Every fall, the campus is unified by one common purpose: to give the first-years a hard time. Not only must the recently de-nested suffer through the creepiness of being fresh romantic targets for single upper-class vultures, they must also bear the ridicule of every senior, junior and relieved sophomore who thinks that he, she or ze is the authority on just what Obies should be: how they should think, act and especially dress.
The first-years are too preppy. Too trendy. Too blond. Too Mid-West. Too rich. Too conventional. Man, why didn’t they just go to a state school? The College must be getting pretty desperate. Everyone. Says this. Every. Year.
And it’s such bullshit. Despite my weekly attempts to catalog fashion phenomena at Oberlin, I’ve yet to be convinced that there exists such a thing as a consistent Oberlin dress-code. We’re too varied, too divergent, too disparate in our tastes to be lumped together as “people who dress like they’re from Oberlin.”
What could such a phrase even mean? What does it conjure forth? Long capes and celtic jewelry? Tacky mini-skirts and “ironic” cowboy boots? An unshaven populous pinned with political buttons? The “carelessly” long skirts and bangle beads of Bo-Ho? The only way these disparate styles could be construed as having anything in common is if they were pitted against a common enemy.
Which is exactly what the first-year classes always provide: tangible conformity, middle-American mainstream wardrobes ripe for shunning. And order is restored. The student body smiles — content in its uniqueness, its irony, its elite-ness once again. Only by calling out the wide-eyed fashion younglings as being ever-so un-Oberlin can they gloat at how Oberlin they’ve become.
Yes, become. Not all of us arrived this way. Not everyone on this campus was born in an urban center of counter-culture and post-modern rock. But we adapted. We looked around and saw that the rules here were different.
At Oberlin, fitting in constitutes flagrant self-expression. Within six months of your class’s arrival, the eagle-scout wannabes stopped shaving, the cheerleader types chopped their hair at strange angles and the blander beauties pierced their noses and tied up their hair in batik-like scarves.
Self-expression is both an artistic personal statement and an acquired behavior. Bravery takes time and old habits are slow to be shed, but trust me, it will happen.
But why should it? Preppy garb can be just one more way to dress at Oberlin, since the community is already so accepting of many divergent styles. Perhaps it’s the only way, in an environment uniformed in uniqueness, to go against the grain. But, after two years at Oberlin, I doubt this “revolution” will take place.
The first-years, to all of our dismay, will evolve into something more
“expected” of the Bubble, and everyone will be disappointed that
they no longer have anyone to bitch about. But don’t worry, there will
still be plenty of people to snub: Prospie-Season is year-round.