Dear Dr. Lipschitz,
I’m a freshman and am overwhelmed by all of the ridiculously stylish, put-together people on campus. It’s intimidating, especially because I come from a high school where wearing baseball jerseys to class was considered dressing up. I feel out of place. I don’t even own some of what appear to be uniform items on Yale’s campus, like those Sperrys….
–Never Owned Oiled Boatshoes
Believe me, your question rings true for an entire Yale Bookstore-clad horde of incoming freshmen. Even some of your peers who seem confident in their apparel — who still swagger with Hollister cargos and a jauntily slanted Sean Paul flat brim — might still secretly fear making some fashion faux pas.
Before I continue, I should preface my remarks with two trite, but true, maxims: 1. it’s not what you wear, but how you wear it, grrrrrrrl (or bro)! and 2. clothing is a pretty powerful method of self-expression; if you want to seem too involved in physics lab/track practice/your most recent painting to care what you wear, go ahead and show your slovenly self. You should never feel uncomfortable because of the real or imagined disdain of That Girl on Elm. If the worn-out wardrobe is here to stay, you need to project a Love-It-Or-Leave-It ’tude and inject a little confidence into that off-brand-sneakered step.
However, if change cannot come from within, nothing buys a little confidence like a journey to J.Crew. And I don’t believe that it’s necessarily a betrayal of self to enhance/completely overhaul your closet (especially if coming out of one, in which case it is, in fact, expected). Let’s face it: most of us make a few self-presentational tune-ups depending on our environment. Just as you would leave your elbow patches at home for a night at Toad’s and forego the fishnets for section, you’ll probably want to adjust to the Yale sartorial scene as you see, uh, fit.
You’re not obliged to wear anything, NOOB — from boatshoes to boxers, it’s up to you. I mean, you can’t be naked in public places here — except for Bass Library during exams, that time on the Women’s Table, or basements on Lynwood on most weekend nights.
But regardless of obligation, the judgment is real. Step too far outside the Yale dress code and no doubt, you’ll be met with some icy stares in the halls of LC. Leave your flannel and Woody Allen glasses at home, and you best not try to get past security at the Art and Architecture Library.
The fact remains that we don’t live in a clothing-blind society. Sometimes the only way to get past the “bouncer” at SigEp — okay who am I kidding — the “bouncer” at Toad’s — no alright but seriously — the “bouncer” at the Lizzy, is to lower your neckline and don the push-up. If you want to wear cords, a collared shirt, and — some people think it’s too much but — a tweed blazer, NOOB, go wild. I’ll come right out and say it: I’d wear that. And I think Sperrys are pretty damn cute. But whether you splurge on the brown or navy pair, any confident, well-dressed person (introspective, interest in social justice a plus) is an asset to Yale. And any way you run with it, you’re sure to be as well.
But please NOOB, just don’t look like you’re trying too hard — the folks in A&A already have that covered.