Oberlin Blogs

Get Your Swag On

September 15, 2011

Ma'ayan Plaut ’10

I grew up in Kentucky, a location where if you don't live and die college basketball you're probably broken. Your wardrobe consisted of either red or blue, and lord help you if you wore both at the same time. When I moved to Hawaii, there was a good deal of state pride: taking the form of tattoos, flags, bumper stickers, and graffiti (in Hawaii, we have a special kind of graffiti: since the land is predominately black lava, people will create graffiti on it with white coral rocks, making it semi permanent but beautiful in its transience... I like to call it grafishy).

When I got to Oberlin, I guess I expected something similar to happen: that Obies have so many things to be proud of that we would shout about it from the rooftops from a crimson and gold megaphone while wearing rustic Yeoman garb. (Side note: I have now written this twice in an Oberlin blog post without ever looking up if such a thing exists. Maybe I should do that before saying it again.)

I should have known, based on the Obies I grew up around (my dad and all his hippie want-to-move-to-rural-Kentucky-and-farm-and-change-the-world-in-small-ways friends), that Obies are not boastful. When an Oberlin student or graduate talks, they do not cheer OB-ER-LIN or sing our fight song at the drop of a hat (yes, we have a fight song and it is not to be confused with our official Oberlin song). But every single word we say, every little action we make, drips in Oberlin pride. Many of our passions — academically, extracurricularly, or anything in between — were created or nurtured here. Oberlin thrives in everything we do, and if you ask, we will almost equivocally tout the wonders and greatness that is an Oberlin educational experience — though we may not say "YEO! Here is where my education is from!" outright. (See what I did there? I'm clever.)

I do not think this is an uncommon thing with small liberal arts colleges. At a larger state school, it is nigh impossible to escape school pride, especially if you have an extremely successful sports team. But at Oberlin, we have less of an excuse to display our pride outright. We're all here, and that's as much of a statement we have to make to tout our Oberaffection and Oberaffiliation.

While on campus, our pride tends to be a bit understated. We will wear our Oberlin shirts in regular rotation in our wardrobes (and not just on laundry day). We will drink coffee from our Oberlin mugs (and not just cause we get a discount on our energy fuel). We display Oberlin posters (new and old, printed and silkscreened) on our walls and doors (and not because we missed out on art rental). We keep our keys and IDs on Oberlin lanyards (and not cause we would otherwise lose them). We just don't make a point of displaying our Oberlin brands because someone tells us we should.

Now, when we leave Oberlin, our swag comes out. I *always* wear Oberlin shirts (and an Oberlin sweatshirt if it's cold/I'll be flying) when I travel. Not only does it make choosing my clothes for a trip easier/a complete no-brainer, but I will inevitably meet someone that has some association with Oberlin on my trip. And who doesn't want to meet someone that knows something about Oberlin? There is a high chance that that person is superb. And if they don't know a lot about it, you can tell them more. It's a win-win situation.

I will digress for a moment to talk about the wonder of effective Oberlin organizational branding, of which there are several excellent examples in my wardrobe. Here. I will model an example below:

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One of my most badass portraits. Taken by the awesome Chris Gentes while we were destination poi spinning in front of the Museum of Natural History in New York.

Here is Ben, modeling O! with Clara on his first day back in Oberlin. He also wears Oberlin swag when he travels... it's like we're related or something :P

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(Look parents! Both your kids in one blog post! It's like you've won the lottery or something!)

Ah yes, the simple yet understated OCircus O! I don't know who made it, or when, but hot damn, that person deserves like a million high fives. It's easily drawable, easy to put onto practically any round surface (oranges, juggling balls, tattoo modifications...) and it is incredibly recognizable. A fine example of this: my cousin lives and works in San Francisco, where he also trains at a local circus school. One afternoon, he saw someone wearing an OCircus shirt, bounded over (or maybe cartwheeled? I don't know what class he was in at the time), and asked if they went to Oberlin. The shirt-wearer in question, in fact, did go to Oberlin; it was the incomparable Mark Wessels '08, most famously known for unicycling on the tall unicycle while playing accordion (or while jumping rope, but not at the same time as playing accordion) on the Finney stage during Nocturne, the winter term circus my sophomore year.

OCircus has also had an ongoing tradition of creating shirts for the big spring show every year. At this point, I actually own enough OCircus branded material that I could, in fact, advertise OCircus every day of the week. That is some commitment right there, and it sure makes wardrobe decision-making easy during a particularly stressful week (read: things like finals).

