Column: Fashion Forward
Dressing Appropriately For The Occasion
Published: Wednesday, February 6, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, February 6, 2013 20:02
When I got into Boston College, I thought the campus would be a living, breathing, Brooks Brothers catalogue. After all, east coast schools and universities had been the pioneers of the preppy look. Sure, the schools known for it were the Ivies, but JFK called BC the “Jesuit Ivy,” and if JFK said it, it had to mean something. Upon my arrival I realized that that nickname might have applied in 1956, but it didn’t today, and I had no one to blame but F. Scott Fitzgerald for building me up.
I began to wonder what had happened between then and now. Had we given up? Why else would anyone walk around in flip-flops and basketball shorts if it wasn’t for the fact that they just weren’t trying. I’ve never gone that far, but my first semester I was guilty of donning plain tees, jeans, and Converse (not that there’s anything wrong with Converse—they’re classic!), but it just felt like I wasn’t trying.
In some of my classes—I’m a communications major—my professors would ask what were some words that came to mind when talking about BC students. One of the words to come up, if not at first, was “preppy.” I wanted to ask the people who’d mentioned it where these “preppy” people were, because I, for one, hadn’t seen them. Were they on the Newton campus? I did, however, realize that I wasn’t the only one who had this idea of a Ralph Lauren-clad student body. But why, if a lot of us thought the same, were we all in the wrong?
The only excuse I could think of was lack of time. With classes, clubs, and chores, who has time to get all dressed up in the morning? I myself have a trusty beanie for emergencies (i.e. sleeping through my alarm and having to skip combing my hair). But then something else happened which made me think. I was heading out of my room when one of my roommates asked what was I all dressed up for. ‘Dressed up?’ I thought, ‘I’m wearing jeans and an oxford shirt. Is this what constitutes dressing up nowadays?’ I then came up with another theory to the casualness of campus: through the years, not caring became cool, and cable-knits and cardigans became collateral damage along the way. As a result, dressing in what half a century ago would have been standard, became effortful—and we got too comfortable.
I’m not trying to advocate for a world where we all walk around like argyle-appareled androids—that sounds like a nightmare. That’s what’s interesting about style—it’s unique. What concerns me is the future. If in 2012 an oxford shirt and jeans pass for dressed up, what will who ever is president in 2060 wear to his inauguration? A sweatshirt and cargo shorts? A jean mini-skirt? And on that note, what is considered casual today?
There’s a reason why different attires are required for different affairs. From pool parties to galas and swimming trunks to tuxedos, each piece of clothing was made for a time and a place. You wouldn’t go to a funeral wearing shorts, just like you wouldn’t wear a tuxedo to the movies—unless “the movies” is code for the Festival de Cannes, in which case, yes, a tuxedo is in order. Overdressing is bad, but not as bad as underdressing, which is what we tend to do. And so, while we wait for Spring Break —is it March yet?—it could be good for us to put a little effort into our ensembles. After all, BC is a reputably respected school and a college education (especially one this good) is a privilege, so we might as well honor that and dress for the occasion. That doesn’t mean we have to go find a cummerbund. It just means favoring some choices over others. Come the end of this hyperborean hell—a.k.a winter—try going for plimsolls or boat shoes instead of flip-flops. If you’re feeling fancy give penny loafers a try—they can take you from day to night, and from casual to business casual (huge difference). Maybe save the shorts for the beach and pool and opt for pants. Bold colors will be back for menswear in spring, and so will color blocking. Play around with bright solids and the results might surprise you. Fashion can be scary sometimes, and it may take some boldness to break out of your strictly-sweats comfort zone. But once you do, you wont want to go back, unless you have an 8 a.m. class on a Monday—or any other day of the week. In the meantime, stay warm.