Intellectual Chic – Modernizing Your Look with ‘Brainy’ Style

Intellectual Chic – Modernizing Your Look with ‘Brainy’ Style

When someone claims to be sapiosexual, they might just be envisioning individuals sporting the Intellectual Chic fashion trend.

Riding the wave of fashion inspiration from the past, the allure of intellectual beauty is making a comeback with a fresh twist. An appearance that is both scholarly and sophisticated can create an irresistible charm, living up to the mantra “brainy is the new sexy.”

What is Intellectual Chic?

Perhaps you’ve come across the trend of “Old Money,” which once made waves on social media (the hashtag #oldmoneyaesthetic has over 1.6 billion views on TikTok). Intellectual Chic is a more subdued version of this aristocratic fashion style. It maintains a classical essence without aging the wearer, delivering an appearance that’s “bookish” yet vibrant and liberating.

Intellectual Chic favored by many fashion enthusiasts | Source: Pinterest

The lifestyles of the aristocracy and upper class have always been a captivating theme, inspiring numerous movies and TV shows, providing a foundation for many novels. You can spot Intellectual Chic, or the “intellectual” style, in school-themed series featuring outstanding students like Harry Potter, Elite, Gossip Girl, Social Network, where the outfits exude a scholarly vibe while remaining incredibly youthful and elegant.

Harry Potter and the costumes with a strong intellectual, scholarly vibe at the wizarding school | Source: HP

A long-sleeved white Oxford shirt is an indispensable item for this fashion style. Combined with a vest, a head-poking sweater, an outer coat, chino pants, and accentuated with accessories like glasses and loafers, you can effortlessly achieve the quintessential Intellectual Chic look.

A design evoking the feel of Intellectual Chic from Lemaire | Source: Lemaire

Intellectual Chic also serves as a creative muse for collections from brands such as Lemaire and The Row. If you’re seeking a daily style that exudes intellect and sophistication, suitable for both office spaces, educational institutions, and leisure spots, Intellectual Chic is the keyword to add to your wardrobe.

Why Intellectual Elegance is Having Its Moment?

For many, the lives of the elite and upper class are the epitome of dream-worthy existence. Media has painted a romantic picture around the idea: if you adopt the style of the upper class, you might just get a glimpse into that world. Alongside this, intellect has long been something that earns a person respect. While this aspect is often associated with one’s mindset and knowledge, fashion, in a way, helps individuals construct that intellectual facade.

According to Veblen’s theory, many tend to engage in conspicuous consumption as they aim to impress their peers and desire to attain a higher social standing. It’s not just about a love for fashion; many draw inspiration from the upper class because they want to be perceived as part of that elevated social stratum.

Therefore, the popularity of Intellectual Chic, or its predecessor, Old Money, is not a new phenomenon.

Intellectual Chic conjures images of the “Ivy League Look.” The fashion of students from prestigious universities worldwide is indeed something worth experimenting with. Importantly, you don’t need to spend a fortune to look more intellectual. The fashion of esteemed universities creates an image of neat and smart students, combining khaki pants, a belt, white canvas sneakers, a navy blue Oxford shirt, and a gray crewneck sweater.

Ivy League look for male students | Source: New Yorker

The sophistication of Intellectual Chic lies in avoiding clothing with bold logos that might be too ostentatious. The elegance and refinement of Intellectual Chic are reflected in the fabric and lines of the outfits. Pieces like Ralph Lauren shirts and Brunello Cucinelli vests exude comfort, ease, while still maintaining an air of intellect and style. For those who appreciate a more understated approach, this is undoubtedly a style you cannot overlook.

Intellectual Chic embodies subtle, unassuming elegance | Source: IVY

What makes Intellectual Chic so beloved is the harmonious blend of refined fashion and youthful vibes. It’s not as stern and serious as the girl boss or old money styles, nor is it overly vibrant and juvenile like Y2K. Intellectual Chic strikes a balance that allows the wearer to exude a confident and reliable demeanor. Especially in the current trend of sustainable fashion, this style is both practical and resistant to fleeting trends.

How to Master the Intellectual Chic Style

With neutral colors and comfortable everyday materials at the forefront, you can mix and match various clothing items to achieve an Intellectual Chic look. Starting with the classic Oxford shirt, here are some items you can incorporate into your Intellectual Chic style:

1. Wool Sweater

Not only does a wool sweater keep you warm, but it also provides a classic and soft feel. With various styles such as V-neck, turtleneck, or cardigans, you can wear a wool sweater alone or layer it over a T-shirt or button-down shirt.

A sweater paired with a shirt can indeed make you look more intellectual and composed | Source: LaMode

A turtleneck sweater paired with a long skirt brings simplicity and elegance | Source: jihoonkm

Source: irisloveunicorns

For a more playful look, consider a wool vest, paired with knee-length shorts and a bright-colored scarf.

2. Tweed Fabric Outfits

Originating from Scotland, tweed became popular after Prince Albert of the United Kingdom purchased Balmoral Castle and introduced Balmoral tweed, which became associated with royalty.

Since the 1800s, tweed has been a favored fabric among the British upper class for its sophistication. It exudes reliability and maturity due to its sturdy texture, in contrast to fabrics prone to wrinkles. Tweed gives an overall tailored appearance, adding depth to the wearer’s persona.

A men’s tweed vest ensemble | Source: Tumblr

A tweed jacket in pastel hues keeps the wearer youthful while conveying a sense of seriousness and professionalism | Source: Pinterest

Seeking contrast by pairing a bright cardigan with dark innerwear | Source: molly_chiang


3. Tennis Skirt

Short tennis skirts are a staple in preppy and school-inspired styles, known for their dynamic and irresistibly cute features. To elevate the elegance and intellect of your look, pair a tennis skirt with a button-down shirt or a tie, and throw on an outer jacket for an added layer.

Checkered tennis skirt with a matching accentuated necktie | Source: sofiamcoelho

A suggestion for a classic look with a plaid tennis skirt, paired with a blouse and an outer coat | Source: aliaslouisblog

An outfit suitable for school with a dominant gray color scheme | Source: carolinavmarie

4. Oversized Coat

Whether it’s old money, preppy, or the current Intellectual Chic, oversized coats like trench coats or blazers are iconic. Apart from keeping you warm, they can effortlessly make a simple outfit stand out without being overly flashy.

Just a large-sized blazer paired with matching trousers, and you’re ready to confidently stride | Source: gettyimages

No outfit combination is too challenging for oversized jackets | Source: Popsugar


5. Loafers

For a style that prioritizes minimalism and comfort while maintaining sophistication like Intellectual Chic, loafers are a perfect choice. Loafers made their appearance in the 19th century in Norway, worn by farmers. Nils Gregoriusson Tveranger, a Norwegian shoemaker, improved and popularized loafers for their comfort and flexibility.

Source: egg204

Loafers complement and complete both casual and formal outfits, bringing a laid-back and trendy vibe to any ensemble, be it trousers or a skirt, men’s or women’s fashion.


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