MICHAEL NEWKIRK ’14
Warning: Prepare for some serious generalizations. Pointing to individuals as a way of challenging my interpretation of the culture at Trinity as a whole is the equivalent of pointing to a row of intact houses in New Orleans circa late 2005 and saying “What hurricane?” Note to Self: think of a less offensive metaphor.
I once saw a group of seven girls standing together at a Trinity football game, faces buried in their iPhones, wearing the same thing. I mean that literally. They were literally wearing the exact same thing from head to toe (boots, leggings, Patagonia vests, sunglasses, and Trinity caps). Seeing this inspired an avalanche of thoughts. I understand that Trinity has its fair share of students who attended East Coast prep schools and have certain understandings of what to wear. But, as I thought more about these girls, and our campus climate, I couldn’t help but ask myself this: Why, at Trinity, do we all tend to dress so similarly? These girls perfectly encapsulated the distinct sense of style that dominates all others on this campus. To help you choose an outfit that says, “I clearly go to Trinity,” I have compiled a handy-dandy list of Trinity Fashion Tips.
First, a little known fact is that Patagonia is the only company that makes warm clothing. Unless your fleece says Patagonia on it, it will unfortunately not keep you warm.
Second, wearing officially licensed Trinity apparel that your mom bought at the bookstore is a good way to show that you are a unique, independent individual.
Third, nothing says “I am down with the working class locals on Martha’s Vineyard” like wearing Vineyard Vines.
Fourth, if you buy your nice clothing at a thrift store, make sure to tell everyone it is from a thrift store for maximum irony points.
Fifth, wear boat shoes, because you never know when you might have to suddenly captain a boat. Yes, you may be miles from the nearest ocean, but boat shoes are a practical, casual way to say “I have a summer house on Nantucket.”
Joking aside, I want to make it clear that I am not someone who enjoys judging others based on what they wear. Judging others is usually nothing more than a way for people to mask their own insecurities. I like to think that just because someone dresses like a stereotype doesn’t mean they aren’t a free-thinking individual. But let’s be real: there is a point where one can’t help but judge. And for me, these seven identical girls at the football game are it.
Everyone comes to Trinity with a certain idea of what it will be like. No one arrives here innocent. Everyone has Ralph Lauren-scented blood on their hands. From my understanding, the students who don’t really know what to expect from Trinity immediately get swallowed up by the dominant narrative before they have a fighting chance. Instead of standing out, they try to fit in. This includes how they dress, but how we dress is only a symptom of the problem. The root of the problem is that there are certain archetypes that Trinity students are expected to embody. While guys are expected to be womanizing frat-stars, girls are supposed to be Netflix-watching, iPhone-having, too-many-shots-of-vodka-taking girls who differentiate themselves exclusively through their favorite bachelor contestant. For me, the paradox is that no sane person would admit that these traits actually describe them. So why does it feel like it’s what everyone secretly aspires to be?
As a result of people trying to embody these stereotypes, Trinity can sometimes feel less like a liberal arts college and more like a boarding school. Nearly every pocket of culture on campus has an agreed-upon identity that accompanies it, and many of us simply fill out the checklist of what we are supposed to say, and how we are supposed to act (and dress). This is by no means a problem exclusive to Trinity. But that doesn’t mean we can’t recognize it and begin to fix it.
The part of you that exists beyond your personality is a precious thing. I’ve found in my few years at Trinity that it is important to recognize the part of yourself that makes you who you are and protect it. Recognizing it is hard, and protecting it is even harder. This part of you can be ridiculed and delegitimized and slowly crushed every day if you let it, but you have to be aware of this process and fight back.
How? Stay creative. Don’t worry about being labeled. Nurture the part of yourself that makes you different, or it will be lost in a sea of Patagonias, salmon shorts, and mid-calves. Write, draw, make music, rap, dance, play with action figures, start a slap boxing league, I don’t know. Just do something weird and insane because the last thing this school (and this world, for that matter) needs is something it’s seen before. But for the love of God, don’t let it involve Patagonia vests.