Alternate title: How to be a pretentious graduate student at a pretentious university
1. You need to be weird. Very weird. Not quirky, fun-weird but weird weird. Some examples: think that it is acceptable to hum out loud in the middle of class. The more random and melody-less, the better. Have a strange laugh. Use it often. You should be unable to hold a normal conversation or even acknowledge people you recognize as you walk down the street. Mutter to yourself constantly.
2. Get some really ugly glasses. If you wear contacts, you are selling out to the man and therefore not scholarly nor deserving of your education at the university. The accepted standard for glasses frames are thick plastic frames a la Buddy Holly. The uglier and more awkward, the better. You want those suckers to take up half your face and slowly move your ears south with their immense weight. Also acceptable are small wire-rimmed circles similar to the ones made famous by John Lennon. Cat eye frames with or without rhinestones are acceptable as a last resort only.
3. Take notes in the smallest, most pretentious and impractical notebook you can find. Moleskin will do, but you really want to go for something weirder and less yuppie-tastic. Notebooks with rough-cut edges or homemade paper will score you extra points. Also important is to have an very small and unique writing instrument that is also extremely impractical.
4. Do not, I repeat, do not carry a standard backpack. Backpacks made by companies such as Jansport, REI, or The North Face will only ensure that you will be repeatedly mistaken for an undergrad. I don't care if they work better are more practical. So are MBA's but you're not getting one of those either, right? You're going to need something unique and awkward. A messenger bag is pushing it, but you can make it more acceptable by covering it with patches. A random cloth bag from NPR or some obscure used bookstore is better. If the bag is made out of recycled rubber or some other strange material, you get extra points.
5. You know that normal, GAP-commercial wardrobe that you and everyone born in the 1980's has? Throw it all away. You are going to need to start completely from scratch and the aim is to look like an uncoordinated homeless person. Shop at thrift stores only. Wear threadbare t-shirts with random sayings on them. Your sweaters all need to be wool, full of holes, and harvest colors such as one would see in a kitchen from 1970. Your pants should not be jeans that were made any time in the last ten years. Guys, your pants need to be extremely tight. Girls, your pants need to be extremely loose or very high-waisted. Maybe both. Ugly scarves and hats in the winter are acceptable. Extra points if you made them yourself. You also knit in your spare time, FYI. Guys, you too.
6. Guys, you are going to need weird facial hair. The more scraggly and pube-like, the better. Don't wash the hair on your head more than once a week. Extra points if you can get it to stick out at odd angles to convey to people in your classes that you are so important you have been forgoing sleep to work on your dissertation about Forster's complication of the hetero-normative love plot in A Passage to India. Girls, you are going to need to do one of three things. First, you can just shave your head. However, this is Chicago and it gets cold in the winter. Second, you can cut it very short, similar to Winona Ryder in Girl, Interrupted. Don't worry, you won't be nearly that cute. Third, you can cut thick bangs and let them fall into your eyelashes every four seconds while completely forgetting to brush the rest of your hair for weeks on end.
7. Know a useless foreign language, or three. The more obscure, the better. Slovak? Getting there. Sanskrit? Now you're talking.
This is all I've got for now but I'm sure I'll come up with more. Follow these basic steps and in no time you to will be a miserable and socially outcast graduate student who is going to spend a decade or more of their life studying something that only a handful of people on earth care about. Good luck!