Sartorial Observer: It’s spring, time to care about what you wear

As I sit here writing this on Chapin Beach, one thing is clear: spring is upon us. And that means, students of Williams College, one thing: It is time to start caring about how you look. Gone are the frigid days of winter when you can get away with sweatpants, Bean boots and your black North Face parka. Your excuse of Seasonal Affective Disorder is no longer valid, so put away your heat lamp and break out your most flattering shorts.

If one thing is clear about this school, it’s that the student body as a whole does not care enough about how they look. I get it: academics come first here. None of us got into this school for looking cute (Well, maybe a few of us did. *Wink*). People here often see fashion as a silly, superfluous pursuit, never stopping for even a moment to consider its importance. How you dress is the first step toward a first impression, with people making a judgment before words are even exchanged. You would never walk into a job interview looking sloppy or unprofessional, or so the Career Center hopes. I see life as one big job interview. You never know who you’ll meet on any given day, what connection will end up being valuable later in life. Hate to break it to you, college students, but people judge. Twist! Sometimes that judgment is based on how you look. We may have been coddled by the all-too-recent college application process, during which our minds and accomplishments were the most important factor in our success. But the influence of clothing is inescapable. Everything you wear makes a statement, even if that statement is that you don’t care how you look.

Do not mistake me, I am not arguing for homogeneity of style. What makes clothing great is that everyone can put their own twist on old concepts, or even try something totally new. There is no one product or brand that is always sure to possess qualities that work for everyone. What I am saying is that people need to put in the effort to find what works for them.

If you’ve been slacking off in your wardrobe choices, spring is the best time to turn over a new leaf. New beginnings! (or something) Easter! Even if the season took a little longer to reach Williamstown than anywhere else in the country, the point is that it’s here now and we all have another three weeks to make the best of it. Spring is a time for bright colors. It’s a time for shorts – you can finally expose your legs to the sun! It’s a time when you can test the boundaries of how naked you can be in public while still looking acceptable! Maybe the winter blues took a particular toll on your shape. If this is the case, then here is a shameless plug for the article I wrote on juice cleanses last February (“Juice cleanse purifies first-year,” Feb. 20). But if you’ve been keeping it tight, and since we’re at Williams, I suspect you have, there is simply no excuse.

A few tips are in order. Do not fall into the trap of just wearing athletic shorts and a T-shirt every day. I know, it’s comfortable. But is it really that much more comfortable? Were you raised by wolves? (If you were … this is awkward.) Having personally gone to a school with a strict dress code, I found that having to dress up every day gave, and continues to give, purpose in going to class every day. It shows your peers and professors that you take them seriously and that you put effort into more than just the reading. For all the ladies, just because it is spring does not mean that everything you wear needs to be emblazoned with flowers. Subtlety is a virtue. Guys – I feel that we have a collective reluctance here to dabble in the wearing of short-shorts. I do not understand. They are blatantly more comfortable, and look better on everyone. Yes, everyone. When I say short-shorts, I don’t mean to the level of public indecency, but a reasonable length between mid-thigh and above the knee is always kosher. Trust me on this one – you may get a little more action than you did before.

On a final note, I know exams are coming. That magical time of year when we all question why we came to college at all, let alone this college. It won’t be pretty. Papers won’t print and professors will throw last-minute curveballs that seem nothing short of unconstitutional. Among the weak, tears will be shed. But there is one thing you can control above all else. You can walk into your exam looking sexy (not too sexy, though, wouldn’t want to distract anyone). The way I see it, it’s very simple. When I look great, I feel great. When I feel great, I perform better.

So as you fall asleep tonight, obviously thinking back to this article and how relevant and witty it was, take a moment to consider what you’ll wear tomorrow. You might surprise yourself.

  • Martha

    When I first read this, I couldn’t tell if it was a satire or not, because I disagree with nearly everything you say. Basically, it is incredibly superficial and presumptuous. You say that “people need to put in the effort to find what works for them” and you are “not arguing for homogeneity of style,” but this whole piece is only advocating YOUR idea of what fashion should be. So what if people run around campus in gym shorts and t-shirts? I’m sorry it’s so painful for you to have to look at their unfashionable (according to your taste) selections.

