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Style isn't as simple on the other side of the Atlantic: differences in college fashion culture

Style isn't as simple on the other side of the Atlantic: differences in college fashion culture


Fashion is universally known as the gateway to the heavens of creativity. Every culture, nation and city has its own vision of what is considered elegant. The casual comfort that Americans favor in fashion contrasts greatly with the elegant class displayed in European outfit choices.

In particular, Europeans and Americans each claim superiority in terms of style. Since I started studying in London last semester, I've found the real place where fashion matters: on college campuses.

Since the rise of the fashion industry in the 19th century, Europeans have been credited as the creators of a multitude of luxury brands such as Chanel, Yves Saint Laurent, Gucci and Prada. Their reputation embodies sophistication and elegance, whatever the destination. Many European universities and student common areas are overflowing with blazers, sweaters, pants and a plethora of accessories to complete every look. Europeans take their clothing choices seriously and it's first impressions that count the most.

In the UK, the way people dress is often linked to British class system. Inherited and generational wealth is a sign of status and often comes with many perks, such as a neat wardrobe. Additionally, it is rare to see many British students on campus standing out with their outfit choices, as most do not like to stand out in a crowd. However, in neighborhoods like Camden Town or Brick Lane, where vintage shopping, punk rock and street art abound, campuses are often overflowing with funky outfit choices, colorful hair and chunky jewelry. These areas have been the busiest since I arrived in the UK due to their diverse population, fashion and food. There is so much life in these two neighborhoods and I am constantly inspired by the culture around them.

American students place a high emphasis on statement pieces and embrace fashion as a concept that highlights individuality. Those who have extravagant fashion choices are considered cool and are held in high regard stylistically. In Europe, people who wear such clothing are often excluded and looked down upon. The stereotype that Americans are seen as loud and obnoxious often comes from their bold clothing choices, and this harms their perception in common spaces like the subway in London or downtown restaurants in Paris. On the other hand, walking down State Street at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, you'll find that most people are wearing sweats and sportswear, especially in cold weather.

However, the few people who show up to class in flowy skirts, fluffy hats, sparkly tops, and all the jewelry they own are the ones who tend to receive the most compliments on their outfits. The effort they put into their appearance despite the temperature is one that deserves to be noticed.

In contrast, European women will wear skirts, tights and pants to class, regardless of the weather outside, and men never miss an opportunity to break out their trench coats and Sherlock Holmes caps. As an American, this is intriguing because they see nothing special in dressing up for something as normal as a morning class. It's just part of their culture.

The differences in fashion choices can be attributed to cultural differences between the two regions. In keeping with their ability to blend in, Europeans dress simply but elegantly to avoid attracting unwanted attention. It's important to note that many American students who study abroad tend to add timeless pieces to their wardrobe to blend in with the European crowd. Everything from black skirts to trench coats to chunky scarves are staples in second-semester juniors' suitcases before their flights. I would argue that integration allows Americans to fully immerse themselves in the country in which they are studying.

Although Europeans still wear basic, timeless pieces, the incorporation of popularized American trends has brought a whole new twist. This improved style allowed Europeans to embrace a familiar aesthetic while introducing more comfortable clothing. Matilda Djerf, a Swedish fashion icon and influencer, can be credited with trending this type of style. American and European students frequent its sustainable clothing brand, Avenue Djerfwhich reflects the integration of the two styles.

Even though Americans value comfort in their style, that doesn't mean they limit themselves to athleisure. Many people follow fashion trends beyond the realm of comfort. Unlike Europe, there is no societal norm regarding whether to dress smartly or casually. Fashion inspiration can be borrowed from anyone from Bella Hadid to Tyler, the Creator. Fast-moving trends in American fashion tend to reflect the ever-changing nature of the country and its desire to live off the beaten path. This is different from the UK, a nation set in its norms and behaviors.

The best thing about fashion is that it is unique, creative and entirely depends on each individual who chooses to adopt it. Fashion doesn't necessarily need labels or be categorized into categories divided by different cultures. You have to be bold and valiant. Ultimately, a person should wear an outfit because they feel good about themselves, regardless of the standard.

Hana Razvi is an editor and student of journalism and strategic communications. Do you agree that there are big differences when it comes to fashion abroad? Send all comments to [email protected]

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