How to fit in at your university, in starter pack form
It’s called fashion will you just look it up
Whoever said “all students dress the same” is wrong and should stop saying such things, because it’s clear each uni has its own defining style.
I asked students from campuses across the country to sum up their unis defining look, and here’s what they said. From the french-braided mousy blondes in Manchester to the floppy-haired horse owners from Durham, this is how to dress for your university, in starter pack style.
RoHo’s look is chic. Yankees caps, winged eyeliner, duster coats and knee high boots are favoured by the girls here – it’s all about elegance. You’d better not have a chunky MK rose gold watch, those are so 2013. Instead you’ll want at least five of those Cartier bracelets that go for three grand each.
The more casual girls will feel like Little J trying to make it at Constance. They live in skinny jeans and cute floral blouses, or denim A-line skirts and penny loafers. There’s absolutely no casual sportswear aside from very clean trainers, and if you wear a sweatshirt you will feel judged for looking like a ragamuffin as you walk around campus. As for the guys, it’s either very normal-looking knitted jumpers and jeans, or expensive trackies and leather jackets. And as for ‘wavy garms’, what are those?
By day, the Exetah gal wears her gym gear, oversized sports hoodie and a vintage Barbour jacket if it’s cold. The essentials are carted around in a statement Longchamp and carried over the shoulder. Hockey or lacrosse sticks and a skinny flat white from Pret are also necessary to complete the look.
Her (normally blonde) locks are artfully twisted into a bun, while the natural beauty look appears seemingly effortless. Who needs hours of pampering when you’ve got a Barbados year-round perma tan?
By night, leggings are traded in for trusty black skinnies, and paired with a classic crop top, a comfy pair of Superstars, and a quick slick of eyeliner.
The “chaps” are equally as into Surrey-style, never being seen without a family siggie. It is true they frequently oscillate between the shorts/flipflop classic combo, and the failsafe red chino/shirt pairing for which they are famed. There is an occasional sprinkling of originality in the form of a vintage garm. But nine times out of ten it’s just an old Etonian in a vintage shirt rejecting their privileged Tatler-featuring upbringing.
Setting the scene: A couple sat identically on the Parkinson steps, each with a Bakery 164 sandwich in one hand and rolled up cig in the other. The girl wears a pastel puffer jacket, a high-neck velvet top from Depop and flared jeans. Her feet are adorned with muddy Air Maxes, or Reebooks, and she accessorises with hoop earrings and a choker.
The boy is wearing a long vintage sheepskin coat, a colourful Patagonia fleece, black skinny jeans and Doc Martens. His look is enhanced by his ornate fuckboy spectacles, unconvincing facial hair and vitamin-D deficient demeanour.
There are few types of girl in Liverpool with clear aesthetics. Everyone owns black culottes, black clunky boots and Breton stripes. No colour other than black, white, camel and at a push, baby pink.
Everyone has a MacBook, Adidas trainers and that square backpack, the Fjallraven Kanken one. Girls exclusively own the marble effect iPhone case and hold it with their intensely manicured acrylics. Make-up is fairly understated on the day-to-day, except for an absolute shit tonne of highlighter.
Rollies are the only cigarette to have, even if they make you cough aggressively with every drag. Boys wear old beat up Nikes, oversized shirts, jumpers and skinny jeans – Urban Renewal style. It’s all about a Starbucks from the SJ in the day, and whatever cheap wine you can find on offer at night.
It’s bizarre that in a city so cold and wet, the only fashion rule appears to be wear as little as possible. Boys in shorts and flip flops and a backwards snapback walking through knee deep puddles. The gals are in nothing more than a bodycon dress and a pair of seven inch heels. Although they do often go for a thick coat of St Moritz.
The key to nailing the Manchester aesthetic is to look like you care as little as possible. Big brands and slogans are banned (unless they’re ironic of course), clothes should be as oversized as possible, hair should be messy and you should always look like you’ve been out the night before.
Girls stroll around Fallowfield in their puffers and scruffy black Reebok Classics, running their silver-ringed fingers with chipped black nails through their tangled, knotty, dirty blonde hair. Eye make-up should be smudged just enough to look like you ended up crashing on the floor of someone’s basement, a nose ring won’t go a miss, and they’ll always have a Magicbus pass in hand.
