The Poor Man’s Guide To Appearing Sophisticated


Before anyone says it, I know. I’m poor and I talk about it too much. I’m very aware of this, and I’ve probably scared off hundreds of potential Twitter suitors (suitettes?) with how often I mention it. But to be honest, I kind of like being poor. It forces you to be very deliberate about the way you spend your money. So, whereas a rich guy could see a thing that he sort of likes and then just buy it, I have to be judicious about the things I purchase. All of my material possessions were either saved for, are stylistic necessities, or were drunk purchases. That means I’ve become a master at the art of combining good taste with frugality. If you’re like me, you probably spend an inordinate amount of time trying to prove to women that you’re a man of taste.

1. Clothing And Hair

The whole “$500 T-shirt” concept has been around since the ‘80s, so it’s not anything new for most of us. Los Angeles is the worst about it. At any bar I go to, there’s a good chance that the aggregate cost of the cotton T-shirts in the establishment is in the triple digits. That’s laughably absurd. Here’s what you have to do if you’re on a serious budget–buy cheap items that are acceptable (if not even better) when bought cheap. That means soft T-shirts from Target. Hanes socks (or better, no socks). Off-brand canvas shoes. Levi’s. Cheap swim trunks (solid color, short inseam). Buy your Oxfords, khakis, and sweaters from your white bread, prep store of choice when they’re on sale. Save your bucks for the stuff that is a far superior product when you spend money on it. In most cases, this means shoes and suits. If you have a normal, business casual job, you can probably get away with only having a single sport coat to wear to the occasional suit and tie event, although I’d advise getting one really good navy or charcoal suit that’s perfectly tailored. With shoes, the key is buying the kind that work with multiple outfits. Casual Oxfords can be worn with both jeans and a suit if you match them correctly. Desert boots go with everything. Boat shoes, camp mocs, and loafers should all be high end, because if you take care of them properly, they’ll last a lifetime. Don’t wear athletic shoes unless you’re doing something athletic. Hair is simple. Go for whatever you want: long, short, shaggy, mohawk. Just make sure it has layers and that you’re not letting a pair of clippers go near your head when scissors will do.

Above all, it doesn’t matter how much money you spend on anything. The key to fashion is and always will be fit. A thrift store shirt will always look better than a shirt from a fashion house if it fits you better.

2. Have Cultivated Interests

One of the hallmarks of a well to do man is having intelligent hobbies. You may have gone to an average state school, but that doesn’t mean you can’t at least conduct yourself with the poise and style of a Hahvahd man. I’m not saying you need to own many leather-bound books and spray your apartment to smell of rich mahogany, but you should have a little more to you than just sports, shitty food, and movies that go boom. If you’ve read any of my stuff, you know that I love all three of those things with all my heart, but try to have some passions that are a little more out of the mainstream and require some finesse and intelligence. Watch films that didn’t cost $100 million to make or were made before 1970 (crazy, I know). I don’t know who started the stereotype that only old people and hipsters are into vinyl, because records are awesome. Own some books–and not just Grisham and Clancy (even though I have plenty of those). Don’t be afraid to put some literature on your shelf that’s a little challenging or out of your taste zone. Collect something interesting. Wine and cigars are acceptable and not as expensive as you’d think. Rows of empty beer or liquor bottles lining your kitchen are not acceptable. We stopped doing that in college, guys.

3. Home Decor

Basically anything that you displayed in your dorm or college house is probably off limits. However, contrary to popular belief, movie posters are still acceptable as home decorations–you just need to frame them. Don’t put them all in one room. We realized upon moving to our new place that we had an overabundance of movie posters, so there are a couple in the living room, a couple in the hallway, and the rest are spread out amongst our rooms. Get some classic stuff, too. I like “Terminator 2” as much as any American should, but old movies are good, too, you know (and no, “Rocky IV” is not an old movie). Get some Cary Grant up on your wall. If you don’t know who Cary Grant is, see the above section. Lamps are key. Fans with lights are okay, but the real secret to making your apartment look like it costs twice as much as it did is indirect lighting.

4. Have One Fancy Meal You Can Nail

I live in the purgatory of loving to cook and watching way too many cooking shows, while still eating on a college budget. I find ways to work around it, and I still eat pretty well, all things considered, but I rarely try out anything that involves exotic or pricey ingredients. I also just prefer simplicity more often than not. However, when there’s a lady you’re trying to impress, you should always have that one recipe that is deceptively complex. You’ll want to make sure that it’s not so difficult that it keeps you in the kitchen all night, but you definitely want it to be better than “[protein] served on a bed of [carbohydrate] with a side of [vegetable].” Google some recipes. Try some out. Practice the ones you like and give up on the ones you don’t.

5. Don’t Try Too Hard

These are all just suggestions. If you don’t like wine, don’t start a fucking wine collection. In fact, don’t do anything just because you think it will make you look cool. I realize that seems to go against the thesis of this article, but hear me out. Many guys my age (myself included) lived in a bubble for a long time, where all we did was hang out with a bunch of other guys, eat burgers, and yell at sports games. At night, we would go to the bar, drink a shit ton of light beer, and sometimes go home with a girl, because the girls back then had standards and expectations as low as ours. But the game changed. I’m not saying you should copy and paste your style from pictures of the Kennedys. I’m merely pointing out that there are a lot of adult things out there that can make you appear more sophisticated. You’re not faking it, because if you try out new things and incorporate the stuff you like, you’ll actually become sophisticated.

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Randall J. Knox

Randall J. Knox (known colloquially to his friends as "Knox") left his native Texas a few years ago, and moved to Los Angeles in his '03 Buick Regal named LeRoi to write movies with his jackass college buddies. His favorite things in life include bourbon that's above his pay grade, mix CDs, and Kevin Costner films. He isn't sure what "dad jeans" are exactly, but he knows he wants a pair.

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