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    Back to School Basics: Five Things You Need for Freshman Year

    14th August 2013

    It’s that time of year again! Summer is coming to a close and the old kids are shipping off to college, trashbags of belongings in hand. I still remember (4 years later!) how much stuff I brought that I never used, and how much stuff I had to buy because it totally slipped my mind! So, to keep you guys from making the same mistake I made, I put together a list of things that I found a lot of guys must have overlooked when packing.

    Get ready to take notes! Here is my list of back to school basics for Freshman:

    1. Wallet

    Screen Shot 2013-08-13 at 11.34.57 PM

    L to R: Will Leather Goods, $85The Hundreds, $39Fossil, $40

    You’re (hopefully) not going shopping with mom anymore. You’re the grown up, so you should look like one. Get a nice leather wallet with card slots and a cash pocket and ditch whatever rubberband/paperclip/origami mess you were “working” with before.

    2. “Going Out” Tees

    Screen Shot 2013-08-14 at 12.41.50 AM

    L to R: Gap, $17Ball & Buck, $48; Ralph Lauren, $40

    College is probably going to be the most casual time in your life, and I mean that in both casual as a low level of formality and casual as a word that girls have adopted to describe their life (i.e.: “casually drinking my mochacchino #starbucks #truelove”). This may not fly elsewhere, but guys at Penn State clearly had tees for going out versus tees for class versus tees for working out. So how do you distinguish? Going out tees are probably made of a nicer fabric, have a more flattering fit and are generally solid. You keep this shirt clean and unwrinkled and wear it for occasions when you want to look good without trying, like frat parties. The last thing you want is to try and do a keg stand in suit and tie.

    3. Lots of Undies

    How often do you plan on doing laundry? Once every two weeks? That’s ambitious. I’m pretty sure I have made it 6 weeks without doing laundry because I did everything in my path to avoid doing it. Don’t ever think you’re bringing too much underwear, because you’re probably wrong.

    4. Comfy & Casual Shoe for Class

    Screen Shot 2013-08-14 at 12.44.39 AM

    L to R: Sperry Topsider, $85; Original Penguin, $120Clarks, $120

    99% of the time this will be your regular sneakers, but feel free to mix it up. I almost never choose to wear sneakers (laces, UGH) and instead opt for shoes that just slide on, like flats or loafers. Find your perfect shoe to roll out of bed and stumble to class in. Bonus points if it works with jeans and sweats (which are totally inevitable sometimes (college as a whole being one of those times)).

    5. An Actual Coat

    Screen Shot 2013-08-14 at 12.50.12 AM

    L to R: Cutter &Buck, $188;Marmot, $140Merc, $254

    In high school, you either waited for the bus or drove in, both of which did not require much outside time. A hoodie was a quick fix. Why wear your full winter jacket if you’re only going to be outside for 10 minutes at the absolute most? Plus, it takes up your whole locker.

    Well, now that you’re in college, you’ll be trekking through all of the weather because classes never get cancelled and you will miss the bus and you won’t want to show up to your lecture hall in your soaking wet hoodie and frost bitten hair and be the obvious freshman who didn’t get the memo that HEY IT’S SNOWING OUTSIDE AND MAYBE YOU SHOULD WEAR A REAL COAT because you live in the dorms which is basically a cesspool for germs and everyone knows that you catch colds from being cold.


    Now that you know the super important items you NEED, you can start packing your life away. Also, you should bring pants (and sweatpants, because this is college, not real life). A few pairs of jeans and a pair of khakis is probably all you need.

    Tell Us,

    What clothing got your through your freshman year of college? Which pieces made it out alive? Which pieces did you never wear?

    • fattsmann

      Wow, I do my laundry every week. I hang dry my clothes because it extends the life of the fabric. And since I personally handle every shirt, boxer short, pants, etc., I find it a way for me to connect with my clothes and think about how they reflect how far I’ve come in life.

      Then my wife asks me how long am I going to take hanging that crap up. :P

      But yes. Get plenty of underwear.

    • Tod C

      Hah I laugh because I did my laundry in my bathtub to save money! I went to school where it hit -40C so yes take that coat advice. I wore a thrifted overcoat and froze my ass off – it is worth splashing out on a proper coat. If I had been smart a zip sweater would have been a good addition. I still wear the awesome parka I purchased in 1993 to get my through the winter.

