November 13, 2007

Fashion 102: Intro to College Couture

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College campuses are home to progressive thinking and as such, they are up to date on cultural trends in both music or technology. Students are equipped with the newest laptops and they listen to the latest music. However, students are not as cutting-edge in terms fashion.
Universities seem immune to many fashion trends. When an item comes into style, it takes longer to hit the quads than to hit the streets of most major cities. Additionally, when an item goes out of style, it seems to linger are campuses longer than in other locations.
There is often a rational explanation of why some defunct styles continue to be worn on college campuses. The climate of a campus is directly related to the clothes worn at that school. So when Uggs were popular, students from UCLA in Los Angeles all the way to Cornellians in Ithaca wore them, and everyone wore them even in climates far too warm for shearling boots. Uggs even migrated to SoCal before hitting the East Coast, obviously not for practical reasons. When Uggs lost their place in the fashion world, most people stopped wearing them — except at schools where the winters are so cold that Uggs, despite their Uggly appearance, are a necessity.
The same can be said for fleeces, knit hats and a wide assortment of winter gear that was once trendy. These items continue to be worn on campuses like our own because their functionality surpasses any lack of fashionable look. On the other end of the spectrum, rubber flip flops, spaghetti strap tank tops, denim miniskirts and other items now out of style continue to be worn on campuses warmer than our icy home on the Hill.
Furthermore, many students attend universities that are in climates that vary from their hometown environment, so what people wear at home may differ from what they wear at school. However, this difference in wardrobe may not be solely based on the weather. Items that are “socially acceptable” to wear on campuses are not quite as acceptable at home.
Cornell students are used to spending multiple hours/days/weeks in the library, so a certain “libe chic” is sought after by many. Instead of restricting or uncomfortable items, most students opt for sweatpants, sweatshirts, big sweaters or any other cozy outfit. Yet most students probably would not wear these outfits out at home or school. Not many people would walk the streets of their favorite city in men’s XL sweatpants that say SOFTBALL ’04 on the butt.
Different schools have different norms, so at one school, students could be used to going out in jeans and a T-shirt whereas at other schools, students may typically get more dressed up to go out. The general campus wardrobe differs as much from campus to campus as it would from city to city.
Students may also stand out when they venture into the cities and towns that their schools are located in. Depending on the type of school it is, students may dress more casually, bohemian, urban, sophisticated or just outright different than the community surrounding their college.
In reality though, most students don’t have a source of income so they are not able to spend money on seriously following trends or looking totally fashionable. Additionally, many hardworking students simply don’t have the time to shop to maintain their wardrobe. The college environment is generally casual, and most students get by in simple basics. However, with the democratization of fashion and the increasing accessibility of shopping, students are able to follow the trends when they care to do so.
Classes may be more enjoyable and professional if the student attire fits the scholastic backdrop. The same applies for the night life. West Campus frats and Collegetown bars may not provide the best of college nightlife, but dressing more stylishly could improve the ambience.
College campuses do not have to lag behind in fashion. We should apply the aptitude that we show in studying, writing papers, extracurricular activities and partying to our clothing. It really isn’t that hard. I’ll wait for a later column to delve into the fashions of our professors, who are far too smart to look so silly.