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At Harvard, Degree of Fashion Savvy Falls with Temperature

By Erinn V. Westbrook, Crimson Staff Writer

Spotted: Girls in flattering summer dresses, guys in button-downs, and faculty in their “cool” clothes. Oh, when it’s only the first week of classes and every one is dressed to impress, when the Harvard community once again starts out the year with a big, fashion-savvy bang. Yummy?

As I scurry to class in my loose silk blouse and navy shorts along with a pair of flashy flats (an eye-catching outfit, if I do say so myself), I am surprised to see that I do not stick out—at least not today. But let’s face it: this is how the year always starts. People come back from the summer feeling refreshed, rejuvenated, maybe even a bit sexy. They reveal this through their seemingly “I tried a little bit harder today” outfits: boys in plaid and polos, girls in hip-hugging denim and high-waisted skirts, and unisex button-downs, galore! Hair is done, legs are shaved...where am I? Lecture? Impossible.

It’s the first week of September and this is how we do, yo. Bravo, Harvardians, you actually look sort of good when you don’t just roll out of bed and go to class. But we all know this won’t last.

As a naïve freshman in the fall of 2006, I was initially fooled by the fashionable first few weeks. I skipped through the Yard loving life—what a perfect place to be! I fit right in here. I was excited to be part of this smart, well-dressed, and all-around well put together society. I had chosen the right institution after all.Little did I know what lay ahead in the coming weeks. Cue the horror music.

I truly felt like I was in a scary movie when the first signs of a frigid fall came along. Apparently, Cambridge’s change of seasons brings with it a flurry of sweatpants. It was a rude awakening to lose not only the sun, but also any semblance of a bright style—the doldrums of winter fashion had set in. Even going to lecture was painful, as my peers had no qualms about parading their frumpy digs all over campus.

Coming from an ultra-preppy secondary school in the Midwest where fashion and grades were on equal terms, I have to say I was startled at the nonchalance of Harvard students when it came to their post-shopping period attire. I was from a universe where you dressed to impress, all year long, rain or shine. Not here.

What happened to the unique style that had been so boldly sported on Mass Ave. just yesterday? At an institution filled with the brightest and best in the world, it is no surprise that fresh and diverse styles abound. Thousands of different looks get spotted in the Yard every day. Well, every day in September. Once October comes, you can’t tell one Harvard student from another. Sweats and rain boots, hoodies and moccasins—it’s all so blah. Sally, what happened to your new jeans? Where did they go? And Little Johnny, your fresh kicks? Professor Joe Shmoe, you wore that yesterday! The cold weather had deterred them from continuing their streak of fashion-savvy intellectualism, just like it does every year. Tragic.

Obviously, we are busy people here. Weighed down by problem sets and papers, attire is absolutely the last thing on a Harvard student’s mind. Who really cares about wardrobe when we need an A? Still, why can’t we get that A and look good while doing it?

Ladies and gents, don’t let the looming cold weather and heavy dose of academia deter you from living up to your full potential as intellectual fashionistas. You’ve got it; keep flaunting it. Let’s show the world: we’re smart and hot.

—Columnist Erinn V. Westbrook can be reached at

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