I just read how to dress like a liberal arts student. I’m a liberal arts student, though, and I’ve never seen anyone wear bird feathers or five inch heels to class. This may be because I go to a Southern liberal arts school. It sounds like an oxymoron, I know. Southern and liberal? Is that a thing? It is, though. At Southern liberal arts colleges, we try to look anything but weird and kooky. We like conformity. We value embroidered logos, pastel hues, and rugby stripes. We use our conservative clothes to veil, not accentuate, our prescription pill habits and our burgeoning alcoholism. The look we aspire to won’t be found anywhere in Vogue or Harper’s BAZAAR—so here, I’ll try to provide a comprehensive guide to dressing like a Southern liberal arts student.
For men, the goal is to look like you’re a 45-year-old corporate executive on the weekend. Wear collared shirts at all times, either polo or button up (sleeves rolled up, of course, and never unbutton more than the first button). Wear khakis—rarely jeans, never cargo pants. When it comes to shorts, the smaller the inseam, the better. For casual events, crewneck sweatshirts, lacrosse pinnies, or frat tanks may be worn. Some names you should know: Vineyard Vines, Southern Tide, Patagonia. Make sure the name and/or logo of the brand is visible at all times, whether it’s a pink whale, a tiny fish, or a scenic mountain range.
Accessories are, of course, equally important. Sunglasses are the number one staple of a Southern liberal arts student’s wardrobe. Get a pair of Costa del Mars, BluBlockers, or the timelessly classic Ray-Bans. Keep track of your sunglasses with Croakies—a device that allows them to hang around your neck when not being worn—that have preferably been acquired for free at a promotional event. Always wear a belt—monogrammed, if you can swing it. Acceptable footwear includes boat shoes—it doesn’t matter if you’ve never sailed in your life—Rainbow sandals, or the hideously unattractive Wallabys. Helpful accessories: a color-coordinated koozie in which to hold your beer, a backwards baseball cap, a bowtie, and an expensive watch.
Women should aim to look like the wife of the aforementioned corporate executive. When weather permits (as it often does in the South), sundresses are the best option—in florals, stripes, polka dots, or solids, and never too short, tight, or revealing. You wouldn’t want to look like a state school girl, would you? Anything from Lilly Pulitzer is always acceptable; Gap, Banana Republic, and J. Crew can be cheaper options. In the colder months, leggings, Ugg boots, and North Face jackets are wardrobe necessities, with peacoats at the ready for more formal occasions. Jeans are okay when paired with a polo or an oxford, and remember your logo rules. A good Southern liberal arts student goes to the gym every day—for workouts, wear Nike athletic shorts (also known as norts) and a t-shirt from a social event that shows your popularity.
Accessories are easy—every girl needs a pair of big, dark sunglasses (they really help for walks of shame and stumbling your way to Sunday brunch—Ray-Bans are preferred) and a purse—a Kate Spade, a Vera Bradley, or an L.L. Bean tote are good options. For summer, a giant, floppy hat is an essential, especially for WASP-y events like Carolina Cup, a must-attend for Southern liberal arts students. Blonde hair helps. Rainbow flip-flops, boat shoes, and even TOMs (for our more environmentally friendly peers) are acceptable footwear.
The most important thing to remember, though, when dressing like a Southern liberal arts student, is that attitude is everything. Act like you’re better/cooler/smarter than everyone else. Don’t care too much about anything. Make lots of references to your beach house at Bald Head Island, your ski chalet in Aspen, and your spring break trip to Cabo. Everyone outside your friend group might think you’re a douche, but that’s kind of the point.