Why let the kids have all the fun? It’s back to school time. Which also means it’s the dog days of summer, and while autumn is just around the corner, it sure doesn’t feel like it is. So while this is shameless rationalization for shopping (and really, there are a ton of reasons not to spend your hard earned cash) it still seems like a bit of fun worth having. Below you’ll find some of the most common back-to-school items translated into potential pick-ups for the grown up guy who has an eye for style. A warning: Just like Mom or Dad or Grandma or Grandpa, be prepared for sticker shock here. It’s early in the season, sales haven’t hit these new arrivals quite yet. No wonder those receipts gave Mom/Dad/Grandma/Grandpa heartburn.
Backpack —> Briefcase
- Made in the USA Gustin Delux Briefcase in Horween Nut Dublin Brown – $349
- Tumi Alpha Bravo – $196.97 ($395) shown at the top of the post
- Made in the USA Boarding Pass NYC Flight Brief – $199 currently sold out?
- Hook & Albert Black Leather Briefcase – $299
- Made in the USA Filson Original Briefcase – $325
- Made in Italy Shinola Brakeman Coated Canvas & Leather Briefcase – $495
Backpacks might be convenient, but they’re just never gonna be as professional looking as a briefcase. Look for something that’s well made from leather, canvas, or ballistic nylon, doesn’t shout in terms of style, and comes with top grab handles AND a shoulder strap for longer treks.
Textbooks —> Style Books
- A Man and His Watch – $29.20
- Dressing the Man – $24
- Esquire The Handbook of Style – $16.95
- Dappered’s “Start Here” Guide – FREE (aren’t we nice?)
In case you’re at the point where you’d like to fill out your bookshelf with something other than “intro to bio-chem.” LOTS of options out there. From coffee table style books (like A Man and his Watch) to timeless classics like Alan Flusser’s Dressing the Man. Then there’s our own Start Here page. It’s not a book. Or even an e-book. It’s just a part of this site. It’s basically our playbook. And it’s free.
Notebooks —> Notebooks/Notebook Covers
- FormFunctionForm Architect’s Wallet – $66 w/ FFFinghotsummer ($88) code ends today, 8/9
- FormFunctionForm The Slip Notebook Cover – $66 w/ FFFinghotsummer ($88) ditto^
- Appointed Notebook – $24
- Wipebook Pro+ – $45
- Moleskin XL – $22
- Field Notes – $10 and up / 3 pk
Dirt cheap or spendy. Tiny or enormous. Whatever your preference, now’s not a bad time to see if you need a new stack of stuff to scribble in. And if you’re rolling your eyes at using good ol’ pen and paper in the digital age? Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it. Using a notebook and pen or pencil is a lot like wearing a wristwatch. The benefits over your smartphone are numerous.
New “Nice” Clothes —> New Nice Clothes!
- Suitsupply Navy Check Havana Jacket – $399
- Bonobos Unconstructed Italian Wool Blazer – $450
- Spier and Mackay Super 120s wool English Cut Suit – $448
- Flint & Tinder 365 Pants – $98
- Banana Republic Slim LUXE Traveler Jean – $129
- Ledbury The White Fine Twill Mid-Spread Dress Shirt – $79 ($135)
- TheTieBar Perfect Tipped Merino Wool Cardigan Sweater – $65
- J. Crew Wool/Cotton/Poly KNIT Jackets – $188
- Kent Wang Grenadine Ties – $75
Remember when your folks or Grandma would drag you to JC Penney or Kohl’s to buy you itchy, ill fitting, ugly clothes for school that somehow got labeled as “nice”? I’m convinced that’s where many men developed the (wrong) idea that dressing “nice” is irritating and uncomfortable. In fact, it’s the opposite. So if you have the means and the time, take revenge on those awful, pre-6th-grade trips to the “Husky” section at Sears (I was there too my fellas), and get something that looks great, feels good, and most importantly, fits.
New Gym Clothes —> New Sportswear/Athleisure
- Lululemon Down For It All Hoodie – $198
- adidas Tiro Training Pants – $40ish
- Lululemon Warpstreme Joggers – $128
- Old Navy Slim Ultimate Tech Jogger – $40
- Nike Dri-FIT Academy Soccer Top – $25
- Under Armour MK-1 Printed Short Sleeve – $26.97 ($35)
- PROOF Shift Knit Tech Pullover – $63.98 ($98)
Because athleisure isn’t going anywhere, and boy has technology come a long way when it comes to the clothes you sweat in. Remember all that heavy cotton crap you had to write your name on with a sharpie back in middle/high school? Thankfully, the techwear revolution has brought us lightweight, breathable, flexible fabrics.
