Life Doesn't Fit in a File Folder

What Your Teenage Son Needs In His Closet For Fall

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Shopping for clothes is fun! Said no teenage boy. Ever.

Well, maybe some teenage boys like to shop, but I didn’t get one of those.

Ever since Tech was a wee thing, he wanted to exit the mall as quickly as possible. He’d find one pair of pants that fit and start walking toward the checkout counter. “Get five of these,” he’d say.

Truth be told, that ethos worked for me because I’m not a big shopper, myself.

But the kid had a major growth spurt last year. He sprouted six inches, people! Six! During the last academic year, he outgrew his jeans 4 times!

When he came home for a few days between sessions of overnight camp, we assessed his closet and — just as I suspected — he needed everything.

It was overwhelming, but we made a list and rallied.

So whether your son identifies himself as a prep or a jock, a skater or a Goth, a hipster or a geek (or a combo pack), he’ll probably need this stuff in his closet this fall:

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1. ON THE FEET. It’s been said that a person can judge a man by his shoes. If this is true, my kid was in bad shape because he came home with one muddy pair of sneakers and one pair of stinky flip-flops. Nothing else fit. We took care of that.

  • Sneakers. 
  • Dress Shoes.


  • Jeans. I don’t care if they’re straight or slim, boot cut or skinny. Boys are going to grow out of them before the end of the year.
Tech in his new Levi's jeans in a dark wash.
Tech in his new Levi’s jeans with a dark wash.
  • Pants Other Than Denim. Jeans are great, but not every day. Khakis and cargos are must-haves, especially in Western New York, where it gets cool early into the academic calendar.
  • Shorts. Cargo shorts are staples and should hit the knee.
  • Gym shorts. Yes, please.


  • Causal T-shirts. Sooooo many fun graphic T’s out there.
  • Short & long-sleeve shirts.
  • Button-up shirts. Can be worn open over t-shirts for a casual look, or buttoned for a more dressed up look.
A few of his new shirts.
Just a few of his new shirts.


  • Coat.
  • Hoodies.


  • Underwear. Yes.
  • Socks. And yes.
  • Belt. Find a reversible brown to black leather for the win!


  • A Suit. (If not a suit, a good jacket.) Because you never know.
  • Button up shirt & tie. Because you need the fixins to go with the suit.
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The suit is black. Not purple. I was trying to be a wee bit artistic, people. After all, I don’t usually hang suits in the garden. *wink*


  • Wristwatch. If you’re my kid, you won’t leave home without it.
  • Backpack.

What essentials did I forget? Besides dress shoes. Oy.

NOTE: This is a sponsored post from the good folks at Kohl’s, but the opinions expressed here are mine. I still despise going clothes shopping, but Tech got a lot of great stuff! Click HERE to check out more great back to school stuff that you may have missed.

Also, check out this hot mama to read about another #KohlsBack2School shopping experience. Because. Two little ones. Wow. 

55 thoughts on “What Your Teenage Son Needs In His Closet For Fall

  1. So I have two teenage boys (still at home; my oldest is grown and gone). And ALL they want to wear is T-shirts and jeans (and jean shorts when it’s warm), PERIOD. I buy them polos and button-down-the-front sport shirts and they just hang there in the closet. I insist they wear them to church, but they draw the line at tucking anything in. It’s a tense compromise, but it avoids strife.

    Do you know how hard it is to find denim shorts now? They’re out. But my boys won’t wear anything else in the summer.

    1. Denim shorts are not the thing in these parts. Except for girls. Seriously. Girls wear short denim shorts here. With cute little gladiator sandals. You can tell your sons that.

      But yes. In the cool weather, boys prefer to wear jeans every day. Who wouldn’t?

      We have quite few occasions that take us to temple — beyond regular religious school — and that’s when my son pulls out the khakis. Begrudgingly.

    1. My son is actually wearing the jeans. I made him go shopping when he was home during his 4 days off between camp sessions. {i know. mean mommy, right?} Most of it didn’t require him to try on one thing, but the suit and the jeans… um, yes. He refused to be photographed in the suit. And “waist down” were my instructions for the jeans. *shrugs* I also hate shopping for clothes. I’m not one of those girls, I guess. If I can handle it online, I will.

