In the midst of budget crises, increasing class sizes and the daily struggle to wake up for 8 a.m. class, there is yet another problem plaguing the modern university that desperately needs to addressed: the fact that a surprising number of students have little to no concern for their daily sartorial decisions. It is a problem of the marring of beauty on our lovely campus. It is a problem that involves pajamas and sweatpants. It is a problem that involves Ugg boots. It is a problem that is exacerbated every time a student decides to have a “lazy day.” We must take action, and we must do it now.
While many insist that assessing an individual based on their clothing choices is superficial, I contend that clothing is more than pure aesthetics. Clothing is one of our most accessible means of representing ourselves to the world around us. What we choose to wear each morning makes a statement to everyone we will encounter that day—peers, professors, future employers, parents and friends. When someone looks at you and interprets how you dress, they are not being materialistic or shallow, they are reading the message that you chose to convey. Your message can range from “I give up” to “I will be respected.” This is not to say that respect should not be earned in other ways—of course it should. But if we take our education, and for that matter our lives seriously, we do what we can to emulate that in all pursuits. Clothing is a powerful language. Why not choose to utilize every possible means of communication available to us?
For the person whose love of clothes ventures into artistic territory, fashion becomes a medium for self expression far beyond communication. If you are at all like me, and love to experiment with all forms of expression and creativity, the opportunity to experiment with clothing and accessories is too exciting to pass up. One needn’t be Anna Wintour to successfully divulge into the art of fashion. One of the great things about fashion when compared to other art forms is the incredibly even playing field. I am certainly no great painter (despite my best efforts to prove otherwise) and will most likely never become one no matter how much I work at it. With fashion, we all get dressed everyday, and thus create a canvas for ourselves. The canvas can be left blank and minimal, or embellished with colors, textures and representations of your personality. One need only look at the daily task of getting dressed as an opportunity instead of a chore.
This is not to say that everyone must fit into a narrow idea of what is acceptable dress. Establishing your own signature style, whatever niche it may fall into, is an invaluable experience and a lifetime process. I have a deep appreciation for people who can truly carry a style with confidence, even when it is something I could never see myself wearing. We are lucky enough to attend a campus where uniqueness and diversity are celebrated everywhere—should the same not hold true with personal style?
There are an infinite amount of reasons for college students to put some effort into their daily appearance. First and foremost, confidence in appearance has been proven to improve performance academically and professionally. It explains why employers often noticed a decline in work ethic with the implementation of “casual Friday.” When you go to take a final, don’t you feel better about the test if you pulled yourself together beforehand? For the collegiate men, short of intelligence and a stellar personality, few things will impress a lady as much as a man who knows how to pull his look together.
College students live busy, chaotic, financially-limited lives. Building a wardrobe and your own individual style can seem like an unmanageable task in the midst of it all. However, I am a firm believer that fashion can be appreciated at any walk of life, income level or level of devotion. I hope this column will be a helpful dialogue on all things fashion-related for college students.