Others Fashion trends

How to Dress Like an Intellectual

Mary Smith
By Mary Smith. Updated: January 16, 2017
How to Dress Like an Intellectual

If "clothes maketh the man" (or however you identify) then comporting yourself in a fashion which gives off an air of intelligence might help you towards achieving academic goals or even introduce you to social circles who can provide the intellectual stimulation your current bunch of idiotic friends seems to lack. Undoubtedly, looks can be deceiving, so take this advice with caution lest you be caught out by someone much brighter who thinks you are in their league. These tips will help you look the part, but acting it is still up to you.

Keep reading OneHowTo.com to find out How to Dress Like an Intellectual and be the belle of the ball at any local poetry reading, Ted Talk or cheese and wine social.

You may also be interested in: How To Dress Like Meghan Markle
  1. Revenge of the Nerds
  2. Academic Air
  3. Birth of the Author

Revenge of the Nerds

For those millennials who watched a lot of Saturday morning TV, you might remember that the lowest on the pecking order in any High school social dynamic was the squeaky voiced nerd whose horn-rimmed glasses were as thick as branches and their trousers hovered somewhere around nipple level. However, since the beginning of the 21st century, many of the stereotypical attributes we would have only applied to social outcasts have become popular and even fashionable.

Perhaps the rise of the internet and greater dissemination of information means that people now place more value on intelligence, or perhaps the same thing means people have easier access to resources (such as this one) to pretend they have it. Either way, here are some options to consider:

  • Thick glasses
  • High waisted trousers (like the ones made popular by Joaquin Phoenix in the film Her)
  • Ironic T shirts with obscure references you have to explain (having a condescending tone while doing so can help)
  • Keeping pens in the top pocket of your white sleeveless shirt
  • Chequered pants or skirts which wouldn't look out of place in a 1950's chemistry lab
  • Wearing thick soled shoes which look like you need them for orthopaedic reasons (again these are currently very popular for some reason, perhaps good posture is 'in')
How to Dress Like an Intellectual - Revenge of the Nerds

Academic Air

The aforementioned nerd look is one which is often more common to the youthful intellectual wannabe. For those who want to have the mien which conveys a more mature intelligence, we should turn from science to the humanities. The glasses often stay the same, but the clothes go from that laboratory polyester look to a more distinguished tweed commonly found in the Oxbridge or Ivy League set. You want something which would look more at home beside a roaring fire with a deer's head mounted above it than by the lockers round the corner from the physics department.

To achieve this look, make the following considerations:

  • Material is important as a durable tweed or corduroy gives the impression that you care more about what's going on up there rather than such frivolous concerns as comfort
  • Sleeveless sweater vests go well with a pleated skirt or khaki pant and are useful for the autumnal vibe which somehow imparts cleverness (as tropical print and Bermuda shorts seem to do the opposite)
  • Elbow patches for good elbow support while reading in the library
  • A bow tie can give off that professorial air, but introduce a cravat into the equation and you're playing with fire
  • Using antiquated equipment like typewriters and gramophones rather than the much more user-friendly PCs and iPods seems like an unintelligent idea, but the look it gives is the opposite
How to Dress Like an Intellectual - Academic Air

Birth of the Author

Where can someone look more academic than on the dust cover of a book jacket? Woody Allen's recent film offering Midnight in Paris was a paean to the ex-pat writers who made up the Lost Generation of 1920's France and part of his evident adoration was because they all just looked so... cool.

Although there might be some cross-over with the academic style, what makes this look stand out is the influence of Bohemianism. The "boho-chic" look was previously popularized by authors like Virginia Wolf and Pre-Raphaelite style icons like Sophie Gray. This look is as much about accessories as clothes, so stop worrying about the extortionate prices of a new moleskin and think about introducing these styles:

  • Floral print makes you seem at one with nature and provides a subtle link to Greco-Roman gods and goddesses, names of whom you should drop into conversation when making metaphors (e.g. "Lugging my copy of the collected works of Emile Zola across the inner-quadrangle was a Sisyphean endeavor")
  • Paisley can work in a similar way, but be careful as it can just make you look like you're having a midlife crisis
  • Leather jackets, not like a West Side Story street tough, more like something Katharine Hepburn would don when crossing the Atlantic in a bi-plane
  • Smoking jacket, the kind in which Sherlock Holmes would solve cases (a pipe which you never smoke would add to your pretentiousness no end)
  • Long flowing dresses, something you can bunch up to sit on when reading in the park
  • Boho chic hairstyles
  • Carrying books and a notepad is the easiest "go-to" intellectual look (a handy tip is to go to your local artisan coffee house and every time you take out your money to pay, produce a seemingly endless supply of notebooks, newspaper clippings and quotations written on stained napkins)
How to Dress Like an Intellectual - Birth of the Author

Of course the best way to look like an intellectual is to be one. It is the pioneers and firebrands of the present who set the styles of the future, so if you really want to look intelligent you can start by reading more books and paying attention in class rather than the nearest TJ Maxx. Ernest Hemingway wrote in A Moveable Feast "Pay no attention to your clothes... and buy your clothes for comfort and durability and you will have the clothes money to buy pictures".

For a more serious look at some styles you can emulate, take a look at these articles on How to Dress Parisian Chic and How to Get a Boho-Chic Look.

If you want to read similar articles to How to Dress Like an Intellectual, we recommend you visit our Fashion & Style category.

Write a comment
What did you think of this article?
1 of 4
How to Dress Like an Intellectual