  2. I basically buy my kids clothes piecemeal online. Or, if I’m in Target or KOHLS (you’re welcome), I will pick up some stuff. I have piles of clothes for them to grow into. The problem I run into is when they skip an entire size (my oldest), or stop wanting to wear a certain type of clothing (jeans/jean shorts . . . also oldest). And there is the always popular sudden aversion to anything that has buttons. Snaps are fine. Buttons aren’t allowed. Yes, that’s my youngest. Do you see why I don’t take them shopping with me? Yeah.

    1. Misty, I never took Tech shopping to me until all of a sudden… guess what? He cared. Up until then, I was fine to bring things home and try them on here. If they didn’t fit, I just exchanged for the correct size. It was all about what I wanted him to wear. Those were the Good Ole Days. Trust me. The times they are a changin’. One day, your oldest is going to care just enough to make it annoying. One area Tech does care about a lot is in the shoe department. That’s why my husband handles the footwear. Also, that’s why he occasionally has no shoes. 😉

  3. Oh, Jim, can I identify with you!! Our son is 17, six feet tall, and lives in jeans and t-shirts. He’ll wear a polo shirt to church, but within minutes of returning home, he dons his normal duds. It doesn’t help that he works at a cheese factory, where his jeans and tees get hidden by a white coverall. Not much wardrobe improvement there! The only time he switched gears was when he went to a dance with a girl he liked – we bought new dress pants, a snazzy button-down shirt and shoes. Man, that kid looked great, but as soon as that fizzled, you guessed it – out came the tees. He’s a good kid, though, so as long as his undies aren’t lurking over his waistband (my pet peeve) I’m OK.

  4. Perhaps there’s something to be said for school uniform, British style, after all. Outside school, they haven’t got time to wear so very many clothes, so my son’s list, all those years ago, was much shorter 🙂 Phew!

    1. Bonjour Margaret! I used to teach at a school where students wore uniforms and I heard all the time from parents that uniforms actually cost more and were a bigger hassle than people thought. They complained that they had were forever washing the school clothes, lest their child would be written up for not complying with the dress code. And then there were street clothes, too. Because kids didn’t wear their uniforms during the evenings or weekends. In the end, I came to understand that wearing a uniform didn’t necessarily save parents any money, really. Perhaps just a little sanity. Do you agree? Luckily, my son doesn’t care THAT much about his clothes. He did all this shopping in a 1-hour outing. I know girls tend to care a while lot more. *rolls eyes*

      1. I don’t feel that strongly about uniform either way. But the average British uniform is pretty easy going: the skirts, trousers, shirts etc can be got at decent prices at all the big stores in whatever the uniform colour is.. When my daughter got into 6th form (16 -18 year olds), there was no longer any uniform and she hated it. The clothes that were regarded as suitable for school weren’t what she wanted to wear at home, and she ended up having more clothes than she ever did lower down the school and they all got so competitive. And you’re right. In my experience, girs care about all this more than boys do. Oh, I’m glad that part of my life is over…..

        1. I’m not one to wish parts of my life away — and it was actually kind of fun to shop with him this year. We made a game out of running around and trying to figure out how much he could try on in one hour, which I knew would be his breaking point.

          But I’m really glad he isn’t a girl. Really glad. I don’t think I’d have that in me. As it is, I have a few returns. He came home ever taller. Some of the pants need to be exchanged for the next size in length, if you can believe it. Amazing what 4 extra weeks of growing can do to a person.

          1. That reminds me. Aged 16, just after his GCSE exams, my son grew from being the smallest in his class to over 6 feet in just a month. That was quite a shock for us all. He then grew a further 2 inches and remains terrifyingly tall.

  5. I love that Tech is comfortable enough in his own skin to wear a purple suit.

    How the hell did you snag a Kohl’s sponsorship? What does that mean? Throw a starving blogger a lifeline here, Renz!