New Shoes —> New Shoes
- Allen Edmonds Strand in Mahogany – $395 review here
- Stan Smith Primegreen – $100
- Allen Edmonds Marin Double Monk Strap with Dainite Rubber Sole – $425
- OBRA 240 Canvas Low Wrap Toe Sneaker – $130
- Banana Republic Hadley Italian Leather Brogue Oxford – $94.80 when 40% off ($158)
- Made in Italy Johnston & Murphy Ridgeland Cap Toe Oxford – $299.90 (was just $180 during anniv. sale)
- Spier & Mackay Brogue Cap-Toe Balmorals in Dark Brown – $248
- Nordstrom Diego Double Monk Strap – $99.90
- Nike Air Tailwind – $90
Dress shoes or sneakers. Or both? Or both! Usually a stop at the shoe store/shoe section in the department store was a requirement during back to school shopping. Both for “nice” shoes, and gym shoes. So yeah, why not both?
Boots/Galoshes —> Dress or Heritage Work Boots
- Grant Stone Diesel Boot in Crimson Chromexcel – $340
- Huckberry Rhodes Cap Toe Boots – $126.98 ($230)
- Huckberry Rhodes Blake Boot Chelsea – $198 shown at the very top of the post
- Allen Edmonds Weatherproof Daltons in Brown or Chili – $349.97 ($495)
- Red Wing 6″ Moc Toe Boots – $290
- Made in England Goodyear Welted Loake 1880 Pimlico Suede Chukkas – $251.10 w/ TODD10 ($425)
Used to hate being forced to put on boots for the walk to school. HATED it. They were ugly, clunky, uncomfortable things. My how times have changed. Now many of us can’t wait for boot season. So many types of boots worth owning… so little time to wear them.
Pens/Pencils —> A nice pen
- Retro 1951 Tornado Classic Lacquer Pen – $29
- Made in the USA Brass Embassy Pen – $98
- Lamy Safari Fountain Pen – $20 – $28
- Karas Kustoms Bolt V2 – $95+
- Fisher Original Astronaut Space Pen – $59
- Kaweco Fountain Pen – $19
No, you don’t have to get insane and go for something in the hundreds or thousands (pens can get stupid expensive) of dollars. Just something that feels good in the hand, and is a real pleasure to write with. I like to physically write stuff down. So, I’ve tried a bunch of pens. I keep, KEEP coming back to the Lamy Safari. Cheap plastic, but writes like a darn dream. I don’t know how. But it does.
Art Supplies —> Art for your home or office
Whether it’s an original by a friend or a local artist, or a picture you took that you’ve always wanted to have printed on canvas, or a classic off Art.com or somewhere like that, treating yourself to something new on the wall is rarely a bad idea. (shown above, 2 out of the 3 are canvas prints by “replace face” on society6).
Alarm Clock —> A New Watch (alarm equipped or very much not)
- Casio 200m Dive Watch in Blue or Black – $60 – $69
- Orient Bambino Small Seconds Automatic – $160ish
- Q Timex 1978 Reissue Day Date – $169
- Nodus Retrospect III – $475
- Armogan E.N.B. Chrono – $130 FINAL ($220)
- Seiko Presage “Style 60’s” SRPG line – $525
- Seiko Automatic 5 Sports Gray Nylon Strap Watch 40mm – $222.75 w/ SHINE (shown at very top of post)
Most everyone uses their phone for an alarm these days anyway, and at least a watch is something that’ll help you get to where you need to be, on time, once you roll out of bed. But remember back when there was that dreadful day where you had to either A. get an alarm clock (for the first time! welcome to the real world kid!), or B. set your alarm again for the first time since the beginning of summer? I think a lot of us can remember the specific sound our old clock radios or stand alone alarm clocks use to make. Mine went: BE-BE-BE-BEEP!!… BE-BE-BE-BEEP!!…
Loose Leaf —> Stationery
- Terrapin Stationers Golden Rooster Stationery – $18
- Art of Manliness True North Letterpress Stationery – $23.99
A little different than notebooks. Why? Because Loose Leaf was usually something you’d write on, but eventually hand over to someone else. Same goes for stationery.
Lunchbox —> Tote, Pouch, or Dopp Kit
- Saddleback Toiletry Bag – $189
- WP Standard “The Utility Pouches” – $98
- Banana Republic Camouflage Large Tote Bag – $59.50
- Patagonia Black Hole Gear Tote – 61L – $99 that’s a lot of lunch!
- Best Made 9″ Strongbox – $44.95
- Mark & Graham Personalized Acacia Wood Valet Tray – $39
A smaller thing to put smaller things in that otherwise wouldn’t have fit in, or, needed to be contained within the bigger thing that you put bigger things in. Got all that?
Good luck to all of the parents out there with kids who have to do REAL back to school shopping. Also, if you’re still in school? Good luck with the seemingly endless rising costs of tuition and books and all that stuff.
This post originally ran in 2018 but has since been updated with current product suggestions.