The Sartorial Reality of St Andrews

Zoe Spirgel analyses our local street style.

Walking into the small university town of St Andrews, the average human is entering a bubble. A utopian bubble, filled with identity, individuality, and expectation. Coming from the United States, jumping into the European culture and atmosphere is already an adjustment. However, the fashion, essence, and style that surrounds the university life of St Andrews is very underestimated.

As I can only speak on behalf of the States, I can soundly make the statement that university fashion at St Andrews is incredibly different than that of an average American university. While students in the US can comfortably rock up to class sporting their most comfy and bulky high school sweatpants, this fashion risk will not welcomed at St Andrews. With a school of great minds, comes a school of great style and pride.

Walking into my Modern History lecture, I’m welcomed by a sea of high-waisted warriors. With Longchamp bags tucked discreetly next to Kate Spade and Michael Kors laptop cases, a dress code is becoming seemingly clear to me. As described to me by one of my British friends, “you dress for the grades and the respect you want.” So that being said, St Andrews students bring it with the outfits. It is not unnatural or startling to see students fully suited up, briskly strolling down market street and into a lecture hall. 

If you become the American student who rolls out of bed, and walks to class in pyjamas, I’m unfortunately going to have to inform you that you will not be incognito and will receive sad, offended stares. If dressed as a homeless person, you are not going to get confused as an Arts student taking copious fashions risks, but instead be mistaken for a member of the homeless community and will find yourself being thrown change outside Tesco.

Though many who are that unfortunate and don’t attend St Andrews will take stabs at the sea of Longchamp handbags and Barbour jackets, these accusations are only skimming the surface of the fashion culture of the University. The library is a viable and accurate case study of average St Andrews fashion. Here you will spot men wearing chinos, girls in skirts and high heeled boots, tweed jackets, and the occasion confused student, sticking out in their gym clothes. Wearing gym clothes in other public areas besides the Sports Centre is a no-go here at St Andrews. While you think you might look sporty, cute, and active, you actually look lazy, unwashed, and unprepared. There will be days when a student will rush into the library, frantically scanning their matriculation card as soon as possible, making a straight b-line for the printers. This epic final countdown sprint can be seen in a varieties of fashion scenarios. From the post-Opening Ball, “oh no my essay is due and I have minutes to print my Modern essay,” sprint done in a full tux or ball gown, to the last minute haul from the flat to the library dressed in sweatpants, a flannel, and a bad attitude: We have all been there.

From moments like the final countdown sprint to ball gowns, St Andrews style is diverse to say the least. Students love to get dressed up looking “prep school smart.” While friends at home might laugh and howl at the thought of having a “ball season” or even just a monthly ball, we as St Andrews students understand the mental drain and struggle of this culture. While prom allowed a month for us ladies to diet, and run, and convince ourselves we are going to fit into that 00 size dress, balls are unforgiving. They seem to just keep rolling through with no end in sight.

Men have it easy. They get to sport the same clean, crisp, tasteful tux at all balls with no last minute stress as to whether to go long or short. Women, on the other hand, spend hours debating whether Christmas Ball is more of a long dress situation or a short, spunky evening gown atmosphere.

The fashion statements do not stop with the ball culture of St Andrews. Student-run fashion shows are all the rage, showcasing diversity and individuality. There are shows for models of all shapes, colours and sizes: Curvy, petite, tall, shorty, busty, flat chested, they walk them all. More than this, it is about having appeal and intrigue. To be interesting and striking is more valued than being textbook beautiful or flawless. From showcasing charity clothes, to local designers throughout Scotland, these fashion shows truly embrace the personality and meaning of St Andrews, bringing students together through fashion and fun, whether you are participating in the runaway escapades or cheering your heart out, in awe of all these amazing people.

Though fair enough, there seem to be many “Barbour Straishands” present in lectures and tutorials around campus, students season their outfits with individuality and personality. Many little accessories and shots of charisma go unnoticed. Whether it be students designing their own pins for jean jackets, pulling out the vintage grandpa sweaters, or dying streaks of their hair pink or blue, every student at St Andrews adds a bit of flare and spunk to their uniform of Barbours and Longchamps. From Arts students tirelessly attempting to bring back the 80s necks scarf revival, to Medicine students sporting Doc Martins as they stroll out of Tesco, students take pride in how they dress, developing a style and personality through their appearances.

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