      And don’t cheap out and skip the locker – having somewhere to stash your coat and boots is worth $30 per year.

      But keep as many layering options as you can – the difference in temperature from the lecture hall, to the computer labs to outside to the caf etc can be really high. Most universities have old buildings. A friend of mine was famous for wearing 4 sweaters all year but it worked out for him because he could layer.

      • TJ

        Definitely agree on the layering.

    • TJ

      Definitely get a rain coat of some kind. You may not need a wintercoat depending on where you go to school, but it rains no matter where you are. An umbrella is nice too. Plus you can play the part of a gentleman and walk a lady to class with your umbrella while everybody else is getting soaked.
      Don’t forget nice clothes for those random formal events or for class presentations. You don’t have to go full blown suit for presentations but at least some dress pants and a button up shirt. Make sure the clothes fit well and the shoes are classic like wingtips or captoes and you’ll look a millions times better than the guys in squre toed slipons and baggy shirts. It never ceased to amaze me how hard it was to get my other group members to dress up for presentations (even by senior year in the business school).
      One last thing, don’t forget sandals for the showers (if you have community bathrooms).

      • gabi meyers

        THANK YOU! I can’t believe I forgot shower shoes!

      • Adam Wyatt

        I went to UCLA. The like 2 days a year it rains in LA no one went to class. Even during a light sprinkle, less than half the people showed up to class.

        • TJ

          Haha sounds like the one day every 2 years that it snows in Alabama. They cancel all the classes just for a few flakes.

        • Style Girlfriend

          Ha. My friend lives in San Diego and says no one leaves their house when it rains. Being from Wisconsin, and an east coast transplant, that seems so strange to me!!

    • Adam

      Good basics list! Here are some of my thoughts:

      1. If you’re looking to slim things down and reduce pocket bulk, try switching to a card wallet. I like Chester Mox. They’re *very* nice quality, but still affordable for most – starting at $60. For a cheaper alternative, J Crew has a leather one for $29.50.

      2. Invest in Under Armor charged cotton tees. They’re super nice, available in a lot of colors, affordable (~$25), and can pull double duty in the gym or at the bar.

      3. Socks. Don’t forget socks.

      4. Slip-on Converse. Cheap, comfortable, easy to wear, and durable.

      5. A vintage/surplus US Navy pea coat is worth it’s weight in winter. For breezier days, I rock a North Face jacket.

      As an aside, while this is college and sweat pants and flip flops are the norm, don’t forget that you don’t have to be sartorially lazy. In a market saturated with diploma-seeking mouth breathers in graphic t-shirts and cargo shorts, you’re going to achieve your maximum potential by standing out from the rest. Make an active effort to look nice – you’ll be rewarded constantly.

      • kellen owenby

        No offense, Adam, but I wouldn’t be caught dead wearing an Under Armor tee at a bar…

        • Adam

          When it comes to the usual UA performance shirts, I totally understand. They’re loud and obnoxious. However, I’m talking about the charged cotton ones. They’re plain, solid colors with a small X on the left chest – almost exactly like the light blue Ralph Lauren shirt Gabi posted. Very subtle; better quality than a Hanes Beefy T.

          • kellen owenby

            I used to hang out with a guy that always wore that exact shirt in heather grey. In my opinion, wearing a shirt with an athletic logo (adidas, nike, under armor) isn’t nightlife appropriate. However, I am from the south where a lot of our bars wouldn’t let you in unless you were wearing a collared shirt…

            • gabi meyers

              I have to agree with you Kellen, an athletic logo doesn’t feel quite right outside of the gym. It feels more jock-after-practice than nightlife. But it could work for daytime!

      • Style Girlfriend

        Love Chester Mox!

    • kellen owenby

      Number 4 is a huge way to stand out amongst the schmucks who wear gym clothes 24/7. Everyone in college wears sneakers all the time. I used my chukka boots/desert boots to stand out. They are just as comfortable as sneakers, but they give you a step up on all the guys who just can’t muster the effort to tie their shoes… Girls notice a guy who gives even just a little effort.

