like logos but on polos its ok. Try to stay with solids because stripes are more memorable and therefore should be worn less. Have a range of dark and light colors. I love a fitted black Lacoste polo with the green crocodile.

Chinos can be worn casually. Wear mostly flat front pants. Once you get khaki and stone colors, get brown, navy, and dark green next. Then there are the GTH colors like Nantucket red, Ocean or Sky blue, Yellow, Patchwork, and Plaid. During summer, try Seersucker, Poplin, and Linen. For winter, look into Corduroy and Twill. All season 100% wool pants can be worn for more dressy situations. I keep my inseam shorter than normal....I am 6'1" but wear a 30-32 inseam because I like a slight break. This trend started in the ivy league schools in the 1950s and its a great preppy look. But if you want to play it safe then keep a 2" (full) break. Cuffing is another popular trad fashion and looks best with pleated pants but can be worn with flat front too. Keep cuffs 1.75-2".

Easier to use GTH colors, plaid, and patchwork with shorts. No pleats. Inseam should be 7-9" depending on how comfortable you are with showing off your legs (another reason to do squats!), but they need to at least hit above the knee. A nice summer outfit includes your OCBDs, shorts, surcingle belt, and boat shoes or loafers.

Tradsters don't usually like jeans...chinos are your jeans and jeans are for yardwork. Of course you don't have to follow this rule but I only buy Levis 501s and 505s and never pay more than $50 for a pair. Dark denim is more versatile. Do not buy pre-distressed jeans. Why? Because it's fake. Do you like your woman faking it during sex? No. Buy a pair of $35 Levis 'Shrink to Fit' 501 jeans and wear them for a year without washing. It's disgusting sure but you will earn those natural whiskers and creases. STF 501 will mold to your body and earn a personality of their own over the years. Kids back in the day would get a pair of new jeans that were suppose to last them for the next three or four years. They would play baseball in them, roll in the mud, and knick them on fences. The natural fading and holes the kids got were from living in those jeans, not paying extra for prefabricated fakeness.

Another prep favorite is pairing OCBDs with crewnecks during the colder months. I also like V Necks and Cardigans. A sky blue cotton V neck can be worn with everything. Look into cashmere when you have the budget. Shaggy Dog sweaters by J Press and LL Bean Norwegian or Fair Isle sweaters are famous among the trad circles.

The G9 Harrington jacket is great for the fall and spring. The red Baracuta was made popular by James Dean in the movie 'Rebel Without a Cause'. English countrymen would wear a Barbour wax coat while hunting, and is quite warm if you layer underneath. For winter, a suitable choice would be a black, navy or charcoal Pea coat. Almost every major brand carries them, or you can buy a cheaper and more authentic coat at a military surplus store.

Suits and Blazers
A man in a well-fitting suit will make him look like a million bucks even if it only cost him $200. Just make sure your suit jacket is the correct chest size and that the pads hug your shoulders. In fact, try to get a jacket with natural shouldering if you can. A good jacket length is where you can cup the bottom naturally with your hands while standing. You should be able to see 1/4" to 1/2" of your shirt cuff peeking out when your arms are at your side. Leave out the stripes and patterns until you have at least 2 basic solid suits. Gray and Navy will do everything for you. Do not buy black. There are countless other tips for suits out there but the above lays the groundwork. Take it to a tailor to make the suit truly yours.

2 buttons, button only the top. 3 buttons, button the middle or both the middle and top. Button when standing and walking, unbutton when sitting.

A blue blazer with gold buttons is quintessentially American. Wear for semi-formal events. Every guy should have at least one. Needs to be as clean on your body as your suit, unless it is a sack blazer which is a bit more full cut.

Khaki, plaid, patchwork, and seersucker sportsjackets are good for summer. Tweed, wool, corduroy, and herringbone for winter. A navy unlined khaki blazer works well for going out at night.

'Repp' ties stand for regimental, which were the patterns that British military officers wore. The colors could also represent what college you went to or what fraternal order you belonged to. There is a lot of history that goes into those colors, but nowadays they just look damn cool. Look into other patterns and materials once you have enough repps. Knit ties for summer. Bow ties are big in the south.

A huge topic and too much to cover. Back in the day, all you would need are your penny loafers and a dress shoe. Not practical of course now so I'll just list what I would wear: Bass Weejuns, LL Bean Blucher Mocs, Sperry Original Top Siders, and Clarks Desert Boots for casual use. Allen Edmonds Park Avenues for dress shoes. Adidas Sambas for casual and weightlifting, New Balance or Asics for running. Invest in one pair of black captoe dress shoes...Allen Edmonds is a good starter shoe and made in the USA. Other brands (read: more expensive) include Alden, John Lobbs, and Churchs. And stay away from square toes. Leave the Rainbow sandals for the beach please.

Random others: LL Bean boots for rain/snow, LLB camp mocs, driver mocs, suede bucks with red soles, tassel loafers, chukka boots, wingtips, and monk straps.