Because I packed up a lot of my things at the beginning of the summer (long long story) I don't actually have a good deal of my OCircus shirts handy to photograph them for you right now, so I have decided to crowd-source and collect photos of my friends wearing circus shirts instead. What better way to show circus branding than on everyone, everywhere?

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Ed and Bryn face off in a soda drinking contest post-spring show. Photo by Laura Blum-Smith.



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A pile of some good ole circus folks, all bedecked in O! shirts. Photo by Robben Muñoz. ​​​​


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Sam, Connor, and Will after stilting in the Big Parade. I think Will might have missed the memo about wearing an O! shirt. Photo courtesy of Sam Karpinski.
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Yoshi's shirt is one of the very limited edition shirts from the spring show my first year (which I don't even remember the name of). Photo courtesy of Yoshi Schonborn.
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Izzie and Grey ARE OCircus. A perfect example of easy tattoo modification. (Taken with Ali's film camera during my photo class.)

And then we have... circus away from Oberlin!

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Daniel spins poi in front of the Church of Scientology in New York. This is the Will Work for Circus shirt.
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Eric does an aerial move called the armbreaker (um, he didn't break his arm) in Philadelphia. Photo courtesy of Eric Michaels.


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Chelsea sporting a Silver Screen Circus shirt in Pompeii. Photo courtesy of Chelsea Arata.
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This is Claire. She's jugging in inner Mongolia.


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Miriam is, in fact, cleaning her nails with a trowel while on a dig in Italy. Equally important element in this photo: an OCircus shirt.


Surprise! Facebook has also provided me with photos of myself too.

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My watermelony best friend Sandhya and myself during commencement circus our senior year. This is the shirt from the show Silver Screen Circus (my directorial baby).


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Ben models the Will Work for Circus shirt. Photo by my wonderful mother during commencement weekend 2010. (Parents! We're even in the same photo in the same blog post!)


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As an academic ambassador during orientation wearing the Closetworld circus shirt. I wear a lot of Oberlin swag when I am talking about Oberlin constantly.


But I digress. Circus is exciting, and I love it. Can't you tell?

OCircus is not the only place that you'll see some incredibly good Oberlin swag, filled with personality and fitting to the Oberlin lifestyle and wardrobe. The college student uniform (and my young adult uniform after work) tends to be jeans and tshirts. Something about cotton shirts says much about our likes and affiliations and has a common denominator of comfort just screams college to me (and to practically everyone else, too).

To start our first-year students off, there are the Oberlin class tshirts, sent in the mail yearly to the admitted students. Here are some gawgeous models from this year's class. (Shirt design by Joaquin Ruales '13.)

Two people hold up Oberlin t-shirts

Two more people with Oberlin tee shirts

2 people holding Oberlin tee shirts

Person in a dorm room holding up a tee shirt

Two students wearing their new tee shirts

These are smiley first-years! They are all AWESOME. You could be them in the future :D

There are also shirts designed yearly for OSCA (and individual co-ops), and there are the ever-ubiquitous OSCA pines forest green hoodies. I remember, in my young years as a bright-eyed OSCA first-year, these beautiful hoodies that rarely left some of the Harkness veterans during any season (perfect for a wintry draft in the Hark basement or a spring breeze while eating lunch). When it looked like the sweatshirt was going to graduate with these old OSCAns, a serendipitous reprint has happily re-clothed yet another generation of cooperative Obies. I wear mine with pride.

There are shirts for so many other organizations, groups, trips, events, and more. Just wander onto campus any day and you'll see shirts from several years and iterations for the Day of Service, the Dandelion Romp, swing dance weekends, Folk Fest, OSCA, OCircus, WOBC, departmental shirts... (I won't even get started with these; they are so specific and so excellent that I could write a whole post on them).

We Obies may not wear our pride as sleeve tattoos, but we will drape them on our torsos. Happily. And not just on laundry day.

Responses to this Entry

This is brilliant! Absolutely brilliant!

You've actually inspired me to do something. Let's see if it works.

Posted by: Franny on September 15, 2011 11:02 AM

It just so happens that I am wearing an OCircus T shirt as I read this.

Posted by: Abba on September 15, 2011 1:00 PM

Gonna wear my OCircus shirt to skillshare tomorrow.

Posted by: Ida on September 15, 2011 1:32 PM

Oddly enough, I only have a single O! shirt as my only Oberlin swag. I think a trip to Ben Franklin's is in order.