    Above all, I’m disturbed that you are not only judging our clothing choices but also our bodies. “It’s a time when you can test the boundaries of how naked you can be in public while still looking acceptable! Maybe the winter blues took a particular toll on your shape.” Who do you think you are? People work so hard to advocate for healthy body images and countless people struggle with their self image, and here you are throwing that all away and shaming people for not “keeping it tight” and advocating short shorts for all because ” you may get a little more action than you did before.” I’m sorry–what?

    So, when I fall asleep tonight, I’ll try not to have nightmares about this superficial and body-shaming article.

    • Isy

      Exactly. Thank you.

    • Rahul

      Referencing an article you wrote called “Juice cleanse purifies first-year” doesn’t do much to sell this off as satire. Definitely a spot-on response, Martha.

  • Alida

    Please tell me you aren’t serious.

    “Maybe the winter blues took a particular toll on your shape.…But if you’ve been keeping it tight, and since we’re at Williams, I suspect you have, there is simply no excuse.”

    This is so utterly inappropriate. Are you suggesting that those of us who HAVE been “keeping it tight” can – and should – wear skimpy, summery clothes, and that those of us who have NOT should just keep on the “sweatpants, Bean boots and … black North Face parka”?

    This whole article is unbelievably shallow, not to mention contradictory (people should “find what works for them”…and yet it must be short-shorts rather than athletic shorts!)

    I hope that during this finals season, you are able to “walk into your exam looking sexy” — because that’s so clearly what’s important to you.
    I myself intend to walk into my exam feeling prepared, knowing that I’ve put in a semester of hard work and intellectual effort.

  • Duchess von Teschen

    Good God, this was the dumbest thing I have ever read.

  • PRINCESS P

    To the above commenters: Chill. Out.

    TRIPLE A, Y’ALL: Amazing, Accurate, Astute.

    That is all.

  • this is really disappointing

    alright this CANNOT possibly be something published in any newspaper. While it’s clear you have a strong voice and a way with words, I think you are much better suited for writing a personally blog rather than an article for Williams College. Yes, maybe you picked up a job as a writer to kill some time but you need to realize that this is a paper read by alumni and is their only key to whats happening at the school they loved. They do NOT want to read about how you are singling out and isolating the entire student body by making fun of them for not dressing up for class like you did at your school. You are now a part of a new student body and rather than trying to point out how different you are and how everyone should act like you, why dont you try and bring to light the positives of this new community and publish that. Who are you to tell people what they should wear? I am certain no one asked for your insulting opinion and you just decided to hide your elitist rants behind the face of what you call “journalism.” Please don’t write another article unless you’ve learned how to gather an audience rather than push away the entire community here. It is also getting a little ridiculous how every article you write is mostly just a way to praise your friends publicly. Why don’t you step out of your friendzone and meet the people in the Williams community rather than use the paper as a personal diary to publish how great you think you and your friends are.

  • big don

    This is one of the worst and most embarrassing articles that I have seen published in a paper that has embarrassingly stupid articles published almost every week.

  • CALI54

    Sorry, does everyone here a lobbyist for the National Nike Shorts Club or something? This is obviously meant to be satire at best, poorly-conveyed truth-telling at worst. It’s a putative fact that Williams is not a stylish campus; it’s hard to prioritize form over function here. That’s why articles like this are not terribly original, but at least very true. Some of us, myself included, really do care about appearances, but if that’s not your thing, no one’s forcing you to get up earlier and iron a blouse. So chill out and ignore the advice if it doesn’t work for you. This is not a controversial topic.

    Additionally, this is called the “Sartorial Observer” for a reason- whoever writes it is just going public with his/her observations. As in, it’s always inherently an opinion piece. So yes, not everyone is going to agree. Stop trying to slap an ulterior or malicious motive on this.

