Keep Calm and Style On
Jes Christian | Tuesday, August 28, 2012
Friday marked the closing of the ever-so-long-awaited first week of school. On that day, I woke up well rested to the sounds of birds chirping and without the help of the unwelcomed marimba chimes of my iPhone alarm. Once I managed to lazily maneuver out of my loft, I began to consider the positive prospect of a day left entirely unscheduled, minus a single hour-long Spanish class standing in my way. With plenty of time to spare before I had to leave my room, I began searching through my closet for an outfit as great as the day before me. I pieced together a look of bright colors, beautiful patterns and feminine cuts. I accessorized with a thin pair of silver hoop earrings, salmon shades and a pair of beaded bohemian sandals. I threw in a touch of confidence before I grabbed my acid-washed denim backpack and headed out the door.
As I walked across campus towards Debartolo and casually scrolled through recent posts on Instagram, I glanced up to meet the gaze of an anonymous passerby. The student looked away, and we continued walking our separate ways. I resumed my Instagram investigation, but when a turn was fast approaching, I looked up again only to catch another individual watching me. I smiled, and she smiled back before the large crowd of students leaving their morning classes hid her from my line of vision.
Perplexed, I let the peculiarity of the reoccurring incident bounce around in the back of my mind throughout my one class. When the class was finally through, I reevaluated the series of events, catching a few more looks on my way down the steps. As I walked through the doors, I saw my friends calling me and went over to join them. Immediately, I was bombarded with a series of questions about why I was dressed so nicely and who I was trying to entice. When I began thinking of a response, the cause of all the stares dawned on me – I looked particularly nice that day.
I laughed and told my friends that I wasn’t trying to look good for anything or anyone in particular, but I just felt like looking nice. They rolled their eyes and laughed in disbelief, and as we began walking, a huge question popped into my head that left me even more puzzled – why is it that looking particularly nice sets one apart from the normal Notre Dame collegiate crowd? Why do I have to be heading somewhere special in order to look classy on campus?
After pondering these questions for a couple of days, I realized that the regularity of this sort of reaction is a result of a particular fashion culture that has been established here at ND. Somewhere between the single-digit, fashion-forbidding winter temps and the heavily sports-oriented culture on campus, many students have gradually let style to fall by the wayside, allowing for casual clothing to become the University’s dominant form of fashion. Even more importantly, many of us have allowed the dominance of casual clothing to cause us to focus a significantly higher amount of attention on well-dressed individuals. This focus on the fashionable minority undoubtedly drives those afraid of being over-observed away from pushing the envelope and dressing their best.
As someone who finds a person’s expression of distinctive style to be almost as telling, if not more so, than speech itself, I find this to be somewhat concerning. I want my fellow classmates to feel free to wear what they want to wear because a fashionably diverse campus is a campus that can make a colorful statement without saying a word. And that’s what fashion is all about.
Therefore, I propose the following challenge for students of this grand university we know so well. Do not allow a pre-established culture of casual style to hinder your desire to dress nicely. If you want to look good, then choose to look good. If you want to wear the dress but are leaning towards the safe bet of a T-shirt and shorts, wear the dress. If you want to wear the combat boots but are hesitant because you’ve spent your life in Jordans, wear the boots. I believe this campus is full of a wide variety of fashionable students with the potential to dress to impress all the time. I understand most students here on campus and around the world do not have Visa Black Cards. They are not celebrities, and Versace and Alexander McQueen are not tossing free designer collections their way. I am not implying we should all be dropping a pretty penny for a new closet. I am pushing students to take a stand, dust off those standout pieces in the back of the closet and help make looking good an everyday campus norm. I am pushing students to venture into that store full of striking clothes they love but don’t think they can pull off to hit the mall, buy their favorite pieces and dare to be bold. If you’re hesitant to wear what you want to wear, then you’re hesitant to be who you want to be. Don’t hold back. Branch out and dress to impress yourself. You’ll be shocked at who else is impressed.
Contact Jes Christian at firstname.lastname@example.org
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of the Observer.