Posted by Taylor Dafoe
A couple of weeks ago, a friend of mine visited me from Swarthmore, a school whose student body unfortunately has a reputation of being more brainy than it is beautiful. While he was here, glancing around the campus and reveling in the novel greasiness of the dining hall, he commented several times on the "look" of Skidmore students. He mentioned that everyone here seems to be well put-together, or at least more so than the students at his school, who are supposedly notorious for their lack of concern with all things superficial.
And he's right, our school does have a very fashion-conscious mindset. So much so that for some reason we're often focused more on our boots and seasonal cardigans than on our classes. It's one of our school's defining characteristics, one that people both inside and outside the "bubble" tend to associate with Skidmore students.
Evidence of this obsession can be seen everywhere: our uniforms of Northface fleeces and pretty plaid flannel whatevers, the cigarettes hanging precariously from the pouty-lipped mouths of the hipsters outside Case Center, not to mention the full-length mirrors covering dorm walls. And it's all starting to seem like a bad thing. We can only check out our outfits in the reflections of campus windows so many times before we actually see ourselves.
We have this reputation of being stylish yet shallow students, as if we were walking ads for Urban Outfitters. We look as though we have nothing behind our looks — no original thoughts, no creative drive — nothing but plastic principles. I'm not trying to criticize the fashion trends of Skidmore students. I'm simply pointing out the ridiculousness of the conceited Skidmore mentality.
The irony is that in spite of my new awareness of Skidmore's superficiality, and in spite of the hopelessly naïve fact that I'm taking issue with it, I'm proud of this image. I like the idea that our school is looked at in this way: as a well-dressed and charismatic body of bound-for-success college students.
For a while, I honestly thought that this is how we were perceived. Like all ostentatious people, I assumed that everyone else thinks of Skidmore students in the same way that they think about themselves: as well-rounded, good looking kids, wise beyond our modest years, most of which were likely spent in some ritzy town in New England or Westchester. But maybe we're not seen in this way.
Maybe we're just vain idiots popping our collars and rolling up our jeans, reading fashion magazines instead of books. Maybe we'll be the best dressed at interviews, but also the ones that just missed the cut to someone from a school like Swarthmore. Maybe we're just second rate. Honorable Mention.
I don't think our obsession with looking good is an entirely bad thing; it's not, but the self-absorption that can come with it is. And I'm not saying that I'm above this trend, or that these things don't pass through my head as I'm picking out my clothes every morning. I just think we need to reel it in a little bit, to start focusing on something a little more consequential than that quirky old sweater you got from some thrift store that no one's ever heard of.