One man’s journey from scruff to buff

Student life doesn’t lend itself to sartorial elegance. Liam O’Brien and hit town to help one hapless second year

Nicky before
Nicky after

Student life doesn’t lend itself to sartorial elegance. Liam O’Brien and Venetia Rainey hit town to help one hapless second year.

Nicky Woolf, like many men, and especially male students, has cast the shackles of fashion from his daily routine, proclaiming it too much effort. All too often the idea of choosing an outfit with a sense of proportion and taste taps into that most sensitive of male neuroses, the one involving perceived manhood. In the same flippant way ancient man would kill, eat and wear an animal, Nicky shops haphazardly, incorrectly and with bitter notions of social obligation. Luckily, the high street’s miraculous improvements in regard to both women’s and mens’ fashion over recent years means that it is relatively easy to purchase clothes that work a look other than hobo-chic for a relatively low price. Mannequins provide a reference point, as do the more styled individuals in society. It is just the mental hurdle that remains the problem.

However, Venetia and I did not allow this problem to rise from the dark recesses of the male psyche during our shopping trip around York, and managed to give this most unstyled of creatures a new image which we hope he will carry around campus. The full extent of the problem had become clear the night before, when Nicky unintentionally wore a summer shirt inside-out, a look he would apparently normally accompany with a straw hat. He turned up on the day wearing a potato-sack of a jacket, peasant cloth roughly formed into the shape of jeans, some dire sneakers and a one-size-fits-none Goodricke College t-shirt, the job to improve his look would at least be easy. Perhaps we learn in primary school that shapelessness is acceptable, when mother is on a crazed mission to buy anything bearing the school logo two days before the start of term. It isn’t.

The first outfit we cajoled Nicky into trying on was an H&M beige mac (inspired, like all the clones, by Burberry) with a decent pair of fitted jeans. Anything belted around the middle gives immediate cut and a waist, a look which men should get used to and practice, as puffer jackets and traditional men’s coats rarely look good. The part of the leg that appears from under a mac is generally the thinnest and best defined and, crucially, can make the outfit effortlessly stylish.

Topman proved a revelation. I endeavoured to provide Nicky with outfits that were realistically wearable (rather than the Hoxtonite colour clash that I parade around in). I chose a muted grey shirt and patterned tie to provide a look for a smarter occasion. Nicky, however, was by this time fully engaged with the whole process, and adventurously selected a pink shirt (a key colour for this season), a red version of the same tie to complement it, some decent shoes (winkle pickers), and suit trousers. After a bit of experimentation, we found that a more casual waistcoat worked better with the ensemble than a fussier, more tailored one ripped with unfathomable lack of shame from Hedi-Slimane’s Dior Homme catwalk collections. The look was a success because whilst it was neither overly serious nor ostentatious, it did embrace Nicky’s natural humour and vitality. Smart outfits have a tendency to produce discomfort in those not accustomed to wearing them and this is because most men opt for the ‘box suit’ – unfitted, dull and selected so that if drinks are spilt over the awkward garment, it is not a matter of any great importance. Topman is usually best for the ‘Rexy’ brigade, but does decent, fairly cheap clothes for most occasions and sizes.

Our final venture of the day was Joy. Nicky, perhaps endowed of a new-found knowledge of clothes, or, more likely, desperate to please Venetia and myself (who felt that he should buy something as a show of gratitude for our stylish selections and changing-room espionage photography) actually reserved some clothes for future purchase. Joy takes ideas for a great many of its clothes from MAN at Vivienne Westwood, resulting in excellently structured cardigans that make the body look taut regardless of whatever faux-pregnancy horrorshow you may be carrying around. The shop also provides a good range of inexpensive jeans that aren’t exclusively for the ‘Two-Twigs’ battalion. Nicky’s outfit from Joy works because the short, checked jacket evokes not only a kind of ‘rocker-cool’ but additionally screams ‘investment purchase’ in that tone that people use to justify high-priced items. It’s classic and could go with most things, other than, of course, check trousers. (Unless you’re from Tokyo’s Harajuku district or are modelling 1980’s Vivienne Westwood, which is about as fun to look at as the polar bear dying on ‘Planet Earth’.) The t-shirt it is teamed with is designed with a simple ‘smiley’ motif. The jacket also served to cover any bumps that the t-shirt exposed, and so even when teamed with Nicky’s gleaming white Armani trainers, the outfit was successful.

The murky world of campus dressing definately needs an overhaul, and not only is it possible on a student budget, it also helps to escape the campus bubble. You may not feel the need to dress up when you see the same people every day, but even if you believe that dressing for them is a plastic, superficial affair, then at least dress for yourself. ‘I’m a student’ may be a look, but it’s not always a good one.

Leave a comment

Please note our disclaimer relating to comments submitted. Please do not post pretending to be another person. Nouse is not responsible for user-submitted content.