Friday, September 20, 2013

Keeping my head above the banal water - How campus style has changed

Whether it was to spot out well dressed folk or conduct interviews for a project of sorts, many of us have earned and embodied the name of this blog in our undergraduate lives. As you plonked your textbooks and coffee down beside you, your friends soon joined and everyone would chuckle at the common joke of majoring in Jammie stair people watching but in reality not knowing where the lecture venue was. For me it was much the same up until I started blogging and began to see people differently. Being an over-analytical arts student and all, this proved a fun hobby – creating stories in my mind about the clothes people chose to wear and what inspired them. These observations formed chunks in my mind over the past four years and has led me to notice how style has changed on campus beyond the obvious fashion trends.

Emma embodying ombre H2T, back in 2011.

My freshman year at UCT introduced small town me to a range of sub-cultures I was never exposed to before or only ever came across behind a computer screen.  Style on campus back then was a lot more exciting, as a result of a fairly large monotonous background of 501’s and faculty hoodies, which provided the perfect canvas for super creative looks. I remember spotting the rare leather backpack or the odd pair of military boots roaming around, not realising that these early adopters would soon pave the path for a stream of commercial lookalikes. Style on campus is quite different now, with local retailers and buyers becoming more trend focused and the surge in phone apps and blogs alike. In today’s melting pot of current fashion, it has become more difficult to stand out from the crowd of online shoppers or kids discovering their grandfathers closets (cue Macklemore song). Everyone wants to be a hipster, and the enticing thing about it is that you can no longer tell who really hangs out at &Union or who simply bought a few items from their local Mr.Price. This however has led to some unimaginative mannequin looking attempts to looking cool and as much it frustrates “true” hipsters, it angers me too. Some get lost in trying to keep up with trends while others look like they haven’t fully evaluated whether a certain style truly suits them and their body type. As elitist as this may sound, festivals and second hand shops were once reserved for a particular crowd. I have nothing against anyone trying anything new, I just question their reasons for such sudden transitions and where their own voice and sense of style lies between the cross-print leggings and oversized knits.

A nautical head wrap with a side plait at the start of 2012.

My observations are not always good. I keep having to remind myself about one man’s trash. Having a story is what always wins me over and convinces me that you decided to wear those vintage shades for reasons other than sitting next to a guy last week on a shuttle that looked cool with a similar pair. It speaks much more to your confidence when you choose to try something new and daring regardless of its appeal to your peers. The scales have shifted from being creative and looking good to looking good while playing it safe. Perhaps it is a good thing that we are in a space where current fashion is extremely diverse and you can bounce off looks from friends and class mates on campus before fully committing to a look. Similarly, all this diversity may provide a useful resource to anyone who hasn’t quite found what they truly like and would enjoy experimenting in an environment where nothing is unusual. How I sometimes feel about street style on campus is similar to my nostalgia of supermodels. Their star power was alluring and effervescent - they had a voice and style different to others yet they dominated the industry making it to some extent more difficult for new comers to enter.  The elitism is somewhat appealing, but mass adoption is what ultimately drives new trend cycles and inspires further innovation.


Lesa Johnstone said...

Great writing style, felt like having a conversation with an old friend. Also great insight into the whole "copying a trend for the sake of it" true. Cosmo should ask you to freelance :-)

Y Price said...

Everything you mention in here about clothes resonates fairly well with Appadurai's social life of things. Where our material items come to define us and we aspire to appropriate them by piecing them together in such a way that represents us. So if you think about it, there's a relationship and constant negotiation with what we have and wear and it's all about identity. But then again... that identity gets negotiated with things such as supermodels, media, "trends and cycles" :) So I would agree that what we wear means more than what meets the eye.

Tshepi said...

I think that you've put it all quite beautilly, and the fact that one has to comment instead of simply 'repost' or 'retweet' has shown what micro-blogging has done to the idea of thinking. Our style, our thoughts and pictures, our essence is simply a snapshot of a greater picture, viewed over a million times.

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