College students spending less on clothing, more on electronics

Electronic gadgetsCollege kids are opting to scale back their wardrobes and save their pennies for new gadgets, according to a study in today's WWD.

Students will have spent a projected $13 billion on electronics by the end of this year -- more than twice what they'll likely have spent on clothing and accessories: $5.77 billion.

This makes sense considering the economic environment -- but it also makes sense considering the college environment.
On college campuses, communication and entertainment are prioritized above fashion. The laptop, cell phone and mp3 player are the holy trinity of student necessities -- and most kids use these things every single day. When budgets are strained, college students splurge on electronics not just because they know they'll get their wear out of them, but also because electronics have an endless set of college-specific applications and justifications. Duke and Stanford both integrated iPods into their curricula nearly five years ago; Missouri University this year required all journalism students to have either an iPhone or an iPod touch. It's hard to build a Facebook presence without a digital camera. And if you're moving into a dorm room the size of a cereal box, a small flat-screen TV (versus a bulky unit) just makes a lot of sense.

Once students convince themselves to invest in such pricey items, there's not much cash left over for clothing. For many of them, this works. Of course, students like to look good as much as any other segment of the population, but their apparel needs are often different than anyone else's. The college wardrobe naturally splits into two categories: extremely casual (think almost-pajamas) clothing for day, and trendy, going-out clothing for night. The former is easy to recycle, the latter easy to buy on the cheap. No college girl should ever spend more than $50 on a pair of heels -- between tiny closets, long, cross-campus walks and unforeseen party fouls, those things are bound to get destroyed.

If you're going to blow a bit of your budget on clothing (this goes for girls and guys), opt for a North Face fleece. The jacket's collegiate popularity isn't unfounded: they're warm, light and durable. More importantly, they miraculously bridge the gap between the college wardrobe classes -- they work as well with your chem lab sweats as they do your Thursday-night getup. Just make sure you write your name on the tag before tossing yours onto the frat-party coat pile.
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