Students reinvision Eph fashion with quirky purple and gold finds

A handknit scarf, cow hat and Ephelia-print shirt are all alternative ways to rep the College. - Christian Ruhl/Photo Assistant.
A handknit scarf, cow hat and Ephelia-print shirt are all alternative ways to rep the College. – Christian Ruhl/Photo Assistant.

With Homecoming right around the corner, we can be sure to see an influx of purple and gold on the visual radar. But whence should you head if you, too, wish to partake in school spirit with pizzazz? Sure, it’s perfectly timeless to purchase that heather-gray sweatshirt with “WILLIAMS COLLEGE” emblazoned in large font on the front, but what kind of college apparel options are there if you don’t want the same shirt everyone else has?

I’ll start with my own experiences in creative Williams-gear hunting. One Friday afternoon a couple months ago, I dropped into the Spring Street boutique School for Style and found a shirt so magnificent, I immediately halted my rapid rack-shuffling and paused to soak in its many glorious details. The shirt in question is a short-sleeved electric-yellow button-down, patterned with green leaves and a flower-like purple shape. Upon closer inspection, however, the organic blobs of lilac turned out to be psychedelic herds of the College mascot purple cows, each decorated with a small “’75” in the center.

Despite the undeniable opportunity staring me in the face, I didn’t immediately take the $9 plunge. It took me several weeks and several casual drop-bys until I dragged my friend Hayley Elszasz ’16 to School of Style, where she immediately gravitated toward the same shirt.

“I was surprised that such an item existed, but elated at the prospect of owning such a magnificent and majestic piece of clothing,” Elszasz said. We are both just about small enough to squeeze into the child’s size eight, and thus, we decided to split the cost and custody of the shirt, which now hangs proudly on display in our suite hallway and is only worn on the most special of occasions.

Moving to another once-in-a-lifetime thrift find, I’d heard about the legendary cheerleading outfit belonging to Sallie Lau ’15 and was immediately intrigued. All I knew was that her purple-and-white matching shirt and skirt set had gold accents and a “W” stitched onto the front and another outfit like this was not to be found for miles around. According to Lau, who thrifted the ensemble, it was originally a cheerleading uniform from the University of Washington, which incidentally happens to have the same colors as we do. But what does one do with such a show of reappropriated Williams pride?

“I have worn this outfit exactly twice,” Lau said, for “Halloween last year and as a part of my costume with my JA [Junior Advisor] co, who dressed as a ‘Williams athlete’ for the night that the JAs pick their entries.”

Though the rush that comes with acquiring a uniquely perfect thrift find is undeniably matched by no other, this is admittedly a rare phenomenon, and the busy Williams student may want a more reliable source for their purple cow fix. Stroll past Goff’s on down Spring Street and you’ll get to The Shops @ the Library for an alternative retail option. The Shops has a “Williams Corner” reserved exclusively for a plethora of purple and gold items, including socks, polo shirts, boat shoes and the well-known “Retro Varsity Boatneck Sweater,” often referred to on campus as “the ‘W’ sweater” or “the Weasley sweater.” According to Store Proprietor Ed Fauteux, the design of the sweater is copied from a letter sweater from the 1930s, made from 100 percent high-quality wool with the same measurements as the original. Though the selection may be slightly more pricey and limited than what one might find at Goff’s, many Ephs will find it’s worth the extra cost to obtain such quality keepsake items. “It’s all about the detailing,” Fauteux explained. The discreet gold and purple stripes on the backs of the shop’s collars and cuffs only prove his point. The Shops’ items are loved by students and alums alike – several sets of their silk ties and cummerbunds have even been sold for weddings.

Let’s not forget that Williams pride is not relegated to simply colors, however. As the school of the purple cows, seeing copious amounts of cow print is inevitable. Certain athletic teams on campus are known for sporting cow print gear. See a girl in cow print leggings? Chances are she’s on the cross-country team rocking their running gear of choice. The women’s ice hockey team, however, created a universal must-have accessory, sure to be spotted (no pun intended) all over the Homecoming stands. For the past few years, the women have sold cow print baseball caps to raise money for the team.

If all else fails and you can’t seem to track down any women’s ice hockey players, know that you can always go the DIY route. I personally have a purple-and-yellow scarf I knit irregularly all through high school, before I ever even considered attending a college with those official colors. With the Fiber Arts Club, I can now expand my collection of homemade Eph apparel. Every article I make will serve me well this winter, as I strut over the hills of the purple cows.