      • Style Girlfriend

        You should be a spokesman for Style Girlfriend!

        • kellen owenby

          I already am. I just don’t get paid ;-)

    • Junior

      So no suggestion for the extra long twin bed sheets?

      • gabi meyers

        I got mine at Target and used them all four years!

        • Style Girlfriend

          Me too!

    • Junior

      I don’t know if colleges use keys, fobs or key cards these days, but the wallets above will stand out and serve you well if your school uses cards. If your school uses fobs or keys, just avoid those 2 foot lanyards, those things are horrendous

      • gabi meyers

        Totally agree, lanyards scream “freshman” in the worst way.

        • Tod C

          I switched out to custom key pulls for the office from here – might be an option for someone who needs security passes all of the time.

          • Style Girlfriend

            I’ve never seen anything like that! Very cool

            • Tod C

              I have been really into the “give a millennial a break” mode these days – shopping more with small online businesses run by enterprising young, innovative (or both) people, especially if it is producing items in North America or Europe (go Gustin!). I really love how the next generation has risen to the challenge and are redefining success in this much more challenging world and I am voting with my wallet.

              I also have an awesome shop for hats if you like them too – I have 4 from her now -

            • Ben


              Peep– they rate products on their impact to an area– aka produced in USA etc…. they dont rate quality, but if you’re lookin at two items close in quality and price, it’s not a bad deciding factor. I havn’t seen too many products with the rating, but maybe hasnt caught on yet?

            • Tod C

              Interesting idea but it looks like you have ti pay to get rated – not sure if you can trust that.

    • Greg

      I take it you walked from East Halls to the West side of campus pretty often then?

      • gabi meyers

        Actually no! I lived in South my freshman year B)

        • Style Girlfriend

          I lived in South my freshman year too :) McElwain forever!

    • average joe
      • Adam

        Only if you go streaking in the quad..

    • Jim

      I’m 30 and I still have “going out” tees. I like American Apparel because they fit slim and have a nice heathered texture with contrast stitching. I hang them up instead of folding.

      A lot of people think they’re dressing better just by wearing button-downs all the time, but that’s kind of overkill for a lot of places I hang out. If you’re in shape, it’s tough to beat a heather gray tee, dark jeans and boots.

      • Style Girlfriend

        Women also still have “going out” tops well into their grown-up years. It’s definitely a distinction worth taking seriously

    • Bob

      I bought this parka from Daves Army and Navy on 16th st and I love it. I dont see the slim fit one i bought though, maybe they have them in store.–Black

      • Style Girlfriend

        Love a good army surplus purchase!

    • Jackie

      I used to carry a wallet in college but ditched it after graduation when I realized that a money clip/card holder is much more convenient. Like this: 41JOGt4-KqL._SY246_CR0,0,190,246_.jpg

      Made me wish I ditched my wallet sooner!

    • LawDawg

      For those needing a southern adaptation, buy flip flops, a lightweight rain jacket (no lining, just a waterproof shell), nice flip flops (rainbow, sperry, etc), and polo shirts instead of t’s.(I hate going to the bar underdressed) If you like wearing some sort of dry-fit or other synthetic polo, perfect…you’ll sweat a ton down here . Shorts are a must instead of jeans.

      I say this having gone to undergrad in south georgia below the gnat line.

    • Jake

      How many t-shirts do you need to own for people not to notice you cycling through the same ones? I have 8 nice t-shirts that I’m probably going to be wearing most week-days… will people notice me wearing the same shirts over and over again?

      • Style Girlfriend

        If they’re simple – no logos or slogans on the front – you can get away with very few tees. 8 is more than enough to not have your dorm and classmates notice.

        • Jake

          Alright, awesome. Thanks for the reply! :)

    • Marco

      Wow number 5 cannot be stressed enough for the freshmen venturing towards colder pastures. Being a now third year student in the Northeast, I can’t even recall how many times I’ve gone out in the harsh winter evenings thinking my destination would be the only one of the night…wish I could rectify all that heavy shivering and those runny noses upon returning to my dorm. I’m looking to pick up a hefty peacoat from my local surplus store in a few weeks time!

    • Vince

      Any tips on what coat to buy? I’m from the Netherlands so it gets pretty cold in the winter!

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