Internship applications, job fairs, and other opportunities for college students are more competitive than ever. With more people graduating – and those graduating doing it with more debt to pay off – the stakes for how you present yourself as a student are high.
The good news is, all the people you could possibly want to impress – the professors who will write your recommendation letters, the guest lecturers who might become network connections, even a future significant other – are looking for your genuine self and what he has to offer. But they won't see your potential if it comes in a scruffy package. That's why student style matters – here's how to get it right.
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#1. Be Your Own Man
Your late teens and twenties are a great point in your life to start figuring out your individual student style. People around you are, and will continue to be, forming impressions about who you are based on how you dress.
There are four main parts to a man's individual style: physical characteristics, resources, physical and professional environment, and your inner needs and wants.
When it comes to physical characteristics, there are some you can't control and some you can't. You can work out and lose fat or build muscle, but you can't control your height, your genetic body type, or the colors of your hair, skin and eyes.
Resources mean how much time and money a man has. If you've got plenty of money but no time, look to custom clothiers. If you've got no time and also no money then you'll probably want to wait to catch the best deals of the year around Black and Friday Cyber Monday and buy in bulk. If you've got more time but not much money, you can scour thrift stores for secondhand deals.
Your physical and professional environment has a huge effect on both the aesthetics of your wardrobe and the specific types of materials you'll want to look for. Not only will you want a different style of clothing but you'll be choosing your fabrics for the weather and for the nature of your work. When it comes to student style, you may not know exactly the jobs you have ahead of you, but you can still observe the way stylish men in your field tend to dress and begin to prepare for it.
Within all three of these areas you'll also keep in mind your personal wants – how you're going to express your own personality. When you bring all these factors together, they'll coalesce into something you can eventually call your personal style brand.
#2. Learn Your History
If you study the development of menswear, you'll notice that there are foundation pieces that never seem to go out of style – pieces that get better with age. Watches become heirlooms. Shoes develop a unique character. If you invest a relatively small amount in a really good starter item, like a small piece of quality leather luggage, you'll still be using it in your 40s.
#3. Stop Thinking Your Education Is All You Need
Doing well in a respected degree program doesn't exempt you from improving your student style. It will definitely get your foot in the door – but as soon as you walk in for that interview and you don't look and act the part, you betray expectations. You probably won't get the job, or if you do you may not last long.
People don't want to have to deal with someone who has no interpersonal skills or doesn't care enough to show up looking respectable – even if he's good at what he does.
#4. Build An Interchangeable Student Style
Buy pieces you can wear over and over again without people recognizing them as the same outfit. It's hard to overstate how powerful this is: if you have three suits, three pairs of shoes, three shirts, three ties and three pocket squares which are all 100% interchangeable you would have 81 outfits.
That's enough to go almost three months without wearing the same thing twice. Interchangeability gives you more options for less money, and hopefully means that what you do spend money on you can invest a little more in.
#5. Package Yourself As The Best Option – Daily
You should have a daily uniform that is a step above the rest. When recruiters go to a university, they know they'll meet dozens of students with high GPAs and strong credentials. The decision often comes down to packaging: who knows how to present themselves and really sell their skills?
#6. Ditch The Oversized Logos
This is literally the biggest, most obvious sign of BAD student style. The only excuse to wear a huge oversized logo is if the company is paying you to wear it. Otherwise, why be a walking ad? Small logo or no logo is the classiest option.
#7. Practice The Style Pyramid
Fit, fabric and function make up the style pyramid. Anything you put on your body needs to fit your body, be right for the occasion, and be made of the best fabric you can afford.
When you're first starting off you've got to watch every penny, so maybe that won't be all that impressive yet. As soon as you start making money, though, make sure to upgrade your basics.
#8. When It Comes To Hair – Think Ahead
Your 20s are the time to have fun with this. If you want to shave your head, if you want to color your hair, if you want to grow a beard – do it. But understand that during interview season you may want to temper that a bit.
You want to be completely confident going into the interview, and you're confident when you have things under your control and going as expected.
That means you shouldn't be going to your buddy down the hall who cuts hair for fun two days before the interview. Even if it doesn't look that bad, your confidence will be shot.
#9. Have A Grooming Routine
It's important to have a grooming routine so you're not caught off guard by those unplanned opportunities. When people from a company you'd love to work for come to campus and say they'd like to take some students out to lunch, you want to be thinking about bringing your A-game, not that you forgot to clean under your fingernails.
To beat this problem you want to have a grooming routine. Set a time every month that you can go to a barber you trust. Set a time every week that you cut your nails. Set a time every day to shave during the interview season. Keep things under control by systematizing it all.
#10. Get Liquid Courage
No, I'm not talking about shots of Wild Turkey before you give a presentation. I'm talking about a signature scent.
Once you're used to a scent and you've formed a positive association with it, it will start to instantly calm you and boost your confidence.
If you're freaking out before a big interview, you want to have something that will bring you back into the right state of mind. A fragrance that makes you feel like your best self can do that.