Upgrade Your Style In 5 Steps – Practical Young Man Fashion Advice

This is a guest post from James Petzke over at This Is Common Cents.  James is a student at Boise State University with a lot of ambition who is here to provide a style perspective for those of you who look young and want to better understand how dressing sharp can increase your credibility with others.

well-dressed-young-man-400If you had seen me walking the halls of my high school a year ago, I would likely have been wearing basketball shorts and a t-shirt.

For pretty much my entire life, I chose to dress like I was going to the gym.

I had long, rather untamed hair, and wore beat-up skate shoes.

Fast forward a year.

Now proudly walk my college in style.

Shorts have been replaced by slacks, team sweatshirts have become sweaters, and you’ll never see a shirt on me without a collar unless I’m actually in the gym.

I wear dark leather shoes, have a business haircut, and occasionally wear a suit or sport coat to class for the fun of it.

This has really been a drastic change.

My parents still seem mildly stunned whenever they see me now.

But despite the fact that I had to rebuild my wardrobe and completely change my style in the matter of only a couple weeks, this transition has been overwhelmingly positive. And it was spurred by one of the most perfect excuses out there to make it happen:

Moving to a new area and living a new lifestyle.

Four months ago, I moved to Boise, Idaho to attend Boise State University. While most of my friends are contemplating how to get drunk as fast as possible in as many places as they can, I have been focusing on how to stand out from the 20,000 other undergrad students here so that I can move up in the business world as fast as I can.

A big part of that has been upgrading my style, which has helped in a variety of ways. I’m more confident, I stand out to my professors, and business people who come on campus take me more seriously than my peers.

Moving to a new area is always an awesome opportunity for an upgrade. You won’t have to deal with sudden, drastic changes in style that make you uncomfortable in front of your friends, and you’ll impress all of the new people you meet.

Thanks to Antonio, I have the opportunity to share with you all some of my advice and tips for doing this effectively, and not spend a fortune in doing so.

1. Make The Commitment


I pulled this image from http://thelisbontailor.blogspot.com/ – check out his blog for more great pictures!

Before you move to a new place, whether it’s for school, a job, or just for a change of scenery, you have to commit to making this change.

If you don’t commit to this type of change as firmly as you can, you likely won’t follow through. So make sure that before you make your move you decide how you want to look.

One thing I didn’t do that I should have was start to build my new wardrobe before moving. This would have allowed me to start fresh from day one, and make it much easier to commit solidly right off the bat.

2. Make the Right Upgrades

One of the things I didn’t want to do when I came to college was be too dressed up all the time. As much as I love wearing a suit (yes, I’m 18 years old and I love wearing a suit; there is some hope for my generation), I knew that it would be overkill for 95% of the classes I’d be taking, and virtually all of the extracurricular and social activities I’d be participating in.

So I decided on more of a business casual look. I have lots of dress shirts that can be casually worn, slacks, sweaters, and dark jeans.

I still have suits for special occasions and athletic clothing for the gym, but I primarily go business casual. Depending on where you are moving and what for, you may be picking a different style. Whatever it is, figure it out and stick to it. Make all the upgrades you need to pull it off right the first time.

3. Understand Details Are Key


I pulled this image from http://thelisbontailor.blogspot.com/ – check out his blog for more great pictures!

Moving from t-shirts to button downs is huge, but sometimes the smaller, not talked about details are the best ways to improve your look.

Wearing a dress watch.

Leather shoes.

A more professional haircut.

Take a few of the smaller things to the next level, and that may be more effective than anything else you do.

Another great example of a small detail worth addressing is clothing fit. In my experience, how well a piece of clothing fits is far more important to a good look than any other factor.

I’ll take a $100 suit that fits perfectly over a $2000 one that doesn’t any day.

4. Stick To Your Budget

It can be hard to stick to a budget when rebuilding a wardrobe.

There is so much to buy it can feel daunting. Add that to the fact that you are in the already expensive process of moving, and it can seem impossible.

I pulled this image from http://thelisbontailor.blogspot.com/ - check out his blog for more great pictures!

I pulled this image from http://thelisbontailor.blogspot.com/ – check out his blog for more great pictures!

But I’ve managed to completely rebuild mine while sticking to the budget of a broke college student, and have proven it isn’t hard if you’re willing to shop around.

Check out all the stores and online shops you can. Finding sales is a topic that goes way beyond the scope of this article, but it really isn’t that hard if you’re willing to put in the effort of going to a few stores.

You should also look at thrift stores. I know, I know, thrift stores and style don’t sound like they would go together. But trust me, they can at times.

Most of what you’ll see in thrift stores I wouldn’t recommend you ever wear, but there some occasional gems, especially when it comes to suits and jackets. A few weeks ago I bought an Italian wool, grey pinstripe suit that was basically brand new.

A quick alteration and cleaning, and for only $27 I have a pretty awesome suit. Most of the stuff at thrift shops you’ll want to avoid, but with some time and effort you can occasionally find something that works well for an incredibly low price.

5. Appearance Isn’t the Only Upgrade

If your goal is to look better in your new area, appearances aren’t the only thing you should focus on.

In fact, it may be secondary. Getting in better shape is without a doubt one of the best ways to look better.

This may mean losing weight, gaining weight, or developing tone. Right now I’m still working on gaining some lean muscle mass(I’m the typical basketball-playing skinny white kid). I’m trying to be careful about it so that I don’t grow out of the new wardrobe I built myself, but even if I do it’ll be well worth it . And that’s not to mention the other benefits that go along with being in better physical shape, like saving money and living longer.


