While the New England fall weather ushers in a homogeneity of Yale sweatshirts, beneath the bold text lies something altogether different. And while many may soon shed their high school wardrobe in pursuit of the unkempt collegiate look, a certain (and occasionally unfortunate) degree of individuality remains intact.
The consensus among most students is that the average Yalie is a Lacoste-wearing, collar-popping prep. Whether they are sporting ribbon belts and matching grosgrain flip flops or brightly colored cable-knit sweaters and matching argyle socks, it is easy to spot this type — most likely outside of J.Crew on Broadway.
But other students have their two cents to add on the issue of the ’80s prep tradition.
“Nantucket reds and seersucker pants are kind of weird,” Miguel Agrait ’06 said. “But they don’t bother me as much as collar popping.”
Indeed, if the plethora of facebook groups dedicated to this preppy fad is any indication, the controversy may be less about the fashion itself and more about those who sport it.
“It’s a very specific group of people who do it and they tend to be — how do I put this — tools,” Agrait said. “Single is bad enough, but double-collar-popping is pretty much a mortal sin.”
The proud and preppy of Yale are less inclined to speak out in favor of their treasured trend, but there are those who will defend collar-popping as part of their inalienable right to freedom of expression.
“If it really bothers you that much, don’t do it, but please don’t go up to someone and un-pop their collar,” Mimi Wang ’09 said. “That’s just disrespectful. I don’t go up to other people and take off their socks-and-sandals.”
Equally prevalent and ever-growing in popularity is the trendy hipster look propounded by Urban Outfitters. The appeal of this style is that it is constantly changing, and thus nearly impossible to keep up with. But if one truth holds certain, it is that every Yalie loves a challenge.
“The vintage thrift store look is around now,” Wang said. “But then there’s also the fake vintage thrift store look that somebody paid fifty bucks for at Urban.”
Another feature of this aesthetic phenomenon is deliberately and strategically placed holes in jeans, sweatshirt, tank top and so on.
“Right now, it’s kind of the Bohemian homeless look where girls try to look skanky with ripped clothes or things that old ladies with cats would wear,” Pat McGill ’06 said. “I’ve seen people wear lots of things that are just ridiculous.”
Fortunately, most of these fads are over as quickly as they begin.
Athletes have a reputation for living in their team sweatshirts, track pants and sneakers, and that reputation is not unwarranted. For example, lacrosse player Lauren Taylor ’08 can be seen in sweats or yoga pants six out of seven days a week, although she says there are a few student athletes who attempt to break out of the sweatpants cycle.
“Some people do choose to get more dressed up, but that just means they’re more together than I am,” Taylor said. “But really, you’re just going to end up at the gym at some point, so why change?”
Softball player Christina Guerland ’07 said the jock stereotype is pretty accurate when a team is in season, but not always.
“We do enjoy our sweats,” Guerland said. “But it’s not like we don’t get dressed up to go out like everyone else — we do. It just requires more motivation.”
Ultimately, the style mantra of the Underarmour-clad, Nike-footed, lanyard-sporting Yalie can be summed up quite simply.
“We’re all going to have to dress up daily in a couple years anyway,” Guerland said. “Take advantage of the sweats while you can.”
“It’s the computer-nerd look,” McGill ’06 said. “They wear tight-fitting jeans and ill-fitting polos, with their hair messed up and their glasses slightly askew.”
McGill, who insists that he is not one to sport the nerd style (or lack thereof), said this manner of dress is limited to a very specific but easily recognizable group of the Yale population.
“It’s the look of the physics lab dweller who stumbles back from Science Hill blinking because he hasn’t seen the sun in seven hours,” McGill said.
Michael Huang ’09, on the other hand, said nerd fashion is not fashion at all, but more of a cry for help.
“They’re the people who need to be stripped down and given a makeover,” Huang said.
Last, but certainly not least, is a style particular to Yale and other schools of its Ivy ilk. Clad in a blazer and loafers, this Eli is ready to take on the world, and just cannot wait until graduation to dress the part.
“Yale fashion mirrors the type of lifestyle most people plan on adopting after Yale,” self-proclaimed fashion guru and FCC president Aniket Shah said, referring to those students who plan on becoming lawyers, politicians and investment bankers.
Even some professors have caught on to this style trend.
“Some of these students look like young senators,” humanities lecturer Suzanne Obdrzalek said, commenting primarily on her philosophy students in Directed Studies. “There are all these guys in khaki pants with a very straight crease down the front and pink button-down shirts. And then there’s this whole East Coast Ivy thing of wearing tennis sweaters around your neck like a man-shawl.”
Perhaps the truth is that there are too many distinct individuals at Yale for there to be one strict fashion.
“Because Yale has so much diversity, the Yale fashion is so that one day you can wear a blazer and popped collar, and the next you can wear a tee shirt and ripped jeans,” Shah said.
After all, individuality and versatility are always in style.