A Brit’s-eye view of USC’s Halloween: A breath of fresh air

1 Nov

At the university of Leeds, fashion and individuality are held in high regard. From designer brands to vintage wear, faded denim to distressed tweed, metallic leggings to baggy jeans, tartan coats to leather jackets, beanie hats to snapbacks, flatforms to Doc Martens and band t-shirts to geek chic, nobody cares what you wear as long as it expresses character. The more you stand out, the better.

Having become accustomed to this sense of style for two years, coming to USC in August felt like I was drowning in a sea of sorority t-shirts and Ralph-Lauren polo players. Other than one Urban Outfitters shop valiantly shining a beacon of hope near the State House, the only clothes shops within walking distance of campus are Gamecock merchandise stores. Here you can expect to find sports wear, sports wear, and more sports wear in two colours only: garnet and black. This seems to me like the antithesis of Leeds. In Leeds I’ll be digging to the bottom of dusty cardboard boxes in vintage shops to find a unique bargain. In USC, students pick out the first item of clothing they see that screams, ‘I love the Gamecocks too!’ Fashion back home is an attempt to show individuality, where clothing in Columbia is an expression of group solidarity.

But walking around campus on the 31st October is a breath of fresh air. I was leaving the library yesterday afternoon and saw a guy dressed in a full banana suit. I immediately assumed he’d been put up to it by his friends in some sort of Halloween dare. I made my way to Russell House for lunch and saw that he’d met up with his friend who was dressed as a gorilla (top points for coordinated costumes, guys.) At that moment I realized that people actually dress up in the day for Halloween here, too. It’s not only the cashiers at your local Tesco Express that wear devil-horns and witches hats- but everyone makes an unrestricted effort to go all-out.
What felt like a novelty to me was standard protocol for everyone else. As I began documenting this phenomenon for my blog, I decided to ask a couple of questions,
‘So would you say you like Halloween more than Christmas then?’
‘Absolutely,’ came the swift, unhesitant reply. Every single person I asked yesterday said that they preferred Halloween to Christmas.
‘Are you literally just dressing up for Halloween, or is there an event going on somewhere?’ I asked, half astonished, half fascinated.
‘No, just for Halloween. It’s a great excuse to wear what I want, and look however I want. That’s why I love it so much.’

 My heart leapt. Finally, I thought. Finally I’ve found Americans who aren’t afraid to challenge the mind numbing sorority t-shirt fad. But my smile turned into a pensive stare as I realized that people at USC shouldn’t have to wait until Halloween comes around to be able to wear what they want and express themselves. Halloween at USC was a breath of fresh air because despite the fact that everyone was dressed as zombies and ghouls and vampires, campus actually felt more like Leeds than it had done in the last three months put together.

So you must be kidding if you think I’d choose an average day at USC over expressive, creative, happy Halloween- even if it meant being surrounded by ghosts and vampires. Here are my Halloween heroes: may their bravery and confidence outshine the string of pearls perching on sorority girls’ necks every other day of the year.

Woody/purple grape hybrid, just go with it

I found Woody’s girlfriend!

A+ for effort, F for colour choice and general Clemson sentiment

A reason to smile in Cool Beans (if their food isn’t enough)

How swarve indeed sir

Winning at life #anddeath

Sinister and sassy

Super casual

The best smile this side of the Atlantic

Nailed it

Girl you got them smeyes down, Tyra would be proud

Don’t come between a man and his food

…and finally, an autumnal shot from President Pastides’ front door.

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