2019 Spring Taylor Berkoski Temple Exchange UEA United Kingdom

Sweaters to Jumpers, Pants to Trousers: English vs. American Uni Fashion

I’ve decided to add the word “Uni” in my title as a disclaimer… I am no runway enthusiast, I am no fashion connoisseur. But, I must say, I am quite the expert at noticing what uni students choose to wear in the classroom (I get tired of looking at the professor for the whole entire lecture, okay?!)

I’ve never put together much thought as to whether or not English students would dress differently than us American students, as I honestly thought we would dress the same. Obviously, like most assumptions I brought with me to this country, this one was incorrect. Once it was pointed out to me through other American exchange students and even through my own flatmates pointing out my outfit choices, I began to understand just how different students’ daily styles could be! I could probably write multiple blog posts on the differences between American and English clothing and accessory choices, but I’ll spare you all and just name a few…

Let’s start off with something basic. The backpack. Everyone from America knows that the backpack is JanSport! Absolute classic. In fact, I’m pretty sure I’ve owned a JanSport backpack since I was in grade 3. They’re sturdy, they last a lifetime, they’re simple, and effective. However, when my flatmate and I were walking to class one day she felt the need to say to me: “Hey, you remind me of Bella Swan from Twilight with your weird JanSport.”

First off… I could make a whole other blog post about myself being connected to the most random American TV Shows or Movies, but that’s besides the point (Legally Blonde, Friends, etc). What I’m trying to stab at is that in this moment, I looked up at all of my fellow UEA students and in fact did not see one JanSport! I did, however, notice that the UEA students have a different popular backpack choice: theFjallraven Kanken.

Now that we have the typical university student’s bag out of the way, let’s talk about outfit choices. There obviously is not one flat out “correct” way of dressing, but as a generalization, there is a basic way that American students at University dress. I’ll be focusing on the greater population at Temple, obviously, and with that that I am imagining the most popular outfit that you are guaranteed to see every day: leggings (and for the guys, a simple pair of athletic shorts will suffice), a Temple-themed top, and a sports cap. Many American universities, Temple especially, has an immense amount of school pride influencing outfit choices. In fact, I’m pretty positive I own a Temple-themed version of every article of clothing out there. Socks, hats, gloves, jacket, sweater, leggings. You name it, the Temple store on campus has it, and I bought it!

Here at UEA, that couldn’t be further from the opposite. There is no store on campus solely for merchandise or clothing that says “UEA” plastered all over everything (I believe they have a small corner of a grocery store on campus that has one styled sweatshirt and a little UEA bear). Therefore, you will certainly not find students here decked out from head to toe in UEA gear. In fact, it’s rare and surprising when you do see someone wearing a sweatshirt that displays the school name on it. It’s odd! It really is. I am a huge fan of school spirit, I love the color red, I love wearing the Temple “T”. I wanted to do the same here at UEA, as I love it here as well and it is my school as much as Temple is… but that just isn’t a thing!

Lastly, since our main outfit at Temple consists of the leggings, Temple tee, and sports cap (usually to hide our messy, unstyled hair) — we can make the generalization that American University students are big with comfort in the classroom. It’s very common to see students at Temple wearing sweatpants, leggings, sweatshirts, t-shirts, gym shorts, anything that shouts “I either just rolled out of bed or came from the gym.”

But here at UEA… I’d feel incredibly weird if I wore my usual sweatpants to any of my classes here. Wearing sweatpants is incredibly uncommon, along with leggings as well. They really value looking put together here, which is, I guess an okay thing. Although I value my sweatpants and sweatshirt combo oh so much when I show up to my 9 AMs, being forced by their put-together efforts (as in… Jeans and a sweater… no t-shirts here!) has made me feel like… how do I say this. Less of a slob.

There, I said it! I’m sorry! Not that people who wear sweatpants look slobby, but it makes me feel slobby. Taking the extra effort to keep up with the English students here to wear jeans or sometimes even a skirt, paired with a regular, non-school spirited shirt (which usually tends to be a t-shirt or athletic styled shirt which brings us back to the lazy/cozy effect) makes me feel a bit more better in some ways. At UEA, I feel confident, clean, sharp-looking, and ready to take on the day instead of just putting on some comfy clothes to make it through the class I struggle to stay awake in (because, lets be real, those Temple sweatshirts are COMFY).

All Temple everything.

So, it is different. The clothing culture is much, much different and has changed for me, specifically. Although I sound passionate and in some ways, biased, I do believe that one way of dressing is not necessarily “better” than the other… they’re just different. I appreciate both. Some days I wish I was clad in Temple gear. Some days I love looking proper and put together. It is all just part of the experience.

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