When I moved on to a new chapter in my life, upgrading my style was an obvious step.

Dressing more professionally has helped me in many ways, and I think it will continue to do so in the future.

I encourage anyone on the cusp of moving on to something new to make the same transition.


Thanks James for the great article – for those of you under the age of 20 looking for great financial and style advice – I highly rec you contact James via his website This is Common Cents.

  • pervez nabi (karachi) pakista

    dear Antonio, I read ur articles and appreciate and I prefer to b well dressed, as ones appearance is judged by how u r dressed,i am in Karachi (Pakistan) where r u based.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jurgen.decleen Jurgen De Cleen

    Hi Antonio and James, This really is a great article, and I can relate to it. In high school, I was the man in black, into heavy metal and so on… Although I still love heavy metal, I made a change of style gradually, more or less like described in the article. And I’m very happy I did! Now I’m about ten years active in the business world and a suite and tie have become my trade mark, together with my hat…

  • Frank Elia

    Well done! It is amazing how a well fitting sport coat and confidence can make one stand out.

  • Matthew


    These are great tips. This should be standard advice for any new undergrad starting the next important phase of their life. And fit is definitely the most important factor to keep in mind when upgrading your wardrobe. Wearing proper fitting clothes always looks better than throwing on a baggy outfit with a sagging pair of pants.

    Congrats on your new look, and good luck with your career at Boise State!


  • http://www.facebook.com/william.d.wright.3 William D Wright

    Antonio, I agree: there is hope for this generation if even one decides to change the way he looks and acts over the course of the time he’s in high school and/or college. I applaud this young man in realizing that he had to make the change. I would imagine yes, that his mum and dad do get a surprise every now and then when they see his cleaned up look. I also hope he has all the other skills necessary (math, balancing the checkbook and credit cards) to life as well. I know he’s seeing results as the professors he has do appreciate the fact he doesn’t come to class looking like he just got out of bed. James is doing everything he can to further himself, and frankly, whoever suggested it, should be in contact with all of these students as he can. I really wish that someone had taken hold of me back then and told me, don’t be so focused on one career choice as you are, keep wearing the clothing you do (I almost exclusively wore dress shirts, pressed dress pants and dress shoes in high school, but no bow tie) but don’t be afraid to slap on the tuxedo (I did this my second Bachelor’s and shocked a lot of my professors!) and for sure start wearing your bow ties (I always preferred bows and still do) for test days or whenever you want to surprise folks.
    While casual wear has its place (the gym, the garden, the working around the house), a really great outfit will go very far in locking in a job, or a really important date in life and you should be ready for it all. One last thing: living here in the NW some folks think all we do is lounge half the time (I’m from Washington, to the west of Idaho) and we semi-work the other half. It’s not true. There are many hard-working young adults and older adults like me who work hard to get what we want and need out of life. But we also know how to relax and have fun. I hope that James does not forget that. That doesn’t mean you go and get it from the bottle. You do what you enjoy and enjoy it to the maximum effort. Always do what you do to the maximum and then you know you’ve done it all as well as you can do it. Good luck James, and may Boise not be the same when you graduate.

  • menstyle

    William, I agree. Kids like them give us hope for the future, hopefully young guys follow from his example. :)

  • menstyle

    It really does make a difference, right Frank?

  • menstyle

    That sounds awesome Jurgen!

  • menstyle

    Thank you sir! I’m based in the US :)

  • menstyle

    I agree! A sharp look of a sports coat and dark well fitting jeans over a sagging pair any day! :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/manga4ever111 Javier Tall

    How about a 14 year old who loves wearing suits? We do have hope.

  • menstyle

    It’s nice to see that we do Javier!

  • Ronnie Smith

    Great article. I have a question. I know there are different types of casual, but can you break it down (if not here, then maybe in a seperate article). For example, what’s really dressy for a high school kid will be extremely casual for the ambassador of the United Nations.

    For example, with shoes. There are shoes you would wear running, there are shoes you would wear to fit in at high school. There are leather shoes you would wear to a club or a night out. And there’s probably something in between, not blackleather but not a sneaker with lots of colors, like white Ralph Lauren Polo shoes. There are leather shoes you would wear for an office job. But that’s different than what you would wear at a wedding or a business meeting. Do I have an accurate understanding of this?

    Also, whats the difference between casual, smart-casual, business, dressy, etc and how do they rank in order from most casual to least casual. Thanks in advance.

  • Above Average Intelligentleman

    Hey Antonio (and James),

    I’m college student as well. I have been unable to find the perfect fitting jacket/sports coat to complete my wardrobe. I have all the dress shirts I need; I have 6 pair of shoes (Sperry’s, black leather, brown leather, casual boots, work-like boots and a nice pair of sneakers), and plenty of slacks. I’ve pretty much exhausted my funds for the time being, but I need a sports coat. Where might yall suggest looking? Keep in mind, I’m on the college budget. The entirety of my wardrobe (aside from my shoes) comes from either Brooks Brothers, but I cannot afford to buy a jacket from there right now. Any other suggestions? Thanks, and I appreciate what yall do!

  • menstyle
  • menstyle

    Hello Sir,

    I can’t really speak about specific brands as that there are so many.

    What I can give is a list of sources that I greatly recommend. You can find them here: http://www.realmenrealstyle.com/resources/mens-stores/

    Check out these other articles on buying clothing online more tips.





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