I’ve always been aware that St. Andrews is not your typical university in that its massively privileged students seem to focus on high fashion on a day-to-day basis. I still remember the shock upon entering my first lecture in Buchanan in first year; I felt like I was walking into the pages of Vogue or GQ.
My expectations for college attire pretty much consisted of sweatpants, hoodies, or maybe jeans and a T-shirt. I’m all for dressing up, but I thought that going all-out was reserved for nights out. It didn’t take me long to realize that the library is St Andrews’ social hub, and nights out are actually, if anything, more relaxed.
Yesterday, I was on the phone, sitting on the steps outside of the library, and the stylishness of the student population hit me yet again. It’s more than just the typical Barbours and Sperrys; every student that walked by me was impeccably dressed, from their double-cuffed jeans to their neatly pressed shirts. Honestly, I don’t know the fashionable trends well enough to describe them, but suffice to say, Heidi Klum would be impressed.
I have one friend who is particularly gutsy with her apparel; she wears sweatpants to the library, to class, and all around town. You would think that even if people don’t choose to dress a certain way, they wouldn’t care if someone else did. Well, in St Andrews, they do! She receives countless dirty looks and sometimes even comments from our reigning fashion elite.
Part of the community aspect of university is a sense of solidarity among the students. What does this solidarity come from, if not a shared sense of comfort that you may not have your life together, but that’s okay, because your peers are in the same boat? We’re still all barely adults, and that’s okay — university is the time to figure it out. I don’t think I’m being overly idealistic to say that most universities are relatively judgment-free zones. St Andrews should follow suit.
Where does this lack of acceptance and excess of composure stem from? It very well may be rooted in the competitiveness that is inherent in a prestigious university. A perfectly groomed and unruffled exterior indicates an organised, confident, and successful lifestyle. A sloppy or even a simply relaxed appearance has negative connotations; those who appear laid back can be perceived as lazy or unambitious, two qualities that do not have a place among the ranks of our distinguished university.
If the exclusivity of the St Andrews student population doesn’t come from competition, then perhaps it stems from the typical fear of being afraid to stand out. The domino effect is palpable, particularly in a small town. St Andrews probably wasn’t always so chic and upscale, but perhaps it’s endured one royal too many. Plus, the fashion shows don’t help.