The stereotype of a St Andrews student consists of a Barbour jacket, Hunter boots, and a daddy’s-money persona. But how true is this supposed typicality? Students love to complain about how untrue the stereotype is, but the shops in St Andrews certainly do not support our cry of injustice.
With the new opening of M&S, we can hardly cling to the idea that St Andrews students don’t like spending money. There is an Aldi two minutes down the road, but as long as M&S stays open, customers must be shopping there. One could claim that only locals buy food there, but out of the approximate 17,500 people in St Andrews, 7,500 of them are students. There are signs of our expensive tastes everywhere; there’s at least four different cashmere shops in a three-street radius.
I recently went to have a tattoo done, but I had to make the bus trip to Dundee in order to do so. I googled it beforehand, and it turns out that there actually was a tattoo shop here at one point. It was called Angels, and it was right in the centre of town, on South Street. It still says online that it’s open from Tuesday to Friday, but besides the fact that there’s nothing there, the tattoo artist from Voodoo Tattoo in Dundee confirmed the fact that it closed down. He also explained that he was interested in opening up a tattoo shop in St. Andrews, but that the rent was too high to keep up with the market. Most university towns have them, as tattoos have become increasingly popular with youth culture. so it is a shame that the rent prices are keeping the businesses away.
Admittedly, tattoos are surrounded by an air of reckless danger and irresponsibility, not to mention bad judgment. Perhaps there isn’t a market for it in St Andrews. After all, the alumni of St. Andrews include Prince William, Nobel laureate James Black, eight people who were or are members of the Scottish Parliament, and nineteen people who were or are members of the House of Commons. I think that many people would assume that none of those people would have tattoos, but, in fact, who knows?
Tattoos can easily be placed in spots where nobody can ever see them, and these do not in any way hinder progress in people’s professional lives. On top of that the fact is that we are a diverse bunch. There would likely be enough demand even in this small town to keep a small tattoo parlour open.
This got me thinking. What other usual high-street options are conspicuous by their absence? Fast-food chains in St Andrews are limited, really to a handful of kebab and pizza joints. Ostensibly this is because the council does not want large chains taking up the high street, and indeed one of St Andrews’ most charming aspects is the multitude of independent shops on our streets, but if this is why there is no McDonald’s, no KFC and no Burger King then why do we have Pret A Manger and Starbucks? It seems almost a random choice to include some and exclude others.
Admittedly, there is a stigma around fast food, just as there is around tattoos. It is true that fast food is not the healthiest option out there, but it does cater to student budgets, and it is down to people to make sure they don’t rely solely on cheeseburgers for sustenance. The average university student is not able to spend £5 at Starbucks every morning for an Iced Caramel Macchiato, and while people make out that in St. Andrews, the average student is queuing out the Starbucks door, this isn’t the case for everyone.
There is also an assumption that a St. Andrews student would not mind the lack of fast food, instead preferring to smash an avocado for their lunch, there actually are a lot of complaints about the absence of Macy D’s. It’s a standard favour for people to bring back McDonalds for their friends when they visit Dundee. There are also the students from Madras, who flood Market Street everyday at lunchtime. Surely the fast food market would prosper in St. Andrews with the combination of school students and university students who are desperate for a cheap option. Maybe the introduction of some affordable food would not be too bad an idea.
The St Andrews student population is actually comprised of people who vary greatly in style, background, and income. There are students clad in Ralph Lauren and Michael Kors, but there are also students who wear trackies and T-shirts. There are students who choose Ma Bells as their venue for Friday nights, but there are also people who prefer buying affordable drinks at the Union. Either way, nobody likes being confined to one stereotype and having their options closed because of it. It is a shame that because of rent prices and a fairly random selection process for new businesses our options are considerably less than even many other similar sized British towns.
And this is written by your average St Andrews student, who loves Starbucks and also took a recent trip to Dundee’s tattoo parlour.