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Miami students no longer prep for ‘preppiness’

<p>Four college students in preppy-wear. Photo by William frank on Pinterest.</p>

Four college students in preppy-wear. Photo by William frank on Pinterest.

My dad scanned the crosswalk Uptown. Catching the bustle of students in sweatpants and hoodies, he called for the old homogeneous style of his time at Miami University to return.

He graduated from here in 1993, before the university focused so much on branding itself as a public ivy and generating easy merchandise. In the culture of his day, Miami students wore everything “preppy” — parents spent money for their kids to represent themselves well, without explicitly advertising their pick of school.

But as Miami’s population grew over the years, so many new and different ideas of fashion from the student body mixed up with the former, more unified one. As the experience of college changed so much during this period, students felt the need to dress to chill.

With the emergence of technology to make school more accessible even from home after the pandemic, students of all universities eventually gravitated toward more comfortable, muted and formless fabrics.

And with the influx in enrollment efforts after restrictions were lifted, they could get their “lazy” clothes while also taking pride in belonging to a school. DuBois Book Store and Miami’s Shriver Center store stepped up their game for this to happen.

A girl in Miami University merchandise. Photo by Miami Ohio Apparel on Etsy.

However, maybe Miami’s progress in status defeated its students’ original, classy aesthetic. My dad might think so, pulling at his out-of-place shirt on the street.

For his visit, he brought his red polo from Banana Republic, khaki shorts from Tommy Hilfiger and a pair of his nicer closed-toe sandals. They all came from his historical wardrobe, collected from an era of his life he saved rather than trading it in for the modern standard.

His reaction to the transformation on campus seems to model a sentiment some students keep a secret. According to The Miami Student’s “Eye on Miami – Cathy Wagner,” the story’s professor overhears complaints in the classroom about everyone looking the same.

One student told Wagner that Miami apparel “is one of the only things that’s allowed,” yet my dad said the same when he used to design himself for preppiness in the past. So why did he re-embrace it in his middle age, and will we repeat this trend when we leave college?

He sees his style as a tradition. He misses the independence of students who strutted down Slant Walk without the redundant and obvious Miami name or logo on their chest.

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Now, students come to class in whatever they woke up in and essentially lounge around while studying. Their mini Uggs slippers and Lululemon sweatpants serve as a reminder to balance their closet against the stress of higher academia. 

Plus, when not cozied up and studying late in the library, students direct all of their attention to going out, and that attire requires a lot more attention than what they put on in the daytime. 

The appeal of the bars means shorter material for everyone, like colorful or patterned athletic shorts for boys and skin-showing tops for girls. Overall, it signifies a long departure from Miami’s more conservative preppiness.

So while some students yearn for a more interesting style on campus by expressing themselves more wildly at night, they often also give in to Miami’s recent status quo of effortlessness. The bottom line becomes that fast fashion, wherever it lands, leads to less money spent by the student.

Students will always treat Uptown like their runway, even if they sacrifice the nostalgic preppiness of Miami for the school-sponsored pajamas craze. But they should also acknowledge the legacies of students like my dad who once believed in a visual character for the university, before that turned the public eye to Miami and the retail market flooded it.

To complete his preppy outfit next time he encounters Miami, my dad needs a watch – to track today’s style order and remember how it started.