For boys, you should be literally drowning in your clothes. All vintage sportswear (Fila, Umbro, Nike), fuckboy glasses, caps and permanently holding a Cutters Choice rollie. Reeboks should be so dirty your toe almost peeks through, and make sure your socks are pulled up really, really high.
Sure, you’ll wear a vintage Adidas jacket to Cosmic every Tuesday, but your parents raised you right, and you will look presentable. The Blanc aesthetic is made up of puffer jackets, fur, denim and hair that is definitely
lightened by the sun, not dyed blonde.
Rule number one: never be seen without a rollie in your hand. Bonus points if it’s in the same hand you sport your signet ring. You wore a bindi to Digital once and now regret it, because it’s cultural appropriation – so now you wear glitter. There will be pictures of you on Facebook at a ‘hat party’. You hope your mother never sees these pictures.
The winter uniform is simple: puffer jacket, black jeans, some form of Nike trainer. In the summer, colours come out and the club will be filled with crochet crop tops and wavy tees.
King’s students will be found on the Strand judging anyone not wearing Mom trousers, long coats from either All Saints/Zara/Topshop, Gazelles or Stan Smiths. Canvas bags from charities which nobody has heard of are also essential. The make-up is winged eyeliner, and backpacks are a must.
It’s easy to dress like a West End wanker: mom-fit vintage Levi’s jeans, old Berghaus fleece and Adidas gazelles, or anything else which screams comfy.
Most days are a scruff day, but if it’s not the girls are probably wearing tights with holes, a velvet skater skirt and a brightly coloured Kanken backpack with matching Urbanears headphones.
Boys will be wearing classic black over-worn jeans and some kind of flat trainer – Vans, Nike baskets, Puma suedes – which are probably really bad for your instep, you know.
On top, both sexes will wear oversized sports sweaters, although the jury’s still out if this is because Glasgow students are extra lazy when it comes to fashion, or if they think they look edgy. Often, girls will be wearing hoop earrings and hair scrunchies, Kylie Jenner french braids and a mesh top if you’re going out. Boys will be rocking the short back and sides look, like every other Russell Group Uni boy in the country.
Every single person will have an outdoorsy jacket from somewhere like Ralph Lauren or Tommy Hilfiger, a hat e.g. five panel, black jeans and Air Max 95s. Underneath is a white t-shirt and an oversized shirt.
The defining feature is the sliver of yellow sticking out of the jeans pocket, indicating the unchanging presence of a pouch of Golden Virginia Smooth.
It used to be all about the red chinos and signet rings, but now, people are toning down the posh vibes a little by opting for a Ralph Lauren polo (bonus points if it’s pink), Barbour jacket, more lowkey chinos and a Canada Goose jacket.
Baseball caps are a must, probably from some ‘banterous’ obscure place (like that Year 6 rounders competition you won). Alternatively, go for black tie. You’ll still fit in.
UEA doesn’t really do ‘fashion’. Students here tend to get their style inspiration from their cooler, edgier, more likeable friends from home that got into Leeds or Bristol. It’s basic copycat behaviour, and it’s very obvious. All the girls have the same urbie puffer thrown over their otherwise very-basic-and-hasn’t-changed-since-sixth-form black skinny jeans and t-shirt.
It’s the same for boys. Every now and again one guy will try to grow his hair out into a man bun and his whole course will be utterly stunned by such rogue behaviour.
UEA is pretty reminiscent of having younger siblings when it comes to fashion – they see you in the cool clothes, and then head off down to New Look to get the slightly cheaper, not quite as nice version.
People from Leicester uni will insist on wearing their ‘Team University of Leicester’ garms daily, even if they only played a game of hockey once to get the jumper. Think gym clothes, but without the gym.
If you don’t own a piece of sport-specific stash you haven’t really made it, even if it’s only a water polo hoodie. Your rucksack is stocked with a Macbook, protein shaker and tupperware, if not, you’re probably an engineer, or not really meant to study here.
With contributions from Oli Dugmore, Bella Eckert, Tom Jenkin, Elinor Rice, Lucy Kehoe, Marisa Dervish, Aron Keller, Bobby Palmer, Russell Sheldrake, Lucy Woodham, Megan Davies, Rueben Nash, Charley Scoggins, Jenna Macfarlane, Oli Parsons and Verity Bowman.