    And yes Alida, let’s please talk about appearance-shaming. What does looking sexy at exam time have to do with preparation? I get up a little earlier and make sure my eyeliner is ON POINT that day because it helps me feel less anxious. My friends used to call it my ‘war paint’ in high school. That’s how I was raised as well, which is why I think athletic wear on a daily basis is sloppy and unprofessional. Being a student is my job, and I make sure I look good for it because I take it seriously. Yeah, the body comment was insensitive but your correlation of sexy with dumb/poor work ethic is worse. The two aren’t mutually exclusive. If you think my extra 5 minutes of prep time in the morning makes me less prepared to sit for an exam, you’ve got problematic conceptions of appearance as well.

    • 13tg

      cali54 , Alida clearly wasn’t equating sexy with dumb, but just saying that Will shouldn’t be making people feel like being “sexy” needs to be their priority during an exam

      i myself like to dress well but it’s for myself, and the thought that people are looking at me and judging my clothes and deeming me sexy or not makes me uncomfortable. and what’s worse is this article is clearly written seriously. it’s not funny or smart enough to be a satire.

      • CALI54

        I def agree, it’s not funny or witty at all but there’s no way this could have been written seriously. For instance, “None of us got into this school for looking cute. (Well, a few of us did. *Wink*).” That’s so incredibly trite that it has to be an attempt at satire. Also, “blatantly more comfortable”? And the “getting more action” comment…come on, nobody would EVER say that in a published article. I think we can just chalk this one up to really, really poor writing skills.

  • Donnie

    The old adage of look great feel great is true in some ways. But what’s presented here is, as some comments have already pointed out, incredibly shallow and reductionary.

    Telling hard working students who can barely walk because they’ve studied so much that when they come to an exam in what’s comfortable that they were “raised by wolves” is so insensitive, untrue, and hurtful. What about people who can’t afford nice clothes? What about people with low self-esteem or depression?

    It becomes clear in the final line of your penultimate paragraph that your statements arise mainly from personal experience “When I look great, I feel great.” But I find your personal experience to be a problematic source of legitimation for such a blanket statement about 2000 people you may or may not know. It shows a deep lack empathy for the circumstances of others.

    I urge you to empathize with a greater number of people whose struggles may be manifested in that north face/sweatpants outfit. People who are struggling and barely found the energy to get out of bed and take on another day. What is REALLY ugly, is to pass such condescending judgement on Williams students.

    PS Quite the shame that this had to be published so soon after the recent “Dove Real Beauty Campaign” ad. It completely negates that really valuable message.

    • Eve

      “PS Quite the shame that this had to be published so soon after the recent “Dove Real Beauty Campaign” ad. It completely negates that really valuable message.”

      BAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA
      SO TRUE. I THOUGHT THAT DOVE HAD TURNED AMERICA POST-FAT-PHOBIC. BUT APPARENTLY A COLLEGE STUDENT’S THOUGHTS ON NOT WEARING GARBAGE BAGS EVERY DAY ARE TEARING DOWN ALL THAT DOVE HAD WORKED SO HARD TO BUILD. IT’S A GODDAMN SHAME.

    • CALI54

      HAHA yah it’s delusional to think a tiny column in a campus paper is going to affect anything in the real world. But that campaign also propagated preexisting beauty stereotypes sooooo….

      • Donnie

        Well I think that their most recent ad was much better than some of their previous ads which were only a veiled propagation of the same, like you said. But CALI54 at least I’m honest enough not to hide behind the anonymity of the internet which seems to make so many people brave enough to say malicious things. I’m willing to stand by what I say and talk about it. I’m not ashamed to have an opinion.

        I am not “delusional” and I find that really offensive. You don’t know me at all, so really, take some of the advice I had in my comment and don’t judge.

  • CALI54

    To clarify, I’m only defending the author’s intentions. This is very poorly written, trite, not funny or clever, and unnecessarily rude. Just a mess of words all around, but that’s on the editor, isn’t it?

  • Go4aRun

    Hey Will,
    I’m getting ready to don a pair of short shorts myself and go for a run. Based on your expertise, how many girls will I pick up on the way?

  • Chill Out

    This article is funny, lighthearted, and true. Instead of getting their panties in an inordinate twist, the haters (yeah, I went there) should be appreciative of the fact that this was meant to bring some necessary, satirical light to the student body. It was nice, for once, to read something neither academic nor boring in a college newspaper that tends to take itself too seriously. EVERYONE NEEDS TO CHILL and stop trying to be politically correct to an inarguable fault. Re. Lax.

