Hear Us Out: You Should Dress Like a Camp Kid — Even When You’re an Adult
You'll look anything but childish
This story is part of our Dog Days Survival Guide, a collection of essays, recommendations and how-tos to help you get through the hottest days of the year.
Growing up, I was envious of kids who attended summer camp, of the camaraderie and lifelong friendships it seemed to engender. The books I read as a pre-teen and teenager frequently featured characters attending summer camp and finding themselves transformed by the experience. I yearned for my own transformation, and when I finally got the opportunity to go to my first sleepaway camp, I believed I would return a markedly different person, my time at camp altering me both physically and emotionally. But I went to Bible camp (because it was the one my friends attended) which proved to be nothing like the fictional camps I had come to know — it was an alienating and uncomfortable experience, enough to turn me off from ever going again.
Yet despite my own less than ideal experience, I still find myself nostalgic for summer camps. Maybe it’s induced by the muggy, hazy late-August air, or too many viewings of Wet Hot American Summer. Or maybe it’s a slight obsession with summer camp clothes, or what I believe them to be: dangerously short shorts, varsity tees (preferably cropped), white socks hiked up to the shin, and the requisite tie-dye. Even for those of us who missed out on camp, or went and wish to forget it, it’s hard not to be stirred by the inherent youthfulness of “camp” clothes, and to want to emulate it.
With August a month of restlessness, a time spent anticipating the end of summer while enduring the worst of it, why shouldn’t one dress as a pubescent camper to better help them get through it? At first it might sound absurd, but the best camp outfits consist of the basics: pieces that are slightly retro and capable of being worn separate from one another. The end of summer can prove to be melancholic, but the sense of youthfulness and nostalgia dressing like a camper provides helps to combat all of that.
Below are 10 pieces for channeling your inner camper all while still very much looking like an adult — just a really cool, super fun one.
Tracksmith Twilight Split Shorts
Short shorts are a summer camp requirement – and a summer of 2020 requirement as we told you here, here and here – so if you find your shorts are beyond fingertip length, then they’re not short enough. These Tracksmith shorts hit the mark thanks to their itty bitty inseam, and we could easily see them being worn by some 70s camp counselor, probably sporting a mustache and some aviators — you know, the cool counselor.
Urban Renewal Levi’s 501 5” Cutoff Denim Short
It’s time to finally give jorts the chance they deserve. Before you object that they’re uncool, these ones were once vintage Levi’s 501s, an iconic piece of clothing in its own right, with the legs hacked off by some previous owner. So not only do they have style, but history too. And lest we forget, Paul Rudd donned a pair in Wet Hot American Summer.
Entireworld Organic Cotton Classic T
Primary colors are key when it comes to dressing like a camper, and this bright green Entireworld tee is basic without being basic. The subtle detailing of the pale blue neckline allows the pieces to stand out from being just another t-shirt, and could even be said to encourage some colorblocking. Even when you’re dressing as a non-camper, you’ll wanna reach for this shirt.
Battenwear Pocket Tee
Sure, you could go through the rewarding process of tie-dyeing your own t-shirt, or you could opt for the equally rewarding route of buying a shirt that’s already been dyed for you. If the latter option sounds more enticing, consider this artfully dyed pocket tee from Battenwear. The parallel dye pattern is different from the traditional swirls, less hippy and more surfer (although sometimes those are one-in-the-same). It’s a tie-dye that even your parents would approve of.
Nike Air Tailwind 79
Originally debuting in 1978 at the Honolulu Marathon, Nike’s Air Tailwind 79 keeps the same vintage silhouette of the original, even using nearly the same colors and materials. And it wouldn’t be a Tailwind without the Nike Air unit, which helped propel it to icon status it maintains today.
Converse OG Pro Leather
We could’ve gone with the good ol’ Chucks, and if that’s what you already have in your repertoire they’ll work perfectly fine, but we prefer championing what we believe to be one of the brand’s more underrated silhouettes. The OG Pro Leather retains the same vintage air as Chuck Taylors, yet offer a slightly more athletic edge, letting people know you have style but you can also dunk on them, if need be.
American Trench Retro Stripe Socks
These socks have “retro” in the name so you know they qualify. Wear them loud and proud with your shortest shorts, allowing the stripes to accentuate and highlight those handsome stems of yours.
Roxanne Assoulin Yellow Starburst U-Tube Enamel and Gold-Tone Bracelet
What is summer camp without some arts and crafts? Roxanne Assouline takes the idea of homemade friendship-esque bracelets, and elevates them to pieces that even adults can wear. This rainbow-hued bracelet still has the charm of something you might be capable of making yourself, but it’s a bit more sophisticated.
J.Crew Boonie Hat
If you intend to spend the last days of August out in the sun as most campers would, you better protect that precious face of yours. A classic baseball hat is always an option, but if you really want to get into the adventurous spirit of a camper, opt for this boonie hat instead, complete with an adjustable cord so you’ll never lose it no matter what you’re doing.
Madewell Washed Cotton Bandana
Whether you’re paddling a boat, climbing a tree or just lounging in your backyard, you’re bound to work up a sweat. In the event you do, make sure you have a classic bandana handy (a camp essential) to help wipe you down and keep you cool.
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