Multiple pairs of solid colors like navy and dark gray. Then a range of argyles in spring and winter colors. You can go sockless in almost any shoe anytime, but I usually wear socks with my boat shoes or loafers during the winter months to avoid any weird looks.

Accessories: There are only 3 types of accessories appropriate for guys. A watch, sunglasses, and a wedding band, as needed. Everything else is supplemental.

Another comprehensive subject with a wide range of differing tastes. First off, start wearing a watch if you don't regularly. Marks of a gentleman are his watch and his shoes. A cell phone is not a timepiece. Watches are what purses are to women, but at least a trad man goes for minimalism. A simple and cheap Timex watch with a white face works well for all occasions. Add a NATO strap or preppy ribbon and you're set. Money wise from least to most expensive: Timex, Seiko, Citizen, Hamilton < Omega, Rolex, IWC < Piaget, Patek Philippe. Obviously there are other high quality watch brands out there but these are the ones I see the most in trad world.

Aviators and caravans are good wire framed sunglasses for casual and formal occasions. Clubmasters and wayfarers are also pretty cool. Keep another pair of sports shades for running or outdoor stuff. Do NOT mix the should not be wearing your Oakleys with a suit. Ray-Bans and Persols are my personal favorites. Spend more for polarized, trust me.

Keep leather dress belts 1" to 1.5" thick and with smaller buckles. Engine-turned buckles are cool and they remind me of something a yuppy hotshot investment banker would wear. Thicker belts and larger buckles are for jeans only. Surcingle and needlepoint belts are extremely preppy and GTH, especially if you add in a few motif or embroided belts. Check out Smathers & Branson and Leatherman Ltd.

American brands to trust, there are certainly more but these are off the top of my head:

Brooks Brothers, J Press, Lands End, LL Bean, Ralph Lauren, Hickey Freeman, Oxxford, O'Connells, Allen Edmonds, Alden, Cable Car Clothiers, Gitman Brothers, Pennington, Quoddy, Sperry, Sebago, Southwick, Woolrich Woolen Mills, Gant, Orvis, Filson, Anderson-Little, Murray's Toggle Shop, Bill's Khakis, Florsheim, Bass, Ben Silver, Hart Schaffner Marx, Sterlingwear of Boston, Paul Stewart, and......that's all for now.

'Neo-Prep' brands like J Crew, Vineyard Vines, Patagonia, etc. are not traditional but they have done well enough to mention.

End result, Yale 1964:


Next up: How to pay for your new wardrobe...


Final Part

Now that you know what to wear, how will you pay for your new wardrobe?

Lets visit Rule #10

"10) NEVER BUY FULL PRICE. Be frugal. Clothes can be cheap if you know where and how to look."

It's true that WASPs are wealthy by definition, but the real Old Money types knew the value of a dollar. Back in the day, rich parents would have their first born fitted in the finest bespoke clothing and then have it passed down to his younger brothers when he outgrew it. They would buy expensive but high quality clothes and keep it for decades. Thriftiness carried into the mid century when college kids would wear their penny loafers into the ground and actually duck tape the soles to them (it became a popular trend).

Glen O'Brian, the Style Guy from GQ magazine, said that back in his college days at Georgetown, you could always spot who was from Old Money as they were the ones who always wore lumpy tweed jackets, drove beat up Volkswagons, and never 'had any money'. The rich European students drove around in their exotic cars and expensive suits. But the more worn-in your clothes appeared, the more respect you got.

Fred Astaire was known to throw a new jacket at the wall several times to get the crispiness out. Some would ask their butlers to wear their brand new suits for a year first. Nantucket red pants would initially come in bright red, but the more it baked in the New England sea salt and beach weather, the better it aged and it is why true Nantucket red is known as an almost pink shade. The more lived in, frayed and old looking clothes are, the better. Sperrys and loafters look awesome after a a few years of wearing. And this trend has carried today, which is why you see predistressed khakis at J Crew or pay $200 for holes in your jeans.

The main takeaway is that the aristocratic rich embraced saving money and actually flaunted their frugal habits, and you should too.

Quality = / = $$$ if you are smart. You can still look good and only pay a fraction of the price.

In the 5 or so years I've been serious about clothing, I can't remember a time I have ever paid full price for anything. I've always shopped during sales or at outlets. I buy gift cards on Craigslist, shop on eBay, use discount and free shipping codes from, and shop on buying and selling internet forums. There are countless deals out there so be creative with your money-saving techniques.

Once you become more educated about clothes, it becomes easier to ignore the ugly or fake stuff and pick out the gold. My eye is trained enough where I can go to Goodwill or other thrift stores and find an expensive item for less than $3. Yes the clothes are used but you can easily wash it.

Below are my summer outfits with info on where and how much I paid for each apparel item. Sorry for the weird angle and lighting.

Casual, wore this on July 4th and got sooo many compliments.



-BB OCBD bought at Garland NC factory store, $12
-Lands End shorts,, $20
-NC embroidered belt,, $29
-Cole Haan penny loafers, eBay, $50

What I'd wear to class. Business casual is required at my grad program (fortunately for me!)



