I have never really considered myself a fashionable dresser (I like to chuck it up to the fact that “trendy” clothing is not meant to be worn by anyone under five feet tall), but I have always been good at recognizing popular fashion trends in America, especially among my peers at university. American university fashion can generally be categorized in two ways: you have your retro/grunge look, which is generally comprised of mom jeans, a pair of Chuck’s, and a graphic tee from Urban Outfitters, or you have your sporty vibe, which typically features workout leggings, a t-shirt repping your college logo, and an Adidas hat to cover up your messy hair (which btw, did you know that America has been pronouncing it wrong this whole time? Apparently, it’s pronounced “Ahh-dee-dahs”).
“Fashion is fashion,” I thought to myself while packing for study abroad, “How much different can it be?” Well, after many comments from my flat mates about my interesting clothing choices, I could probably write an entire novel on the differences between American and English clothing trends, but I’ll spare you both the time and confusion. Instead, let me just name a few…
- Dress to Impress…
But don’t impress too much! Otherwise people may realize that you do not belong to the working class? I know, I’m confused too. According to my British friends, the way you dress at university is a strong indication of your social class, and everyone wants to appear as working class at uni. Working class people dress like working class people and middle-class people dress like working class people, yet they all dress nicer than every student in America. What do I mean by this? I am sorry to break the news, but the comfy look that you wear to class will not fly here- even for your 8 am seminar. At the very least, you are expected to show up wearing jeans, a nice sweater, and white loafers with your hair and makeup done
2. Jan sport backpacks are so not fetch!
You’ve read that right, folks. The Jan sport backpack, the classic, reliable, and safe choice since you graduated from elementary school in the fifth grade, is no longer the backpack of style. In fact, most girls don’t even use a backpack at all (unless you count a purse as a bag). After someone compared me to Bella Swan from Twilight with “her ugly Jan sport backpack,” I finally noticed that no one on campus carries a Jan sport. And to answer your next question, no, I do not look like Bella Swan (although, I look more like Bella Swan than most of the other American actresses I have been compared to so far … Robin from How I Met Your Mother, Sara Sidle from CSI, Meredith Grey from Grey’s Anatomy to name a few).
3. Why did the hipster burn his tongue? He drank coffee before it was cool.
Although, in England, a hipster would never burn his tongue on a cup of coffee… just the specialty tea he brewed at the local tea room. The goal in England is to dress like the British version of a hipster (think One Direction.) Hipsters, as we know them in America, are considered “posh” in the U.K., which is the biggest insult you can give someone here. So how might a British hipster dress? Pack the patterned pants, leave the ripped jeans. Corduroy skirts are all the craze, but velvet skirts? Not a chance. Stockings are your best friend!!! Overalls? Depends on the pair. Graphic tees? No way! Leather jackets… all the trend. Hand bags? So fetch! But only if they’re red or black.
Do you see the pattern yet? Neither do I, but I think the general rule of thumb is to look neutral- not too grungy, but not too rich. As you can see, fashion in the U.K. has been a serious point of contention for me- if you think the style is confusing, just wait until you hear someone call your sweater a “jumper,” your pants “trousers,” your sneakers “trainers,” and your underwear “pants.”
All I can say is this: Pack with caution my friends!