As days get shorter and temperatures cool, it’s also time (eek) to start thinking about going back to school. To help you get a jump on the best school (and school-related) supplies to buy for fall, we’re running a series called Cool School Stuff, in which we’ll sniff out the best backpacks, best dorm décor, and best bento boxes, among many, many other things.
Status can be a funny thing. Of course, its most obvious iteration comes with shiny hardware and easily recognizable logos, but it gets far more interesting as you narrow it down to the more opaque signals — when the way you tuck your shirt, or what you eat for breakfast, or your particular brand of notebook can mark you as in or out. And of course, what counts as a status item varies wildly across human tribes. In our new series, Insider Goods, we’re talking to tribe members (some with their real names, some anonymously) to find out the status items among art-gallery assistants, or Broadway actors, or architects. Today, getting us ready for back-to-school and inviting us into the world of art-and-design college students is my very own younger sister, Julie Schwartzberg, an incoming junior at Brooklyn’s Pratt Institute studying interior design.
“A Moleskine sketchbook in the classic sketchbook size. It’s easy to always have in your bag, so you can sketch wherever you want. It’s nice paper, and that’s the brand that people like. A somewhat-related hidden campus secret is this one printing center where they bind your books for you, but not a lot of people know about it.”
“You need a pair of Doc Martens, specifically Chelsea or lace-up boots. Literally everyone has them. They’re an artist’s shoe. You can do everything in them and no one is really super sporty here, so we’ll wear them in the summer and winter. They’re easy to clean, too, which is necessary, because we work a lot with plaster, especially the freshmen.”
Get the best of The Strategist delivered to your inbox.
“Definitely a jean jacket from a thrift store. I don’t have one, but one time I borrowed my friend’s and when I walked outside, I realized I was matching with at least ten people. So you need a Levi’s jean jacket, but a vintage one. We’d get them at Urban Renewal or Beacon’s Closet in Greenpoint. Also, wear it with Levi’s boyfriend jeans. People love all-denim outfits here. Everyone wears that. Even my teachers.”
“People are always thrifting, and at Beacon’s Closet, the thrift store, they won’t give you a plastic bag, so you have to either buy a Baggu bag there or bring your own. So everyone has a Baggu. That just shows how much people thrift-shop here.”
“Definitely hair dye. Most people buy it from CVS, but the brand is Manic Panic. Everyone does it themselves, and it’s very, like, I’m so bored, let me just dye my hair. Right now, the color is green because of Frank Ocean, but I think it’s gonna be red soon. I just feel it.”
“There are these touch tablets where you can draw with your hand instead of your computer. If you’re in graphic design and you have that, it’s a big deal. Everyone knows you spent a lot of money and you’re really serious about graphic design, because you can easily do it all on your computer, but you went as far as to get this extra tablet for it.”
“For everyday sketching in the Moleskine, everyone uses Staedtler pencils because it’s a good brand and it comes in a pack with different types of leads. As for colored pencils, everyone uses Prismacolor pencils. Those are the go-to pencils for color studies and are usually applied over Color-aid paper to change the hue, saturation, and tone.”
“Everyone has the Apple headphones because no one likes to talk to each other, so you’ll see everyone wearing them in the cafeteria and walking around, even if they’re not listening to anything. It’s a very antisocial school, and headphones make it easy for you to continue to do that.”
“In their dorm rooms, people always have twinkle lights, which isn’t that surprising, and also some Mason jars filled with stupid stuff like weed or money.”
“It’s a requirement to get Color-aid, which is a special type of paper that’s made from oil paint, but it’s so expensive. A guy from Pratt invented it, which is cool. There’s every single color you can imagine, and it’s really good, quality paper that we mostly cut up and make into different shapes. It’s funny because it comes in a box of around 300 sheets and everyone uses it, and then people end up selling the box with all their leftover cut-up paper to the next person. People who don’t really care will buy the leftovers, but I wouldn’t do that. People who really care would only buy a new box.”
The Strategist is designed to surface the most useful, expert recommendations for things to buy across the vast e-commerce landscape. Some of our latest conquests include the best women’s jeans, rolling luggage, pillows for side sleepers, ultra-flattering pants, and bath towels. We update links when possible, but note that deals can expire and all prices are subject to change.
Every editorial product is independently selected. If you buy something through our links, New York may earn an affiliate commission.