After accepting the College’s offer of admission, the aspect of campus life I became most excited about was the prospect of getting to know the interesting and intelligent young adults who would make up my class. First meticulously handpicked by the College’s admissions officers, then placed in entries crafted to simulate microcosms of the student body, Ephs are systematically surrounded by students with a wide range of personalities, interests, beliefs and backgrounds right off the bat. While I’ve immensely enjoyed sharing my college experience thus far with my extraordinarily bright, talented and vastly different peers, I find the student body’s lack of diversity in the fashion department disappointing. While our individual quirks and idiosyncrasies might be apparent in our personal essays, our late-night snack bar conversations and our comments during class, they are strikingly absent from our sartorial selves.
Before moving into Williamstown in the fall of my first year at the College, I had never heard of Patagonia sweatshirts or Cape Cod bracelets. When I walk down any street in my hometown of New York City, L.L. Bean boots are few and far between. When I arrived at the College, I wasn’t entirely sure what boat shoes were, and I thought only middle-aged women wore pearl earrings. Now, two and a half years later, I am much more well-versed in New England apparel, and appreciate it as one of the many ways my college town is different from the big city where I grew up. Over time, however, I’ve noticed that what had started out as a fashion choice that the region’s natives brought with them to the College has become a trend that much of the rest of the student population strives to follow – a movement I believe masks the diversity we are otherwise so proud to have.
To be clear, I have no problem with those who genuinely favor a style that happens to be trending. There is nothing wrong with women asking their hairdressers for “the Rachel” if they like Jennifer Anniston’s character on Friends, her hairstyle on the show or a combination of the two. Likewise, if a certain style is what you grew up with, maintaining that style is perfectly respectable. Instead, I take issue with Ephs trying to fit in with their Massachusetts and Connecticut peers. Trying to fit in is something that I think is unnecessary and childish. At the same time, it is a psychological tendency we humans have and as such, it is an unfortunate reality. With this in mind, even our own likes and dislikes can be called into question: If you think Bean boots are aesthetically pleasing, does this sentiment actually stem from an unconscious desire to assimilate to the group?
Hopefully, overwhelming gravitation by students at the College toward the same handful of brands and accessories is not indicative of a deeper, campus-wide self-esteem issue but rather an attempt to integrate themselves into New England culture. During my time studying abroad so far, I, too, have found the need to purchase platform shoes, a staple in any Buenos Aires woman’s wardrobe, in order to fully immerse myself in the foreign culture and live life like a true resident of the city, and there is nothing wrong with that. Still, everyone has a unique background and style preferences, and that should be celebrated. There is no need to look like everyone else.
As much as we naturally long to be accepted, trying to be accepted for who we really are is a more meaningful goal. We’re lucky to attend a school with a community as welcoming as it is – one where the urge to fit in is unnecessary. Our clothes should reflect that. We take pride in all of our differences, and our differences in fashion should be one of them. Students at the College should present themselves to the world as they are: unique, one-of-a-kind individuals, special enough to be accepted at the most prestigious college in the country.
Libby Dvir ’16 is a psychology major and justice and law concentrator from New York, N.Y. She is currently studying abroad in Buenos Aires, Argentina.