A specter is haunting Yale — the specter of collarism. Everywhere I look, I see polos, buttons … collar stays! It is a frightening sight indeed. Yes, we are young adults, or even “pre-adults.” But we are not yet professionals. We are not working at a Fortune 500 company. Contrary to what Patrick Hurley ’11 wrote in his column, “Stop the sweatpant scourge,” Yale is not our job. Yale is not even just our school. Yale is our home. And at home we are free to express ourselves however we want. For four years, we will wake up here every morning and go to bed here every night (excepting for the occasional all-nighters). And when we wake up, we are not going off to impress our boss. We are going to school; we are going to learn; perhaps most importantly, we are going to play.
My best memories of Yale so far are certainly not the interviews to which I wore a shirt and tie. They are not the “important meetings” with a business casual dress code. No, my best memory is of the day my friends and I played mud football for hours on end. Waking up the next morning, we saw our muddy shoes filling the entryway, our dirty clothes lining the shower, and ropes around the Old Campus grass we tore up. Another is of going out to the IM fields with my new friends in the pouring rain, only to have the game be cancelled; we played soccer ourselves anyway. And another is of getting on my knees to glue and paint 100 shields for Stiles’ annual Medieval (K)night. I met my best friends coming back from FOOT not having showered in a week; I met some more on the IM fields in my dirty sweatpants. I made more at Friday morning section, where no one had bothered to put on real pants.
Yale is a college. A place of learning. Don’t disrespect your professors; don’t sleep during class and stay off Facebook while they’re lecturing. The best way to respect this institution is to learn, whatever that means to you. Professors and fellow students deserve our respect, but that respect is not shown by what we wear. It is shown by how we treat each other. Do not judge others for their clothing choices. Everyone has their own reasons for what they wear. Whether it’s a late night of studying or a late night of partying, let them enjoy their Yale experiences how they may.
Everyone who is here is already a “real person.” We don’t come here needing to be fixed. We work hard. And we deserve to be able to do that work in sweatpants. We lead busy lives; maybe we have to go straight to the gym or to an intramural after class. Maybe we chose an extra 20 minutes of sleep instead of perfecting our hair this morning. Maybe we spent that time finishing up a bit of reading or checking over a problem set. There is enough stress on this campus that we don’t need to add the judgment of our peers on top of it all.
Finally, never forget that Yale is also a place of fun. If I wanted to wear an ascot and stay off the grass, I would have gone to Princeton. In fact, I didn’t apply to Princeton because their air of formality scared me off. I didn’t apply to Columbia because their grass was entirely roped off. The moment we take ourselves too seriously, the moment we place too much importance on clubs and elections and titles, the moment we turn our wardrobe into that of a New York yuppie or an investment banker — that is the moment Yale ceases to be our home. Goldman Sachs will be our home soon enough; let’s enjoy this time while we have it. So I am proud to go to class in sweatpants, to play in the mud, to haul cardboard out of Sterling’s recycling center. You never know when fun will strike. Be prepared with your sweats at all times. Sweatpants-wearers of the world, unite! You have nothing to lose but your skinny jeans!
Lee Kennedy-Shaffer is a sophomore in Ezra Stiles College.