    • DTTO

      Uh, you chill out. If people think an article is bad, they have a right to say so. Sorry you have bad taste, but the ratio of positive to negative reviews here would indicate your rubric for enjoyable reading material is lacking.

  • this is really disappointing

    Isn’t the author the editor of the whole section? How did that happen? Hopefully someone is editing our editor

  • you drive me crazy

    First off, it’s hard enough to love your body the way it is on a campus full of incredibly fit athletes.

    Second, I know I’m going to be called out for nitpicking, but as someone with OCD who has to deal with people using my mental illness to describe their cleaning habits, Will’s throwaway comment about Seasonal Affective Disorder really bothers me. SAD isn’t an “excuse” that people make up so they can get away with not dressing to Will’s exacting standards; it’s a real mental illness with serious effects on people’s lives. The constant invalidation of mental illness in casual conversation (“oh, the weather was so bipolar!” “I get so depressed when I don’t have chocolate,” “quit being such a schizo”) perpetuates an extremely damaging societal stigma.

    I’d like to relax, but my health insurance recently stopped paying for my medicine because they don’t view my illness as important enough to warrant coverage, so I can’t.

    • Ahem

      Youre saying that you hate “the constant invalidation of mental illness in casual conversation” yet you title your post “you drive me crazy”…perhaps a bit hypocritical

      • you drive me crazy

        … my title was intended to be satirical. I figured it would be pretty clear, given the content of my post, but apparently not.

  • Embarrassed

    The Record is the representation of student opinions both on campus and on the Web.

    These opinions are narrow-minded and disappointing, to say the least. It’s the casual, humorous mention of mental illness. It’s the classist assumption that everyone can afford to wear what they want. It’s the body shaming and recommendation of a juice cleanse for weight loss, which is awful to read when you’ve done the same thing with an eating disorder, or ever struggled with body image.

    Whatever the author’s intent, this comes off like a stereotypical prep school kid who’s never really thought about the challenges that others face. The diverse student body here is supposed to encourage us to empathize with others, not judge them.

    I want Williams to evolve from its image as a school for privileged preps, and this is not helping.

  • Avg Joe

    This has to be satire, no one would right anything like this seriously. Superficial and pathetic.

  • Emma

    wow, Record, you’ve published some doozies, but how did this one scrape past the editors? Perhaps the author’s writing could be enjoyable to read if the opinions expressed were not shallow, judgmental, and offensive in multiple ways. alums, parents, potential students–PLEASE know we are not all like this!

  • To clarify

    I was initially horrified at this article, and have since learned that it WAS supposed to be satirical. (I didn’t get the satire first, either, because its language is so extraordinarily out of touch with the problems that so many Williams students and people face.) Re-reading it with that knowledge, it looks slightly less awful. The referenced juice cleanse article, for example, is a satire. Perhaps the author should stay clear of “satire” until he learns to make it a LOT more apparent. Have someone edit, PLEASE. Remember that this is being published under the Williams name and is representative of our entire campus and community. If I had read this before making my decision, I easily could have not been here now.

  • What?

    How is this satire? What is it satirizing? Why should anyone believe it’s satire when its tone gives no indication that the author is anything other than sincere?

    Calling this satire is a nonsensical retroactive defense. It’s obviously not satire. Jonathan Swift and H.L. Mencken wrote satire. This is just a silly freshman trying to feel good about his own sartorial decisions and trussing it up as social commentary now that he’s feeling the heat.

  • Johnny Annex

    I think this article is chill as hell. As a large fit affluent white male I feel his pain. Nothing worse then seeing some trolls in workout gear when they clearly don’t WORK OUT! Keep your flab and fupas to yourselves and buy some legitimate clothes you nonners. All your financial aid should help fund this.

    • socally

      What a classist, judgemental, all around disgusting comment.

    • Hypocrisy thy name is you

      Ah yes, let’s counter his insensitive remarks with a stereotype of those groups. Obviously, all affluent white males are judgmental douchebags who look down on the rest of the world from their thrones in the annex. I mean, given the fitness that they were endowed with at birth and their race that it’s suddenly acceptable to bring into things, how could they not all be associated with this article?

