No one cares what you look like once Freshers’ week is over
Don’t worry, Cantabs are too self-obsessed
Cambridge may be academically demanding, but when it comes to what you wear, there’s about as much pressure as a “deadline” at any other university.
The first week is a drainingly-keen blur of trying to impress your fresher friends with either your one-off vintage t-shirts and array of festival wristbands or waving your pinkie finger at people so they comment on your signet ring (so not a big deal yah, doesn’t everybody have one?) and walking around like a less-attractive Jack Wills advert (your mum actually believed that it was a “University Outfitters”).
I don’t deny that there’s no pressure to dress a certain way in freshers’ week. Sadly, I too remember picking out what to wear on my first day weeks in advance, only to find my new boots ruined on the first night after I thought it a good idea to trek through mud to sit on a tractor. And, not to brag, but the outfit totally paid off: my next door neighbour described her first impression of me as “a posh bitch that kept trying to catch me out on never have I ever”, and my best friend called me a “posh, talkative bitch”. Points for consistency.
But, thankfully, after the seemingly-interminable freshers week that comes complete with essay deadlines and for some (read: me) the early stages of septicaemia, there is a sense that the hazy mist of drunkenness and first impressions has cleared. It’s liberating.
Most of the time this new-found freedom means being more practical. For some, this equates to bringing no more than 50 pairs of shoes to university (everyone has different priorities okay), while for others it’s about finally learning lessons you ignored while you were living at home. One of this year’s freshers described how she “finally did what my mother has said I should do all these years: layer up.” And this is only the beginning of week two. Let the slow decline to unrecognisable week 5 slob commence…
While nobody else cares what you wear, there is the inevitability that you will slip further and further into the clichés of Cambridge style. There are the mathmos who still sport their circa-2007-ultra-large-logo GAP hoodies and slightly crumpled baggy jeans, the Art Historians who end up looking like a cross between Grayson Perry and a french burglar, and then of course the “wow you take drugs and go to TURF?” crowd.
This isn’t to say that I’m not equally guilty and escape this stereotype-bashing unscathed. As an English student, a book will always be a go-to-accessory if only for the fact that I can look like I’m working, completed by an expression that I have no cares in the world (bar the existential crisis of course) because, let’s face it, compared to everyone else I really don’t have cause to.
This isn’t to say that clichés can’t be a whole load of fun. Being somewhere so steeped in tradition lends itself to dress codes you’re unlikely to find elsewhere. Between that first freshers’ formal (for which I was told by the college that I “may or may not wear a gown” – thanks a lot John’s for the pre-uni riddle), and graduation, there are endless opportunities to parade your fuck-off black and white tie and dementor gowns (gotta get the Harry Potter reference in there somewhere right?).
And, when this gets all too sickening and oppressively old-fashioned and you just want to wear some super-out-there ensemble, King’s Affair and ARCSOC are sure to welcome you with open arms. Don’t forget to Instagram yourself though so your home friends can see how eDgY you are.
The Cambridge year is full of fun dress-up opportunities, but remember that now the end of the beginning is nigh, no one is really judging you on what you wear. And if you still think you care now, just wait until exam term where you can’t tell where your greasy hair ends and your crippling sense of inadequacy begins.