Fashion Mitzvah*

for the moment

There are naked people at Harvard and they're not just posing for a figuredrawing class. "Oh, "you may scoff, "I haven't seen all that many of my classmates naked" (or "nekkid" if you're from the South). All I can say is, they may not show up in the buff to the Omelet Station at Special Dinners, but there are nudists among us and their name is Legion.

Actually, one of their names is Kitt. Kitt Hirasaki '96 is most comfortable sitting around his room or running up and down the halls not completely nude, but clad only in his tighty-whities. "It's a pretty recent development," he said, speaking of his penchant for pantlessness. "I guess since I came to college. I'm from Texas, where it's not that socially acceptable to sit around in your underwear in public. Still, I used to walk around in my underwear all the time when I was at home and when I came here I didn't see any reason to change that and I figured, the whole place is my home. My roommates don't seem to mind."

Mitch McClure, '96, one of the roommates in question, upholds Hirasaki's assertion. "It doesn't bother me," he says of his roommate's exhibitionistic tendencies. "But I hate to be naked. I always wear clothes, especially in the shower."

It's not just a few aberrant personalities like Hirasaki who frolic around the houses half-dressed (or undressed). Some entire sub-groups embrace nudity as a bonding ritual. The First-year Outdoor Program, in particular, has a reputation for exhibitionistic excess.

I once attended a party where four men and one woman, wearing bobby socks, penny loafers and a red scrunchy in her hair, danced completely naked. When I brought up the subject in a later conversation, the person next to me said "Oh. FOP people were there." Although skinny-dipping is a ritual part of the FOP experience, some FOPpies like to preserve the magic by getting naked whenever they're together.

Certain sports teams also like to undress en masse, to various degrees of nudity. Gaelen B. Phyfe '96 says that the women's sailing team falls into this category of athletes with a penchant for taking their clothes off. "Sailors get topless more than they get naked--at least at Harvard," Phyfe reports. "Usually late at night at a party, one person starts it...by taking another person's top off."

When asked why sailors shed their tops, Phyfe conjectured, "People are probably comfortable in their bodies. I don't know why they do it, but I don't know why they wouldn't. Everyone's pretty mellow and self-assured." After all, if you've got it, flaunt it. Many do.

Still, it's not quite as simple. There are more important issues here, questions that must be answered. For example, why are some of us more likely to enjoy getting naked than others? There are those who think that in such a diverse community, cultural background may have something to do with it.

Julia E. Starkey '95 supports those theorists who think that enjoyment of nudity, gymnophilia, may have cultural roots. "I'm naked a lot," she says. "I'm perfectly comfortable being naked when most people aren't because my mom's Swedish and in Sweden kids run around naked until they're 10. My mom never raised me to think it was wrong."

Upon arriving at Harvard, Starkey was dismayed to discover that not everyone shared a similar nonchalance Puritanical. I walk from the shower to my dorm room in my towel. She changes in the shower a lot."

As promised in the admissions brochure, Starkey and her roommate learned from each other's cultural differences. "Now she's not as traumatized if I run around half-naked. Or what she'd consider half-naked-a T-shirt and my underwear."

Starkey's ideas of what is appropriate in terms of public exposure have been modified with time, she explains. "It never occurred to me until I was in middle school that you're not supposed to run around naked."

"You're not. You are NOT," added a shocked Nathan Lump '96. Clearly Lump is not among the Harvard minority which believes that clothing is a harmful artificial construct that is far better avoided in favor of the purity of nudity, the ultimate in meta-fashion.

Starkey, on the other hand is strongly in favor of mass nudity. "I think it's weird that people don't walk around naked. If more people were naked more, it would be a better society. At this point we've all taken bio, we've all see people naked, or at least a picture of someone naked. I refuse to believe that people make it to college without ever seeing a person naked, at least obliquely if not personally."

That's tough logic to dispute, but there are those who love their clothes and believe that only the select few should exhibit their wares. Even Hirasaki, for all his love of lounging in lingerie, admits, "We thought about having a naked party, a party where everyone would have to come completely naked, but then we realized--most people, you just don't want to see them naked."

FM could not disagree more.

*Editors' Note: As true menschen, it is our Duty to inform you about fashion.