We are reaching the end of this Rise and Fall of fashion in Universities series, and in order to finish with a bang, I organised a small face-off between two major current trends in UK Universities at the moment: Preppy and Sporty.

One represents the mind, the other the body, in a battle that has gotten more than one brand fighting to find the right angle to exploit this rivalry.

Above: image from Ralph Lauren Rugby S/S ’12 campaign

Both styles have their own key items, advantages, and disadvantages:

Started in the 1950s, the preppy style is inspired by Ivy League students’ way of dressing and is supposed to give a look of both financial and educational elitism. This look has, however, been diluted since its origins, and many students now takes inspiration from American high-schoolers. A common mistake is to think that Hollister and Abercrombie are “preppy” brands, as they are more “casual”, with a few minor touches inspired from the “original preppy”. Ralph Lauren and Lacoste, on the other hand, aim to keep the original meaning alive when creating their lines.

Items necessary for a preppy outfit include cashmere knitwear, Polo shirts, a-line pleated skirts, button-down shirts, argyle, pearls and yacht shoes.

This look is often pick by University students for its symbolism, as it connotes having had a great education, as well as the American (University) dream. It also presents very well and is a natural asset when meeting new people, especially on a casual/professional basis.

But those advantages have also meant the death of the original preppy in many places: in today’s social context, elitism and Americanisation are frowned upon, and only a few schools (including Eton, Cambridge and Oxford) have students whom still decide to dress in this very specific way.

Sporty, on the other hand, is different in about every possible way. It offers more socially acceptable outfits, is cheaper, and also more comfortable – and can be worn even away from sporty clothing as a high fashion trend.

It also has the advantage of being easy to put on in the morning, which explains why it is so popular in many Universities. Putting on a pair of shorts and a t-shirt is easier than going through the hassle of colour coordinating shirt and knitwear.

Belonging to a sport team is also seen as an achievement, and “stash” is often worn with pride throughout campus. It connotes belonging to a group, being fit and having an active social life. All of those co-notations matter more in University than ever before, as appearances are important in a place where thousands of people try to make their mark at once.

These outfits, however, do have their disadvantage: it can very easily look sloppy, or give acertain impression of laziness. Also, teams have a tendency to be act as clans, and belonging to one sometimes has some bad repercussion as the team’s reputation often precedes its members.

Items necessary for a Sporty look include shorts, hoodies, track-suits (most often from stash) and casual shirts/T-shirts.

Therefore, when picking one outfit or the other, do think of the impacts of these outfits, and maybe try to tone these down by not sticking to this specific style every day of the week. I assure you, trying something new once in a while can only improve your knowledge of fashion and make you more open as a person, and as a friend.

This is the end of the Rise and Fall of Fashion in Universities. I hope these articles have been insightful enough to help, in a small way, anyone reading them. Good luck to future freshers, undergraduates and graduates alike!

Read more of this series

  1. University fashion: trends & influences
  2. What to wear to Fresher’s week
  3. Following fashion on a student budget
  4. A short study on expendable fashion
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