  • Eph Alum

    I agree with the above commenters who point out that many Williams Alumni also subscribe to and read The Record, in addition to the many prospective students who pick up a copy at the Admissions Office to form their first impressions of the College.

    I would also like to point out that this “Sartorial Observer” column frequently runs in the Features section and is typically not satirical (see the previous two columns, http://williamsrecord.com/2013/04/10/sartorial-observer-kelsey-leonard-15/, http://williamsrecord.com/2013/02/27/sartorial-observer-kevin-garcia-13/). It reflects poor judgement on The Record’s part to publish this article that is so clearly offensive to many and excuse those insensitive comments as “satire,” particularly in light of this precedent.

  • LOL

    LOL’ing at how rude, insensitive, and half-baked these comments are, especially considering that those who are publishing them are attacking a writer who they’re claiming to be awful, heartless, classist (just waiting on racist et homophobic), etc. Y’all are acting like a bunch of middle schoolers. This dude is clearly not going to bed at night mulling over how horrified he is that Williams kids wear athletic clothes and bargain get-ups on the daily; on the contrary, he and his [NON-athlete] friends wear their gym apparel around campus regularly and CERTAINLY do not pride themselves on their designer palettes (why, you ask? BECAUSE THEY DON’T HAVE ‘EM). This article WAS an exercise in good-humored satire (about something that we, as a campus, CONSTANTLY poke fun at ourselves for), and in efforts to get their peevish sentiments out on the world wide web, kiddos have gotten all too nasty and stupid. Williams College, everyone, home to the silliest of the smart.

  • strawberry

    If by comfortable you mean getting your legs stuck to your seat or rubbing against rough cushions like the ones in Bronfman, then yes, it’s fantastic.

    Ps. I’d like to see you in these short shorts.

  • Okay

    I’m willing to believe this author isn’t elitist/classist/sexist BUT I think we can all agree if he’s trying to pass this off as satire, he is pretty ignorant of how that genre works. Can’t really blame people who are getting offended.

  • orange

    I feel like I just read a Wiki-how article written by a 14 year old girl in middle school.

  • annoyed

    lets all be assholes 90% of the time and then cry over a satirical article written in the record. you should probably be more worried about how your day to day interactions with people on campus do or don’t (a lot of the time) promote kindness and sensitivity instead of attacking someone for writing a funny and sassy article that is somewhat truthful. with all of the offensive shit that is tossed around on this campus its absurd that this is being called offensive. please have this much fervor when something that’s actually serious occurs.

    write on will

  • Camila

    This is so clearly satirical… and in fact, it’s refreshing and funny. It’s a new perspective on Williams and one that is often pushed into oblivion by the pressure to be oh so intellectual and politically correct. Guess what, we’re all a little superficial and materialistic, we’re people… Get over it and learn to laugh at yourselves a little. Williams does need some fashion advice, and that isn’t satire. Go Will, congrats for having some guts to go against the grain.

    • eli5

      When you say that “williams does need some fashion advice, and that isn’t satire,” I think you are trying to say “and that’s no joke.” The two are not the same.

      To clarify, satire is not the same thing as sarcasm either. This piece definitely does employ sarcasm, but it is not a satire. A satire is: “The use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people’s stupidity or vices.” The author is using all of those devices that are normally in a satire, but he is using them to convey an opinion that he truly holds. This piece would be a satire if he didn’t care about fashion at all, and it was widely known/obvious. But that is not the case.

  • So much for community…

    After reading these comments, I almost thought that I was on youtube. C’mon guys, we’re better than this. Where is the love?

  • ThenFixIt

    A) Why is this “disappointing?” Disappointment implies a higher expectation that went unmet, and the Record has not given anyone any reason to craft such an expectation.
    B) Are people actually getting particularly offended over this article as opposed to any of the number of other offensive, essentializing, and culture-shaming articles that the Record has published this year? Accepting the Majority comes to mind, for one. Then there was the article that offered a “surprisingly” good review of the Dating Doctor, aka the biggest orgy of gender-stereotyping and heteronormativity aside from ACE parties that I’ve ever seen put on under college sanction (while the Record failed to cover the feminist-progressive event on self-love that happened the same evening).
    C) All of these comments would be rendered moot if people who cared enough to read this article online and critique it actually contributed to making the Record more than a rag.
    D) Everything said in the comments about the legitimacy of Seasonal Affective Disorder: yes.

