8 College Wardrobe Essentials for Guys

the must-haves for every undergrad

By Style Girlfriend | Last Updated: Jan 17 2020

First semester at school can be insanely busy. From going to class to skipping class, and everything in between, you definitely don’t have time to hop on the city bus to head to the one decent mall in town to go shopping. That means you’ll want the perfect college wardrobe essentials already on hand.

Obviously, your wardrobe needs are different than the full-grown man reading the site: you don’t yet need multiple suits in your closet. Potential love interests are wearing yoga pants, like, all the time.

Bottom line? You want to up your style game, but you’re on a ramen budget.

It’s a confusing time to work on upgrading your personal style. I get it! To make getting dressed easier so you have a better chance of getting to class (and parties!) on time, below is a shopping list of eight items you can remix in your closet this school year.

Check off the eight college wardrobe essentials for guys below before heading back to school:

1. Dark jeans

A pair of dark-rinse, straight or slim-fit jeans isn’t just an essential for college; you’ll be wearing jeans all your life! So you might as well find a brand and style that fit you comfortably now. Wear with a white t-shirt for 8am class or a button-up for going out.

Check out our tips for finding the right pair of jeans for you here.

2. A pack of white t-shirts

Buy in bulk. Wear. Repeat.

3. Button-up shirt

Yes, a stylish button-up is a great “going out” top for guys, but don’t save ’em just for after dark.

4. Jogger sweatpants

You got into college, so yes, you’ve earned the right to wear sweatpants for another few years. I’m not going to take that away from you.

Weirdly enough, this sorta-sloppy move is actually pretty stylish these days. Like, in the real world.

Besides, sporting sweats on campus is totally acceptable, and even a signifier of “Oh man, I had a late night out at the bars last night,” which indicates you’re either an upperclassman (yeah!), or a lower clansman with a convincing fake ID (double yeah!).

So take advantage of this collegiate wardrobe loophole because, unless you become a doctor or professional athlete, this sartorial backslide will not last. Embrace it while you can.

**Oh, and another no brainer? Your university’s official gear.

I’m with you on saying “no” to brand names stamped all over your clothes, but sporting your school’s name all over is a whole different story. Here’s what you do: when your parents drop you off at school, prey on their impending Empty Nest Syndrome by convincing them to buy you everything in the university book store to help you fit in at school.

An added bonus? Matching your clothes is that much easier when incorporating your school colors into every outfit.

5. Stylish sneakers

Sure, you can wear them to work off that late-night dollar slice (or three) ((don’t worry, I get it. When they have those huge dispensers of ranch sauce at the counter? I mean, what are you supposed to do?)), but try to find a pair that’ll look just as good out of the gym as in it.

After all, it’s college, and you’re on a budget. This is the time for wardrobe multi-tasking.

6. Desert boots

Knowing you need a pair of desert boots in your closet is what separates a boy from a man. Almost as good as a diploma. Almost.

7. A watch

I wish I didn’t have to say it, but don’t be that guy pulling out your phone in the middle of class to check the time…and your text messages about tonight’s plans. Besides being practical, a nice watch completes any outfit.

Really, you’ll gain millions of bonus points by not having your phone out all the freaking time. And sure, it might as well look good, but that doesn’t mean you have to spend a ton of money. In fact, you shouldn’t. Instead, conserve your resources for something you can’t lose or drop in a toilet.

8. A backpack

Yes, it’s a necessity, but it might as well look good.

How to build a stylish wardrobe in college

Right now is a great time to start building a basic grown man wardrobe. Just start small. Think straight-leg pants in dark rinse denim, khaki and corduroy. Un-branded pocket tees in neutral colors (gray, white, black, tan). Crew-neck or v-neck sweaters in something other than cotton. These items will take you through college and beyond.

If you have internships – and you should – spring for one decent suit. Buy off the rack then get it tailored..immediately. You won’t need to wear it too often, but when you do, you’ll be the one guy in college who doesn’t look like a high schooler headed to homecoming.

For more of SG’s take on college style, read this, this and check out this.