It?s the singular strand of pearls, the Ramones tee with the starch mark down the center, the $70 pair of tousled red leather pumps. It?s fashion, and it exists even on Carnegie Mellon?s campus. Clothing, jewelry, attitude ? that?s what defines it. Students today combine distinct aspects of pop culture to create their own definitive, unique personalities.
But as part of the so-called ?elite? educational subculture that is Carnegie Mellon, we should learn to look past these pre-planned ideas to maintain control over our own personal outward appearances. Ask yourself what college would be like if looks weren?t everything and find that point where individuality becomes superficial in a culture.
Enter the ?Vintage Tee?: where urban sophistication underscores pop culture clothing. This is what you see every day ? to your left it?s in the form of a navy blue tank top, casually ripped along the bottom hem. Look to your right and it?s a student in a faded white camisole in line to pick up her mail. But why? Have you questioned the reason it?s worn? I don?t hate the tears or the inverted seams ? they?re symbolic of our urban lifestyle ? but why not delve into, no, tear the concept apart?
Casual sophistication. In fact, it was the tag-line for spring apparel at Abercrombie & Fitch this year. The Vintage Tee shapes this concept: No longer do you have to simply don a generic sleeveless top or nameless pair of denims. Now, everything is unique! And it isn?t necessary to maintain a restricted, homogeneous image pre-made by the classic fashion moguls ? dare I call out Tommy and Ralph? At least, this is what we are told by the Vintage Tee. Wearing it, we are automatically ?relaxed? and are able to somehow ironically claim that we have escaped this very ?Retro-Glam? trend (i.e. the glamorization of older clothing). Just walking to my class on cultural resistance yesterday, I heard a pre-made vintage-clad kid boasting, ?I pulled this, wrinkled, from the back of my dad?s closet,? as he contemptuously eyed his friends who lack such ingenious initiative.
So why uncover this irony? It?s hardly worth being cynical about. What do we do with it at Carnegie Mellon? Well, we live it ? we are urban-dwellers. We layer, we mix, we match. But be careful: Was it your own idea to put that wrinkled shirt over those ripped leggings?
While teens all over, then, yearn for individuality, what happens when the dreaded, ?uber-preppie? Abercrombie & Fitch company begins to mass-produce these pre-wrinkled, pre-faded, almost pre-worn vintage tees? What does it mean when those claiming to be relaxed and individual in their old, worn-out tees find themselves scratching at the exposed Abercrombie & Fitch tag itching their neck?
Ironically, as we sit here, decked out in factory-bleached denim, we risk becoming mindless clothing stereotypes. Maybe it?s the fast-paced eccentricity that defines our generation, or the constant struggle for personal reputation advancement that shadows our very dear Carnegie Mellon community. Have we lost our ability to assimilate true personality with pop culture? Maybe it?s just our rapidly changing world, which has fostered an environment solely suitable for superficiality. And that?s okay. But who ? or what ? then draws the line between a unique approach to practicality and adherence to a cultural rebellion cult?
I don?t want you to backlash against every CMU-er who sports pre-fabricated vintage attire. In fact, I?d encourage you to get out and smell the roses (or at least the over-processed coffee). We all buy into the dominant culture, and there is nothing wrong with that. I will not lie: I am sitting here with a long strand of pearls hanging around my neck. And the holes in my jeans? Okay, fine ? one came that way. My intent is to ask you: How will you use our vintage-clad, educationally elite subculture to your advantage, and use style to be your own language?