  • Natalie

    This article has been misconstrued, I think. Will’s point is that putting effort into our appearance benefits us in two ways. First, our style sends a message to others about what we’re all about, whether we’re aware of it or not. People do judge us based on how we look—they decide whether we look “together” enough for a job, attractive enough to date, interesting or creative enough to initiate a conversation, whatever. Of course we’d prefer to be judged on internal qualities, but in reality that isn’t how it always works. If our style does in fact matter, why not control the message we send? This isn’t about everyone looking the same—it’s about making sure an individual’s actual image corresponds to the one he or she wants to project. Second, paying attention to the way we dress has the potential to make us feel better and more confident. It’s a way of exerting control in our daily lives and showing that we care about ourselves.

    Will’s pointing out that our clothing choices do have real consequences, subtle though they may be, and that we can make them work for us.

  • Senior Girl

    First, I think Alex Pena’s response was mature and respectful of the author, while addressing some of the criticisms raised above with less vitriol.

    Second, and while I appreciate attempts at satire, I think the author has unconsciously managed to capture the exact message and tone that satire attempts to dismantle. For example: instead of telling girls not to wear floral prints, a satirist would tell them to wear the flowers themselves. Trying to get the message across that “clothing choices do have real consequences?” Do it by making the clothing choices truly absurd, and not a recognizable fashion trend. This article tries to have its cake and eat it, too, in purporting to satirize fashion while blatantly forwarding an actual fashion agenda. And in order to gently criticize others, good satirists can turn the criticism on themselves. This article, while it struck a decidedly cheeky tone, was lacking in the humanizing gentle self-degradation department.

    Ultimately, and despite the negative backlash to this article, I think Williams can handle actual satire. We just haven’t seen it yet.

  • A Feldman

    Chill out, Williams!

  • I sincerely apologize for the length but hey it’s anonymous

    While this isn’t technically a satire, I still think it’s sassy and adorable and it’s definitely not meant to be taken too seriously or personally. He did bring up many valid points in saying that the way you dress puts out a statement for the rest of the world to see. Whether we like it or not the judgment of others is inescapable.

    There were several places in the article that could have been more tactfully presented, of course, though they were clearly meant to add color and humor rather than offend (it’s the intent that matters right?). While it’s not right, you can’t blame solely the author for the insensitive handling of euphemisms and disorders that perpetuates our entire culture.

    It doesn’t take long for the reader to realize that this article is rather straightforwardly expressing the author’s genuine opinion, true. But that’s completely ok; we’ve all got opinions and they’re not always perfectly unbiased and “acceptably” intellectual. I find the tang of sass to be a refreshing flavor.

    As for prospective/future students stumbling upon this, both the article itself and the comments are telling and even instructional, you’re right. They show that you guys are always up for a rousing debate and are passionate in expressing your beliefs. Also you seem to be partial to terms like “heteronormative” and “mutually exclusive.” I see that you’re all intelligent and well-spoken, but beyond that everyone is different, and that’s cool. Like any other student should who is seriously into Williams, I browsed a wide range of articles and sources when choosing this place (including the Juice-cleanse article, which was beautiful). Anyone who gets scared away from the school by believing the statements of one freshman in one article could possibly speak for all 2,000 of you is close-minded and failed to do the proper research. Williams would seem eerily perfect to me without seeing some abrasiveness and conflict anyway. I’d rather know beforehand what I’m getting into from a wide range of perspectives, even if I didn’t enjoy Will’s as much as I did.

    There’s also the fact that Will Gutierrez is comfortable and confident enough to publicly release his opinions to a tiny and apparently close-knit college community, at the risk of needing to lock his door tighter at night, while most of us cowardly commenters hide behind the anonymity if the internet. He’s sassy AND brave.