“Corduroys went out of style, like, ten years ago,” a girl snickered to her friend behind me.
My legs, clad in gray corduroys, resisted every urge to turn around and serve a retort much more insulting than the slight against my pants. For me and many others, rent, food, and textbooks matter more than fashion. I have some nice things, many hand-me-downs, thrifted corduroys pants that I will continue to wear with a passion, and nothing even close to designer-unless Free People counts. Penn fashion is highly polarizing, and instead of judging someone for what they choose to put on their body, we should practice accepting alternate styles.
Not everyone can afford those Louis Vuitton lock necklaces. Not everyone wants to wear Common Projects sneakers. Beyond the question of personal taste is the issue of accessibility. Not everyone has access to the designer trends that float around Penn’s campus on a monthly basis. Every October when the Burberry scarves and Moncler jackets come out, I rifle through my drawer for the gray scarf my mother knit for me four years ago. Obviously the two don’t have the same material or sentimental value, and it’s unproductive to place them on a hierarchical scale based on frivolous stipulations of whether money or memories are more important. What’s important is what makes people feel good about themselves. But at a school that prioritizes Supreme T-shirts over the ones thrifted from Second Mile, getting dressed in the morning can seem like a much bigger issue than it is. If the judgment associated with personal style was replaced with an air of acceptance, the morning routine would be a much happier experience.
The cliquishness that accompanies the different bubbles of Penn students is only amplified by clothing choices. Having gone to an arts high school with a strict dress code, I have lived through being stripped of individual choice when it comes to how you express yourself through clothing. I’m sure many of you can relate. As full-fledged adults in a world where dress codes no longer exist, I figured I’d be done with the judgment associated with how I clothe my body when I came to Penn. But the conversation has just shifted from a teacher telling me my “shorts are too short” to peers remarking that my shoes “are knock-offs.” My question is, so what if my shoes are knock-offs? It’s my feet that have to wear them.
Penn fashion has been polarizing to me since my first year, and it seems to only be getting more obvious. As people come into their own, clothing is an exciting way of making yourself feel like your truest self. Sometimes this includes designer pieces and sometimes this includes wearing your best friend’s pants because men’s pants fit you better. Personal expression is for the benefit of the person doing it, not to create opportunities for judgment from onlookers.
Not everyone has the same taste in clothing, let alone the same accessibility. Some people don’t give a damn what they put on their body as long as they’re kept warm. All of these are equally valid ways of moving through the world, so why do Penn students find it so necessary to lay judgment? You’re always going to need to clothe yourselves in public, and when people are shamed or blamed for not being with the times, the necessary act of getting dressed in the morning can become stressful. I like corduroy pants and I’m going to keep wearing them. If you don’t, then don’t wear them. It’s as simple as that.
SOPHIA DUROSE is a College junior from Orlando, Fla. studying English. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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