Corrected: This story previously stated that "approximately 75 percent" of UT students exhibit the uniformity described. This was an estimate by the author, and has been amended to simply say "many." It also previously stated that "two thirds of campus" choose to dress identically, which has been amended to read "large factions of students."
I am standing on the corner of Volunteer and Andy Holt, waiting for the light to change when it begins.
A girl approaches my left side, absorbed by her Lilly Pulitzer-clad smartphone. She's sporting an oversized Greek T-shirt, black Nike shorts and brightly-colored running shoes. Her backpack of choice is a monogramed North Face. Pearl earrings, a silver monogrammed necklace and a white ceramic watch serve as her accessories. Hair pulled back into a straightened ponytail, it would appear as though her baseball hat was sadly left behind at Sorority Village today.
I glance to my right (why must it always take ages for this light to change?) and nearly suffer whiplash from the speed of my double-take. It's the SAME GIRL that was, moments ago, on my left... isn't it? Apparently not. Girl number two's oversized tee is a slightly varied pastel shade and of the Vineyard Vines brand. Everything else down to the Sun Tan City-produced glow is exactly and irrefutably the same.
A male of the species nears the corner. His wardrobe is comprised of the following: a dark blazer, button down Polo shirt, tan pants and brown leather loafers. He eyes a female straggling from her pack with a "Wouldn't I like to see you at Rumorz this thirsty Thursday?" sleazy grin.
Panicking slightly, I turn to cross the street but it's too late – they're everywhere, spilling out of Hodges, toting Field of Greens to go boxes, shuffling through Instagram. As far as the eye can see is a veritable sea of homogenous apparel worn by indistinguishable college kids.
Sound like a bad dream or possibly some abstract Stanley Kubrick sci-fi flick? Think again. For many of UT's students, that uniformity is no mere dream, but instead a startling reality.
How did this convention of large factions of students choosing to dress identically originate, I wonder? Is there some fundamental rule book, "How to Look Like Everybody Else for Dummies" flying off the shelves of the UT bookstore? I just can't believe that such staggeringly high numbers of individuals could wake up in the morning, look in the mirror and consciously pledge, "This day, I am going to do my very best to blend in completely with more than 22,000 other people."
If this whole rule book theory is accurate, the author certainly isn't in line for the Nobel Prize for literature any time soon. The formula is absurdly simple: oversized tee, brand-specific athletic shorts and shoes, monograms, Lilly Pulitzer, pearls and a splash of Aztec print or maybe chevron to show off one's "trendiness." Rinse, wash, repeat.
The rules for the colder months are just as depressingly standardized. Exchange Nike shorts for black leggings or yoga pants; t-shirt for a long sleeved one topped by a North Face or Patagonia jacket; running shoes and Chacos for boots (either leather or Lilly Pulitzer rain boots); accessories – who are we kidding? Exactly the same as before.
The chapter for nightwear is just as simplistic. For those of you not immediately familiar with my point, allow the truth to speak for itself. Drive down Cumberland on any given Friday or Saturday night and try your best not to hit any of the blitzed pedestrians stumbling from Tin Roof to RT's, their apparent psychological death wish brought out by too many shots of Jaeger. Essentially, think dresses as humanly tight and short as possible for the ladies teetering about in 6 inch stilettos and PFG shirts for the guys.
While I did mention earlier the incorporation of sorority shirts into the daytime uniform (because that's well, you know, unavoidably true), this is not in essence a Greek-bashing column. I know several sorority girls with admirable senses of personal style. Even frat guys – no, no wait. That one's too much of a stretch. The point of this column is to ultimately raise the question – why does anyone feel the need to take such intentional, painstaking efforts to blend so wholly into the crowd? I firmly believe in style as a primary mode of self-expression.
Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel once said, "In order to be irreplaceable, one must always be different." To any and all of you uniform-adhering ladies and gents – do you really want to be considered a dime a dozen? Then show off some individuality in presentation, for pete's sake.
It isn't stylish to follow the trends laid out before you with such unwavering determination. Rather, it is indicative of a person who fears being pegged as different, ultimately making you just another brick in the wall.