Looking alike doesn’t mean thinking alike

If you’ve never been in the monkey carrels in Sawyer, stop by sometime

and take a look at the graffiti. Not only is it entertaining, but it’s

quite educational as well. You will find lyrics to songs you’ve

forgotten, documentation of numerous sexual liaisons, and commentary on

various social issues. I was trying to study in a carrel a few months

ago, but I don’t have a cooperative attention span, and my eye started

wandering. Perusing the desk and walls, I noticed a particularly

interesting sample. Some girl had scribbled that she loved some guy in

khakis and a Williams hat. Underneath this fragment, someone else had

disapprovingly added “and a North Face parka and windpants and Nikes

like every other guy on this campus.” I’m paraphrasing, so if you wrote

this message, I’m sorry I didn’t go for absolute accuracy.Anyway it got

me thinking. Conformity is one of those things everyone condemns but few

are actually innocent of. So, is there a typical student at Williams?

Well, there is a typically-dressed student. Williams students do tend to

wear similar clothing, and eventually we sort of blend together in a

great purple-khaki nylon vision. And we do own a lot of big name brands.

I’m sure North Face and Nike don’t respect us any less. Of course,

they’re milking us for as much money as they can get.I guess the real

issue is this: does the resemblance in appearance imply a deeper

resemblance of spirit? First thing’s first. I’m guilty of this fashion

conformity thing. I got the purple windpants my freshman year, and I’m

not even an athlete. I have the Williams hats (I’m still working on the

curve in the hood, though) and the fleece pullover. I suppose dressing

like everyone else never bothered me because I had to wear a uniform in

high school. People complained about it then, too. But I think dressing

similarly can actually help us discern the differences between our

classmates. When we’re not distracted by variations in the physical

appearances of friends and acquaintances, we’re more free to listen to

what they say and observe what they do. I’ve become more aware of the

distinct interests among my own friends, from the soccer-loving road

trip companion to the JA who paints masterpieces on empty liquor bottles

to everyone in-between, all of whom dress fairly the same. Don’t get me

wrong, I’m not saying we should start wearing uniforms, but I do think

we can find plenty of individuality among people who seem “typical” of

each other.In further defense of the fashion generic, there is a certain

pragmatism involved with most of these clothes. My ex-JA Andy Wolf once

said that at cold places like Williams, “it’s function over fashion, to

the point where function is fashion.” The pullover is a common sight on

campus because it’s warm – the parka resists moisture, the windpants are

comfortable, the hat keeps your hair out of your face. Expense aside,

these items are very practical. So the nameless hero of the monkey

carrel, the object of one person’s affection and another person’s

derision, should take comfort in knowing that he is an

efficiently-dressed Eph.I guess the answer to my original question,

which even I have lost track of (see paragraph 3), is that similarity in

appearance does not indicate uniformity in thought. If it did, I would

be getting much better grades. But it doesn’t, so relax. Don’t look away

when you walk past the Mountain Goat. Learn to enjoy the swishee sound

from people’s windpants. Slip on that fleece like you know you want to.

Celebrate your originality, of course. Just don’t knock ordinary until

you’ve tried it. It’s only fair.