    1. Peg! The suit isn’t really purple! I was playing around with filters on Instagram. I even said the suit isn’t really purple in the caption! LOL! Oh well. Tech probably would wear a purple suit. You know, if we could find one.

      And yes, I was fortunate to have Kohl’s sponsor me. It was a pleasure to shop there as I was able to totally wardrobe my son from head to toe. We just need to go back to get dress shoes. And fast. We have the first bat mitzvah of the season on Saturday night. Gah!

      1. I know, I know, I read that. I’m just giving you grief. In preparation for Tech getting grief in certain lighting as he appears to be wearing a purple suit. 🙂

  6. O M G I am laughing, because Fuzzy always hated shopping, too – staples for him, and probably for many little boys, were striped shirts and any favorite character-tee. And yes, absolutely, must have a sport jacket or suit because it’s true, you never know. I think you’ve covered everything – but does he have the standard white tee to wear under that dress shirt? Do young men (and older men) still wear those?

    Gotta love those growth spurts!

    1. Hi Kathy! I’m so glad that you stopped by today. And I saw that you went to see my friend over at Stiletto to Diapers, too. And yup, we stocked up on standard white t-shirts. Did I forget to put that in there? I did! Good snag! I guess I thought of them as underwear. Or t-shirts. Or something. But yes, you’re so write. White t-shirts are necessities. I’m thinking of you — and Fuzzy — today. (((hugs))) Hope you are doing okay, darlin’.

  7. I used to love school shopping when my sons were young, when I became a teacher, even when my grandchildren-two girls, one boy–were younger. It is an established tradition: Grandma does the school shopping. When eldest grandchild was 11 or 12, it was great. She organized everybody’s list, picked out the appropriate items based on her experience. Everybody stacked their goods individually on check-out counter. Grandma saw that they were bagged according to grandchild. Each one carried their own bag(s) or stowed it in the cart. Grandma is not a sherpa! The day was long and always had a lunch break in the middle and a treat at the end.

    Fast forward to this year’s school shopping trip. Eldest grandchild has quit school. Middle grandchild prefers that Grandpa take her shopping for clothes. Not sure why. Grandpa buys the same things Grandma does… No organizer of supply lists. Middle one buys her things. Youngest one gets one item, shouts to middle one, who has disappeared, if this is the right kind of notebook, places it in cart, then proceeds to look for a red spiral-bound notebook, exactly like the blue but for a different class…one item at a time. Grandma gets dizzy with all the racing around Staples’ aisles and promises that Grandpa will do all the school shopping next year. Grandma will shop online and go to the Soccer Shack by herself!

    Seriously though, what do families without Grandmas and Grandpas do?! I know I could have saved a few $$ at Wally-World, but I refuse to shop at places that intentionally keep their workers poor. And I ask, really?!?! All these notebooks of different colors and collations, 3×5 cards, sticky notes, admonitions NOT to get Trapper Keepers are to help kids learn to be organized?!?!?! I was a teacher. I saw how much gets lost, tossed, and wasted by the end of the school year. Why can’t our kids have one three-ringed binder with dividers organized according to their class schedule?! I know, I know. Schools are all on a multi-day, A through E schedule, that changes every ten weeks!! And somehow a red spiral-bound notebook will keep them from losing their math packets…oops, Common Core Curriculum Study Guides…

    Anyway, Renee, I love your post!! Tech will look perfectly Techish when school begins. When it comes to clothes, my grandson is very like Tech. If it fits, is wearable, and has an inside and an outside–double wear–it works for him! Last year’s back is just fine for Youngest Grandchild…which is very good because Middle One wants the pretty, flowered one from Aero..

    1. D’Alta: I’m sooooo with you on THIS:

      “Why can’t our kids have one three-ringed binder with dividers organized according to their class schedule?!”

      I have no idea. There was hysteria over yellow plastic binders on Facebook the other day. I hope people found them. I talked to a bunch of kids, and they said that putting all the stuff into one binder “just doesn’t work.” I guess they get a lot more work than we did back in the day, huh?

      And yes, my son LOVES hand-me-downs; however, the fact that he’s taller than most of his friends has kept us as the chief hand-me-downers among his peer group! How did THAT happen. And PS: I’m totally with you on not shopping at Wally-World. I can’t do it. They’re the evil enemy. Seriously.