Posted by: Ben on September 15, 2011 2:12 PM

It turn out that my housemate Marshall designed the "Classic O." Delight!

Posted by: Aries on September 15, 2011 3:36 PM

Ma'ayan, your blog posts make me look forward to college even though I'm already here. Is that weird?

Posted by: Tess on September 15, 2011 4:32 PM

@Franny - I am game for all ideas :)

@Abba - Of course you are. They're ubiquitous.

@Ida - Excellent reminder! I should start wearing mine under my work clothes on Friday, and then burst in like a secretive super hero with my O! shirt underneath everything!

@Ben - Wait, there are two photos of you in this post with two different pieces of circus swag... Where is the other shirt?! (Also, I could have sworn that I got you one of the apparel shirts... Did I forget? I am a bad sister.) But yes! Get more swag!


@Tess - That is such a compliment! Thank you! (And no, that's not weird. I hope it inspires people to go out and do more!)

Posted by: Ma'ayan on September 15, 2011 4:45 PM

Oh my! This is awesome. I am guilty of wearing Sarah's over sized Oberlin hoodie as I read this. Also, hey that picture of you and Ben together is on an awfully familiar looking porch.

Posted by: Erika on September 15, 2011 6:33 PM

Ah OCircus, bring me your poor, your destitute, your scientologists...

but seriously, this is awesome. The life-encompassing culture of "I ♥ OBERLIN" that exists amongst students and alumni is one of my favourite parts about attending this college.

Posted by: Daniel on September 16, 2011 2:22 AM

I get a credit for the photo of you, Ben and the Panda.
Commencement weekend 2010, your front porch.

Posted by: Imma on September 16, 2011 3:13 AM

@Erika - That porch is the best porch. Only cool kids sit on that porch ;P

@Daniel - Can we plan on spinning at the Statue of Liberty in the future? That would possibly be the most badass NYC destination poi spinning EVER.

@Imma - I have since corrected that. (Funny thing about that photo: it was in Ben's totally excellent "Ma'ayan and Ben Leaning on Each Other" Facebook album — the BEST album in the whole world — I forgot about it, Aries sent it to me as a "lovely persons wearing OCircus swag" photo, I sent it to Ben saying it needed to be in that aforementioned album, where he then corrected me that it originated there.) I love that photo ♥

Posted by: Ma'ayan on September 16, 2011 9:34 AM

I haven't seen the T-shirt with the squirrel in a long time :(

What if parents might like a cosy, warm hoody as a conversation starter in the grocery store? Got anything fun? Whimsical? Where can I look at the choices?

Posted by: Muriel Hoequist on September 16, 2011 9:34 AM

@Muriel - My blog post is getting all the parental love today! Thank you for commenting!

The squirrel tshirt (plus a few more) were a limited run of student-designed apparel which you can read about here. I think there might a few of the Oberlin College written in twigs organic cotton sweatshirts still at the bookstore, but don't hold me to that. I haven't popped in there in a while.

If you're looking for awesome official Oberlin swag, your first start should be the Oberlin College Bookstore website (Here are some of the sweatshirt options, since you mentioned them) but they often have designs that aren't on the website. I guess this means you either need to send Ida on a fashion photoshoot mission... or drop by Oberlin for a visit!

Posted by: Ma'ayan on September 16, 2011 9:49 AM

Yes, conversation starters for parents! I wear my Oberlin hat all the time, and Abba wears his selection of T shirts everywhere. It does lead to good conversations. The next time we visit, we will resupply! I like your habit of wearing Oberlin swag when traveling. Makes the cliche "Small World" really true.

Posted by: Imma on September 16, 2011 4:33 PM

Wow, I fail at getting you pictures of me wearing Oberlin swag when you actually ask for them, but better late than never, right?

1. Subtle, but here's me wearing a (Closetworld?) O! shirt during one of our Cinema Studies classes: http://dft.ba/-_2t

2. This is what I did with my class shirt: put it on my mortarboard for my high school (and subsequently college) graduation: http://dft.ba/-_2u

3. Me sporting an Oberlin Blues Spectacular shirt in downtown Saratoga Springs, NY: http://dft.ba/-_2v (wish I knew what I did with that one, I'd totally wear it to all the blues dances I go to in LA nowadays!)

Posted by: Chris on October 7, 2011 2:25 PM

The question was raised... who made that logo? Well it was me, back around 2004 or 2005. When OCircus! first started.

Posted by: David Brown on October 17, 2019 11:21 PM

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