By Teresa Blackman & Elizabeth Kerin
Contributing Writer, Staff Writer
It’s undeniable: the University of Dallas is a vital part of the daily life of its students and staff. But perhaps it plays a larger role than just influencing their studies. While UD has shaped their minds, it has also formed them externally — even down to their closets.
Like the closets at most colleges, those at UD host a spectrum of styles, from the bohemian hipster to East Coast prep.
In interviews with a variety of students, no consensus on UD’s style arose. Some see UD as a school inspired to dress well because of its belief in human dignity, while others see it as woefully dated and stuck in an age as old as the Core texts we read.
Senior James Voelker, a transfer from Texas Christian University, linked the style of dress with UD’s scholastic atmosphere.
“[It] comes with academia, those weird knitted sweatshirts and crap, I don’t understand. It doesn’t look good, corny colors,” Voelker said. “So with the academia comes dated, because the academia here is a little dated, and that’s OK and in terms of style, it’s just how it is. Their concern is not with fashion, but keeping up with what they’re studying.”
But perhaps the academic vibe is actually more in keeping with national trends. Dr. Gwenda-lin Grewal, a professor of philosophy and classics with a background in fashion design, sees the style of UD students as representative of the larger hipster movement.
“[It is] sort of a dressed-down, sometimes half-nerdy, sort of prairie woodsman chic…it’s a different version of shabby chic where your clothes are sort of dirty and falling apart, but it’s a good thing,” Grewal said.
This “hipster look,” which Grewal and many students identified in UD fashion, fits the liberal arts curriculum and conservative background of the university.
“Hipster dress works here,” Grewal said. “It is sort of conservative. It doesn’t require that you show a lot of skin. It still has this fashionable, current kind of feel to it, so it gives you the best of everything. You don’t have to wear a crop top to be stylish…and you’re harkening back to your forefathers — it works perfectly at UD.”
Hipster eccentricities aside, many students also believe that their peers at UD dress with a well-mannered East Coast style.
“I remember on the Odyssey days that I thought that everyone dressed really nice,” freshman Allison Federer said. “People aren’t wearing T-shirts and shorts. They present themselves well.”
Junior Keelin des Rosiers agreed with the predominance of the East Coast style.
“The overarching theme is preppiness, but everyone has their own take on it,” said des Rosiers.
The terms “preppiness” and “hipster-ism” dominate in descriptions of the UD look, but most found it difficult to pin down a singular defining style. While different styles populate most campuses, UD style is molded by a unique recipe of influences. Students cited the Rome semester, thrift-shopping, the liberal arts curriculum, moral conviction, comfort and the simple effects of growing up as factors that influenced their wardrobes and inspired changes in their style.
Dr. Philipp Rosemann, who has been a member of the UD community since 1997, observed that the university does not have a specific fashion persona. As a man who spends days philosophizing in a tailored suit and polished shoes, he offered a more principled perspective to our so-called fashion dilemma. He praised the desire to live our Catholic identity with integrity. However, he noted that applying Catholic principle to dress is a difficult endeavor.
“What does it mean to dress in these ways?” Rosemann asked. “Let people experiment. What makes UD interesting is that we have these tensions and we’re trying to reconcile them.”
And certainly, Rosemann was understanding of the nature of developing a wardrobe and sense of style as a college student, encouraging students to consider the task as important. He even had an idea of what being poorly dressed looks like to him.
“What is being poorly dressed? The clothes don’t fit, for example,” Rosemann said. “Or they’re not clean or in good shape. Or the shoes, they’re not polished. Shoes need polishing. Well, if you put no care into it — if you wake up in the morning and you take slacks which have no particular shape to them and you throw on a T-shirt.”
While Rosemann contradicts the many who claim UD is a well-dressed campus, he situates clothing choices in a larger context, suggesting students dress with an awareness of their larger intellectual project of wholly forming themselves.
“I think we’re all trying to be beautiful people and not necessarily in terms of look,” Rosemann said. “That finds an outward expression. [It’s] not pretentious and certainly not immoral to want to project your inner beauty externally. To me, that’s what clothes are.”