  8. I had it pretty easy when my son was in high school, he went to McQuaid. Dress shoes, a few pairs of khakis, a varied assortment of dress shirts, a few different ties, and a warm weather sportcoat and a cold weather sportcoat. Now that he goes to college at NYU, he’s picked up various hipster styles, to which I reply “knock yourself out”. He either buys them himself or gets the occasional gift card from me. lol

  9. Teenage boys aren’t the only ones, Renee. I wear clothes until they’re so worn out my wife won’t let me out the door in them, just so I can avoid shopping and trying on clothes. Ugh!

    1. Hi David! I assume my list isn’t just good for boys, but men, too. Did I forget anything major? Someone pointed out that I forgot standard white t-shirts. *smacks hand on head* And so I did. Doh! Thanks for chiming in today!

  10. Hmmm…since this posted hours before Tech returned from camp, I assume you bought all that stuff without him. Lucky boy! Or maybe when he was home between sessions? Wow, boys are so easy to shop for! No dresses, skirts, “cute” tops, and twenty different pairs of shoes to go with every potential outfit combination! What did you forget? What about sweaters/sweatshirts? As you said, it gets pretty chilly here pretty quickly.

    1. Hi Faith: Yes, as I said in the post, I got Tech to do a little bit of shopping during intersession. We did a pretty good job considering we only shopped for an hour…and I didn’t post pictures of his new underwear and standard white t-shirts and socks. We have enough money left over so that we can get a few more things, now that we can do things a little more leisurely.

      If you can believe it, I need to exchange the jeans. The boy grew so I need the next size up! Crazy what an extra 4 weeks of summer will do to a kid!

  11. I think you have the list covered. The only thing I’ll add, it doesn’t happen very often, but if the kid has to wear a tie, give him a real tie, not one of the pre-tied kind. My son wears nothing but t-shirts and athletic shorts. I think he’d wear shorts all winter if we let him and it gets COLD here. He grew like crazy this year too, taller than sister now who is three years older!

    1. My kid stopped wearing clip-on ties when bar & bat mitzvah season kicked in a few years ago. But you’re sooo right: no more clip-ons at this age. Young men absolutely must get real ties and known how to tie them independently at this point in their lives. Tech has been tying his own tie since he was in 3rd grade: an early indicator that the kid was going to love Rubik’s Cube and Mindcraft and Magic.

      1. I have to share with you, we have been invited to a Bar Mitzvah on Labor Day Weekend, a very close friend of my son’s. Having grown up on Long Island, NY where there was a large Jewish population, I personally, have been to my share of Bar Mitzvah’s, although seems like FOREVER ago! The rest of the family not so much (ummm… not so diverse around these parts!). But I’m kind of looking forward to the experience again!!

      2. I have to share with you, we have been invited to a Bar Mitzvah on Labor Day Weekend, a very close friend of my son’s. Having grown up on Long Island, NY where there was a large Jewish population, I personally, have been to my share of Bar Mitzvah’s, although seems like FOREVER ago! The rest of the family not so much (ummm… not so diverse around these parts!). But I’m kind of looking forward to the experience again!!

        1. Yes, well, tis the season! We have TWO b’nai mitzvah, starting this weekend. Since we’re friends on FB, look for pictures of Tech in his new suit soon! 🙂

          I hope you guys have a great time at your fun event over Labor Day. I can’t wait to hear if the experience is like you remember it — or if times have changed.

  12. Loving this shopping spree! It does not end, I’m going with my 19 year old tomorrow before he heads back to college. I don’t think I’ll get him undies but jeans and shirts will be good. Love the suit, Renee. He’s going to be one heck of a handsome Tech!!!!!

    1. Noooooo! Madge up there ^^^ said that her college aged son is now shopping independently. Are you saying that this is going to go on indefinitely? Whaaaaaaat? I hate shopping. Seriously. Not fun for this mama! {except it was kinda fun}

    1. Hi darlin’! I hoped you weren’t offended when I didn’t do your kinky-love exercise. Don’t worry! I haven’t forgotten about you! I have something up my sleeve.

