Summer vacation is over. It’s time for back to school and/or back to work. But when it comes to getting geared up for fall, why let the kids have all the fun? So while this is a shameless rationalization for shopping (and 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 heartburn to the person in your house who signed the field trip permission slip.
Backpack —> Briefcase
- WP Standard “The Woodward” Briefcase – $348 (Shown above. Full review here.)
- Satchel & Page Waxed Aviator Briefcase – $365
- Johnston & Murphy Full Grain Leather Briefcase – $208 ($259)
- Boconi Slim Zipster Laptop Briefcase – $120 ($298)
- Hook & Albert Black Leather Briefcase – $335
- Made in the USA Filson Original Briefcase – $450
- Made in the USA Gustin Delux Briefcase in Horween Nut Dublin Brown – $349 (gotta wait for the campaign to re-open since Gustin is a pre-order business model.)
- NEWHEY Waxed Canvas Briefcase – $39.99 (shown at the very top of the post. One of those Amazon generics. Tiny Review: It’s fine enough. Exterior really is waxed canvas. Interior is fine, but the lining feels loose and like it could rip easily. Not gonna light anyone’s trousers on fire with passion, but, it’s forty bucks!)
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. And yes, like many other things out there, finding one of these at a reasonable price is getting more and more difficult. It’s either super cheap stuff, or high end luxury. For something fairly priced but also very well made, try WP Standard or Satchel & Page. And keep on eye on Nordstrom Rack. Sometimes higher end briefcases will end up over there on a discount.
Textbooks —> Style Books
- A Man and His Watch – $30
- Dressing the Man – $44.34
- Esquire The Handbook of Style – $12.99
- Dappered’s “Start Here” Guide – FREE (Aren’t we nice. No cheesy “e-book” nonsense here.)
In case you’re at the point where you’d like to fill out your bookshelf with something other than “intro to bio-chem.” There are 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. We won’t even make you sign up for our email list. I know. It’s any wonder we’re still in business after all these years.
New “Nice” Clothes —> New Nice Clothes!
- Suitsupply Navy Check Havana Jacket – $449
- Spier & Mack Suits in Navy, Charcoal, Med. Gray, – $368
- Rhone Italian Tech Fabric Commuter Shirts – $128
- Bonobos Unconstructed Italian Wool Blazer – $450
- Banana Republic Slim LUXE Traveler Jean – $130
- Ledbury Fine Twill Non-Iron Custom Dress Shirt – $125
- Flint & Tinder 365 Pants – $98
- J. Crew Checker-stitch Cotton Shawl Cardigan Sweater – $138
- Allen Edmonds Marin Double Monk Strap with Dainite Rubber Sole – $319.97 ($425)
- Kent Wang Grenadine Ties – $75
Remember when your folks or Grandma would drag you to JC Penney 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. Dressing well should feel as good as it looks. So if you have the means and the time, take revenge on those awful, pre-6th-grade trips to Kohl’s, Mervyn’s, or TJ Maxx, and maybe splurge on something that looks great, feels good, and most importantly, fits. Treat yourself. And stay tuned for our annual Fall Temptation series. They’re our annual roundups of the best new (affordable) clothes, shoes, outerwear, and more for the colder seasons ahead. Those should land on the site sometime in the next couple weeks. Thanks for the patience.
Notebooks —> Nice Notebooks/Notepads/Journals
- Paperblanks Journals $18.95 – $34.95
- Alexa Pulitzer Long Pads – $16
- Appointed Notebook – $24
- 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 old 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. Physically writing (typing just doesn’t seem to work as well) is the key that unlocks neuroplasticity, which is your brain’s capacity to alter well worn pathways (habits) into new, more beneficial ones.
Pens/Pencils —> A nice pen
- Retro 1951 Tornado Classic Lacquer Pen – $25
- Lamy Safari Fountain Pen – $19 (shown on top of the long pad in the notebooks shot)
- Made in the USA Brass Embassy Pen – $98
- Karas Kustoms Bolt V2 – $90+
- Fisher Original Astronaut Space Pen – $67
- Kaweco Fountain Pen – $20
And you’ll need something to write with. 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.
New Gym Clothes —> New Sportswear/Athleisure
- PROOF Seamless Hoodie – $51 FINAL ($128)
- Lululemon Pace Breaker Linerless Short 9″ – $39 – $49 FINAL ($68)
- Bonobos The Crossover Jogger – $59 – $118
- Lululemon Down For It All Hooded Puffer – $198
- adidas Tiro Training Pants – $30 – $40ish
- Lululemon Warpstreme Joggers – $128
- Target Goodfellow Pintuck Jogger Pants – $24.99
- Brooks Brothers Ribbed French Terry Cargo Joggers – $49.99 FINAL ($128)
- Nike Nike Dri-FIT Academy Pro Short-Sleeve Shirt – $25 (Can vouch for these. Really comfortable. Fit isn’t loose but isn’t skin tight either. My 5’10” / 180-185 takes a size large and they fit pretty much perfect.
Because athleisure isn’t going anywhere, and technology’s 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 (if you’re old enough)? Thankfully, the techwear revolution has brought us lightweight, breathable, flexible fabrics.
New Shoes —> New Shoes
- Allen Edmonds Park Avenue – $395
- Nike Air Max Flyknit Racer – $160
- Stan Smith Primegreen – $80 ($100) $60 for members (exp 8/24)
- Grant Stone Traveler Penny Storm Suede – $312
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. Here we are.
Boots/Galoshes —> Dress or Heritage Work Boots
- Allen Edmonds Higgins Mill Weatherproof Boots in Chili, Black, Brown, or Natural CXL – $445 (review here)
- Hamilton Cap-Toe Oxford Dress Boot – $249.978 ($425)
- Taylor Stitch Goodyear Welted Chukkas in Weatherproof Loden Suede – $198 FINAL ($298)
- Huckberry Rhodes Blake Boot Chelsea – $198
- Huckberry All-Weather Duckboot II – $188
- J. Crew Goodyear Welted Kenton Pacer Boots in Horween Chromexcel leather – $298
- White’s Perry Moc Toe Boots – $310 (review here)
- Golden Fox Boondocker Service Boots – $120 (review here)
- Loake Pimlico Chukkas – $345 (shown at the very top of the post. Outbound shipping is free, but you’re on the hook for international returns.)
Used to hate being forced to put on boots for the winter 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.
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. Get stuff that means something to you. Or get something that means totally nothing but looks nice. For the curious looking for something not so serious, try “replace face” on society6).
Alarm Clock —> A New Watch (alarm equipped or very much not)
- Seiko 5- Sports Dive Style Automatic – $220ish when on sale ($295)
- Q Timex 1978 Reissue Day Date – $179
- Nodus Avalon II – $700
- Lorier Neptune IV – $499 (releasing soon?)
- Orient Bambino V2 – $150ish
- Dan Henry 1937 Dress Chrono – $270 (shown at the very top of the 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.
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, Dopp Kit, Catchall, etc.
- Boarding Pass “Hey Handsome” Shaving Kit Bag – $49
- WP Standard “The Utility Pouches” – $98
- Saddleback Toiletry Bag – $199
- Target Goodfellow 3 in 1 Nylon Backpack – $29.99
- Made in the USA Best Made 9″ Strongbox – $39.95
- Made in the USA Mitchell Leather Co. Valet Trays – $99
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, as well as all the Teachers who are digging into their own pockets to buy supplies for their classrooms. Which is ridiculous that has to happen, ever. And it happens often. If you want to help out, check out Donors Choose and the projects teachers put up on that platform for funding.