Loafers

As a young man growing up in Texas, I defined the clothes I owned into three categories: casual clothes, business attire and formal wear. I never ventured out of these categories because I never cared to find out if there were other ways for men to dress. Well, as I would find out during my first year in college, there is a large variety to pick from, and spring is the perfect time to start.

Streetwear, prep and workwear are the three most predominant styles in younger men’s fashion. Of the three, prep is the most flexible style, making it easy to approach with little to no experience. It has strong roots in British and American academia. When people think Ivy League, they’re thinking about prep.

In the South, the style has proven to be very versatile because it doesn’t require several layers of clothing to achieve a strong look. This is because a major tenant of the style is to be able to change a look from casual to semi-formal to formal just by adding or removing clothing. Therefore, it’s a good springboard to take the plunge into a life of dressing better.

Now that you have an idea of what to go for, you might be asking what you need for this spring and summer. Here’s a basic list of prep wear that will get you through the next few months:

• Oxford Cloth Button-downs – T-shirts have no place in prep, button downs are the staple here — just make sure to roll the sleeves up. Go out and purchase four OCBD’s in solid white, light blue, light pink and navy. The prints in this season are pinpoint dots, watercolor and tropical — so if you can buy one or two. However, be careful, as patterns can be risky, so wear sparingly and with reservation.

• Polos – Slim fitting polos are in this season, but make sure they are made of lighter fabrics or you’ll burn up in the sun. Bright colors are the key here. Three polos in bright, warm colors and one in white will serve you well throughout spring and summer.

• Slim-fit Flat Front Chinos – This is where prep shines, especially in the South. These pants exist between casual and formal, which makes them extremely versatile. You can get away with nearly any color pants in prep and school colors are no exception. Staple colors for the spring/summer season are crimson, olive, light blue, light pink and white, but you can really go crazy here. For an added touch of prep, make sure to roll the cuffs above the ankle.

• Trimmed Chino Shorts – These follow the same rules for color as pants do, just make sure the shorts are cut slim and don’t reach past your knees.

• Blazers – Seersucker blazers are a staple of Southern prep. A good red, light blue or white blazer made of this breathable material will complete a look without dropping a sweat on even the hottest summer days.

• Sneakers – Athletic shoes are a huge faux-pas in prep. Simple design and pattern, minimal branding and solid color features are the way to go. A pair each in black, blue, crimson and white will serve you well.

• Dress Shoes – Only fine dress shoes will pass in prep. A good pair of leather shoes or boots will put you back more than $300, but if you take care of them, they’ll last for decades. For the summer make sure to grab a pair of oxfords in a light brown for regular wear. If you’re really daring, you might try picking up a pair of white bucks.

• Accessories – Leather goods are the way to go here. You’ll be tucking in all your shirts, so a couple of good leather belts are an essential addition to your wardrobe. A decent watch and a few slim, silk ties are another good investment to make. To pull everything together, invest in a good leather suitcase or backpack.

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