      But it’s a long sleeve.

      So be patient! 🙂

      1. You are so creative!
        In response to your back to school shopping post, it really is that time of year again! Everyone is getting ready for school…and I used to be included in that group considering I am a teacher. However, this year, I have no worries because I am taking the year off to travel! For the first time in my career, I don’t have to worry about ‘that time of year’. Have fun getting ready for school with your family! I’ll miss my kiddies, but in the mean time I’ll travel my heart out for one year until next year.

        1. I know what you mean! My blog used to be called “Lessons From Teachers & Twits!” But then I stopped teaching and I had to reinvent myself! I miss my students, but — after 20 years of classroom experience — it was time. Enjoy your year of travels and come back feeling rejuvenated! xo

  13. Hi Renee! Cool collection for a cool young man! The garden shot is lovely, very artistic. Kohl’s is a favorite destination for my 22-year-old daughter and me…love the place! I hate shopping, also, but it’s fun with her, and the deals are spectacular, in my opinion. (she pays for MOST of her stuff, unless Mom can be suckered into paying.) Fun post!

    1. Hi Erm! Sounds like you have the BEST gig now — where your daughter pays her way and your contribution is considered a treat! I enjoyed shopping with the boy this time. And we have a bit of money left, so we have one more trip to make before school starts. Can you believe he’s going to be in high school? Gah!

    1. The Sears catalogue, indeed! My father talks about taking a bus to Wells & Coverly in downtown Syracuse to get measured for new pants, etc. Like you said, he then had to wait until everything arrived to see if it fit. He said “liking” his clothes was not what it was about. Fashion was not a thing. It was all about function. Crazy how times have changed. I’m not so sure for the better, really. After all, if you look at my list for 2013, I suppose your list was much the same. Minus the hoodie, maybe. Or maybe they just called them hooded sweatshirts back then, eh? 😉

  14. I had to laugh when I saw your headline! My son and I have the same shopping philosophy as your son! If it fits, get 5 pair and let’s get out of here! School shopping with my son was a breeze. Several pair of the same jeans, some T’s, a couple of polos, new socks/underwear, and shoes. That’s it. No suit, no way, no how. For prom etc he rented. We often finished school shopping in half an hour! Easy Peezy!

    1. Hi Denise! I think shopping for boys is MUCH easier than shopping for girls! I had to get a suit because we have so many religious events coming right up. Our first bat mitzvah of the season is tomorrow, if you can believe it so he needs a suit for temple as well as tomorrow night (even if he’s going to ditch the jacket after 10 minutes). And then we have the High Holidays and he has always worn a suit, so there’s that. Hopefully, he’s finished spurting for a while. (Wow, that sounds naughty!) 😉

      1. Ah, yes, renting would get very expensive for so many dress-up events. My son rented a tux once a year for prom.
        Now shopping with my daughter could become an all day event if I had the energy. One year I gave my credit card and car keys to my neice (a big shopper) and she took my daughter on an all day shopping trip. They were both so happy! Too bad my neice lived several states away or I would have hired her every year to do the deed!

        1. Exactly! The whole suit was under $79 bucks, so I could totally justify the expense. Plus, we’ll be able to send it on down the line to some of his more “vertically challenged” friends. *ahem* I can’t imagine ever giving Tech the credit card. He’d come home with all kinds of gaming cards and no underwear! LOL! 😉 My sister-in-law is the BEST shopper in the whole world. Now that her kids are all in college, maybe I can get her to take over these duties with my son. Ya think?

  15. Hi! I was wondering, how often does your son wear his suit? I have a 16 year old, and i have been considering to buy him a suit. Same brand (apt 9 from kohls) but I’m not sure how often he would actually wear it.

    1. Hi Mike! We often attend religious services where it is appropriate to where a suit – lots of bar & bat mitzvahs. I think he’s worn it five times so far this year, and I imagine we’ll have to let out the hem in the pants. These days, I’d say you could get by with a pair of khakis and a jacket, but this black suit fit my son very well. 🙂

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