-Sears Roebuck vintage University Blue Stripe OCBD, made in USA, thrifted for $2
-Ducks Head chinos (popular in the south during 1980s prep era, no longer made), thrifted for $8
-Lands End surcingle belt,, $25
-Sperry Boat shoes,, $44
-Ray Ban aviators, found free on the beach lolz

This is what I wore to a baptism and country club easter lunch.




-Anderson-Little Blue Blazer, made in USA, thrifted for $5
-RL OCBD circa early 1980s, inherited from my father and naturally frayed
-Nordstroms vintage plaid tie, bought online via selling forum for $5
-RL chinos, RL outlet, $20
-J Crew Engine-Turned Plaque belt, made in England, gift
-Bucherer Swiss Watch with NATO strap, inherited from my father

Sartorial reading:

Places to shop:
Sales forum of StyleForum
Sales forum of AAAC
Craigslist, eBay

Random sorority girls at the Carolina Cup


Super Member
There is wisdom here that many older men need to follow. I was out to dinner at a local "casual" restaurant with a lady friend last weekend and thunderstruck at the poor attire surrounding us. It appears to be getting worse in the NOVA area. I might add to refrain from too many conspicuous tattoos! Thanks again for this, sir.


Super Member
While the random sorority girls at the end of the post are not the end goal of dressing as the OP recommends, they are an almost certain result. +1000 to the original post, I will print and save for my son to read in a few years.


Senior Member
I enjoyed this, and agree with all of it as a recent college grad. I'll only add two things regarding frugality:

- Wait until Brooks has their "friends and family" sale, twice a year. Everything is 25% off and they still have everything in stock, unlike the post-xmas/July 4th sales.
- Same for Press when they start at 25% off, and sometimes (like this past week) they'll slap on an extra 25% off of the 25% off original price.


Active Member with Corp. Privileges
Good to see someone else fairly local. I'm in Charlotte now but was in Raleigh for 8 years or so during and after school. What program are you in? Welcome (back?).

Cheers, Josh


New Member
nice piece.

when reading expanded thoughts like yours, it always strikes me that readers need to bear in mind that attitude plays an enormous role in one's personal style. it is one thing to be dedicatedly traditional in one's dress, but a wholly different creature to be pretentiously locked into recreating a "style" or look. stated with more gentility, a man should wear the clothes and never the clothes wear the man.

for me, i find that i have developed a personal clothing preference over the years that is most closely identified with trad. i know several, however, who purposefully "selected" trad" in order to cast an image, give an impression, or emulate an attitude. there is a wide swath of acceptability and appreciation in one's dress in my area of the south -- but a fine line between personal style and fussiness.


Active Member with Corp. Privileges
Nice writeup, although the "reward" of those hideous sorority girls is almost enough to make me burn my OCBDs.

And I have to take exception to your insistence on being a cheapskate. Katon posted some J. Press ads from 1969, when their poplin shirts were $13.50. Adjusted for inflation, those shirts would be $80 today, which is exactly what Press and BB charge. So when people complain that these shirts are too expensive at their retail price, what they're really saying it they'd prefer paying Made-in-Burkina Faso prices. And the reason the domestic clothing industry is dead is because everyone decided they'd rather pay Burkina Faso prices.


Active Member with Corp. Privileges
Thanks for the positive feedback guys!

Nice writeup, although the "reward" of those hideous sorority girls is almost enough to make me burn my OCBDs.

And I have to take exception to your insistence on being a cheapskate. Katon posted some J. Press ads from 1969, when their poplin shirts were $13.50. Adjusted for inflation, those shirts would be $80 today, which is exactly what Press and BB charge. So when people complain that these shirts are too expensive at their retail price, what they're really saying it they'd prefer paying Made-in-Burkina Faso prices. And the reason the domestic clothing industry is dead is because everyone decided they'd rather pay Burkina Faso prices.

Ouch strong standards. I wanted to post a pic of southern sorority chicks in preppy attire, this was one of the first that came up in my search. They were above average and forgive me if I didn't want to spend over a minute looking for all 10/10s in tight button downs and sperrys lol.

Also a note on why I insist on being cheap: most college kids are poor. So no need to pay full price for a BB shirt when you can find one at the thrift store. Save it for beer money.
Last edited:


Honors Member
Not bad. However...

I'm also not a fan of those sorority girls and most are really not attractive to me, physically or personality wise. Just me though. I also don't like that patch sport coat thing, whatever decade it's from.


Super Member
Those darts on the brunette are terrible. tsk tsk.

I'd gladly join the blonde on our right for a G&T, though.

(This is how SF-like threads begin...)

I should also add that the written component of this thread is solid.
Last edited:


Active Member with Corp. Privileges
Great write-up, ing! I'm curious - what have the responses been like on the other forum?

Not bad. However...

I'm also not a fan of those sorority girls and most are really not attractive to me, physically or personality wise. .

Ummm - how can you tell that from a photograph?
Your email address will not be publicly visible. We will only use it to contact you to confirm your post.