Mastering the College Professor Look

Words by: Chris Hogan

I’ve been growing a beard recently. Not a mountain man beard, just a nice trim one to see how it looks. There have been a number of very nice comments that fall in the “wow, you look pretty good with a beard” category.

One that caught me off guard – in a good way – was when a friend said, “Nice, you look like a college professor”. In addition to the evolving beard, I had on khakis, an oxford, saddle bucks, and yes, a corduroy sport coat. In fact, I did sort of look like a college professor.

That got me thinking; what exactly is the “college professor” look and why is it so interesting? First off, this classic Ivy League look can be more accurately described as a 1930s prep school teacher look. It combines two unique elements: a timeless, idealized version of the privileged life and the intellectualness of an exclusive liberal arts education. Though it may sound a little esoteric, this is a very emotional and evocative style of dress. Just saying “tweed” or “leather dispatch case” does not capture the unique connection many people have to this look.

Think of the outfits worn in such films as “Dead Poets Society,” “A Beautiful Mind,” and any “Harry Potter” movie. The clothes themselves provide an emotional touchstone that quickly defines where you are and who you are. It is a sort of intellectual uniform, a symbol of belonging that is timeless and appealing.

Ralph Lauren in particular has captured the college professor look, completed with leather bags, horn rim glasses and appropriately Oxbrige inspired backgrounds.

A key element to achieving this wonderful look is to not overdo it. The college professor look is at its best when you appear to have not thought a great deal about it. Tweed or corduroy coats, chunky sweaters layered over old button down shirts and school ties, grey flannels, corduroy pants, or heavy khakis. They are simple and classic components that, when combined, create an instantly recognizable image.

Accessories are also important. Try a leather folio or full scale gusseted legal briefcase. Classic pens and watches work best here, as does traditional footwear. Suede shoes, heavy brogues, and dressy boots are good choices. For cooler days, wear a scarf in a nice tartan or your school colors. A hat may appear a little too affected, but try and pull it off if you wish.

The overall effect should be of a natty intellectual.  If you are ever in doubt, just think of the ultimate stylish college professor, Indiana Jones.