Nostalgia for a Past Unlived

Anyone who knows me could probably describe my summer uniform easily – a band tee, black jeans, black sneakers. If I’m feeling adventurous, I might even throw on black shorts in place of jeans. For no real reason, I decided it was high time for something different. Something between the heritage functionality of Engineered Garments and the laid back sportiness of Battenwear, a style I will simply refer to as the Camp Counselor look.

When I was a Boy Scout and still went to summer camp, this was always the kind of clothing I’d end up dreaming about part-way through the week but had neither the knowledge nor resourcefulness to assemble. A common theme that I will always come back to in terms of my fashion is the theme of nostalgia. This is a style that evokes a nostalgia for a past I never had, somewhere between a boy scout in the 1960’s and the victim of a summer camp serial killer in a 1980’s slasher. It’s a look designed to be comfortable, familiar, and affordable.

So let’s talk about items.

The first and, in my opinion, perhaps the most important is the shorts. Nothing speaks to me more of summers past than a good pair of shorts, the shorter the better. To really drive the whole camp look home, my personal preference is for a pair of vintage Boy Scout shorts. Frankly, they look great and they’re cheap, generally falling under $25. If perhaps, you don’t love the idea of musty canvas shorts, small nylon shorts do make an appearance. Hell, even some denim shorts can work, though I’m not sure I’m personally a fan.

Next is the top. So long as the other elements of the outfit evoke the style, I feel like this area has the most lenience. Though wherever possible my preference still leans towards going all in. In this case, vintage t-shirts are my favorite, especially ones for Scout camps. When working with olive shorts, white or preferably off white shirts look the best, keeping the overall vibe fairly lighthearted. Though hell, even a well placed band tee could even work, this Title Fight one is pretty cool.

When the weather is slightly cooler, you can freely add the odd layer. My recommendations would be basic sweatshirts, especially with collegiate graphics, button-downs in chambray or clean plaids, or the ubiquitous LL Bean anorak.

Finally, we get to footwear, probably my personal favorite and the category which inspired this whole idea. Only a few months ago I would never be caught dead thinking such a thought, but you can’t go wrong with a classic pair of moccasins. My personal favorite brand is Yuketen, the brand responsible for the Mocs pictured right, which are mine. Though if you are concerned about about price, it may be harder to find offerings from the likes of Yuketen, Quoddy, or Russell at a low cost. However, it’s hard to go wrong with offerings from LL Bean or Bass Weejuns.

If perhaps Moccasins aren’t your thing, there are some great other options, Birkenstocks in the Boston and Arizona iterations are not only great options, but well loved by all. Speaking of well loved, you can always go with a pair of classic sneakers, white high top Converse or Jack Purcells are the first to come to mind. Hell, the recent A$AP Nast Jack Purcell is different enough to standout but still a comfortably familiar look.

Lastly, accessories. My favorite is a good classic bag, backpacks especially. My preferred bag is the Topo Designs Klettersack, mine comes in orange and, after four years together, has been one of the best purchases I’ve ever made. They also have a great duffel bag in a similar style.

Additionally, you can more fully pose as someone who goes into the outdoors with the odd Victorinox Swiss Army, perhaps hanging from the belt? Speaking of belts, let’s talk about those as well. I’m specifically a huge sucker for a tooled leather belt, mine (not pictured) has a bunch of rodeo and bull-riding references.

There you have it, my idea of how to dress like you’re about to get axe murdered by the husk of a bullied camper, now get out there into the woods and whittle, or catch dysentery, or whatever people used to do at summer camp.

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