Tag Archives: fad

Edgy Leeds: has the phenomenon come full circle?

4 Nov Screenshot_2014-09-26-11-47-47-1

Comparing student fashion fads from South Carolina to Leeds: do all edgy nonconformists now look the same?

Since returning from my study abroad adventure in South Carolina and delving into a whirlwind schedule of final-year studies at Leeds, I’ve started to appreciate certain aspects of British university culture in a new light.

While the edgy Leeds phenomenon is nothing new to me, coming back to campus after a year away has made the grungy, vintage, second-hand look seem even more distinct than ever.

For anyone who hasn’t stumbled across what it means to be edgy in Leeds, all you have to do is (look out the window) or Google ‘edgy Leeds’ to get the gist. There you’ll find numerous news articles by The Tab and The Gryphon mulling over the trend, and the Twitter accounts of ‘edgy girl’ and ‘edgy boy Leeds’, tweeting utter gems like:

The nucleus lying at the core of the stereotype is a student dressing exclusively in vintage, second-hand clothing, wearing hand-made jewellery, (preferably accumulated from gap year travels) travel pants from India, oversized jumpers, Nike Air Max, stuff with holes in, (both deliberate and accidental), oversized scrunchies, chokers, and championing a refined taste for house music and borderline club nights the rest of us mainstream cattle haven’t a hope of knowing about.

The edgy look couldn’t offer a sharper contrast to the nature of college fads back in Columbia, South Carolina. Fashion trends in the Palmetto state are much more safe, careful, clean-cut and often preppy- as perfectly exemplified by the existence of a Ralph Lauren shop in the University of South Carolina’s student union, a sharp contrast against LUU’s in-house charity shop.

To any valiant South Carolinian hipsters out there: I know you exist, but you must know that to the observances of a foreign visitor, the majority outnumbers you remarkably.

As my year abroad progressed, I realised it wasn’t that the majority of students in South Carolina were simply unafraid of conformity, but that wearing similar items of clothing from the campus sports shop was a deliberate statement of solidarity: a pledge of loyalty to their beloved football team, their university, and their community.

If dressing alike in Garnet and Black is a statement of solidarity in South Carolina, dressing ‘edgy’ in Leeds is West Yorkshire’s irresistible fashion spin-off.

Except- and it’s a drastic exception- the edgy fashion phenomenon appears to make a statement of nonconformity, individuality and distinction rather than unanimity and team spirit, like our friends across the Atlantic.

The ultimate irony of the edgy fad is that so many people have jumped on the bandwagon that some are daring to tout it as ‘mainstream’. The effortless, alternative look that once began as a coveted trend only for those who knew its dark secrets, is coming full circle to create a sea of students treading through campus in swathes of chokers and a sea of oversized denim jackets. 

Surely, then- merely by innocent implication- mustn’t mainstream folk like me, who have been ignorant of the edgy fad from the outset, now be considered as truly edgy, wrapped in our block colour New Look cardigans and carrying our trusty River Island Handbags?

Edginess has quickly become an inescapable, polarising identity model. If I happen to like a vintage jumper or go to Flux, all of a sudden I’m accused of trying to imitate the over-saturated fad, whereas maybe, I rather plainly just like that jumper and I’d prefer to join my friends at Flux rather than sit at home on the sofa, agonising over the latent implications of my lifestyle choices amid a headache of conflated edgy-mainstream confusion.


In the diverse society we live in, there are millions of ways to stand out from the crowd. Perhaps the edgy look does have individualistic intentions, but from the outside, it looks as if the outcome has created exactly the conventional, popular and common clothing phenomenon it set out to escape. The edgy innovators that began the trend, now scratching their half-shaved heads in despair, are probably better off moving to Columbia, South Carolina- a hipster’s utopia- where the fashion majority and minority remain strictly separate.

Why I won’t succumb to USC’s t-shirt fad

27 Sep

            You can tell a fair amount about a person from the way they dress. I’m not saying you should judge a person by what they’re wearing before you know them properly, but naturally, the clothes people wear tend to be extended expressions of themselves. If someone had scrutinized my outfit today, they’d have discerned that I had a rushed morning. I was trying to pass the just-effortlessly-rolled-out-of-bed-look, with an oversized checkered shirt and skinny jeans, but unfortunately, I looked as if I’d, well, just rolled out of bed without brushing my hair (which is exactly what’d happened.)

            But in all seriousness, as someone who loves shopping and finding clothes that express hints of my personality, I think this can only be a good thing. I come from a university full of students who thrive off individuality. Faded denim jackets, patterned leggings, metallic leggings, chunky-knit jumpers, high-waisted denim shorts, crop tops, oversized tops, statement necklaces, shirts buttoned up to the collar, drainpipe jeans so skinny that (you’d think) they make their owners infertile- the list of edgy clothing deemed acceptable at the University of Leeds goes on. This couldn’t be further from the gospel according to Regina George. Pink, once a week? Please, love. I’ll wear what I want.

            Walking round on campus at the University of South Carolina is a different story. I’m not being the fashion police here, but it doesn’t take a genius to notice that for a large majority of USC students, t-shirts are held in pretty high regard. The standard attire for classes is a baggy t-shirt, Nike shorts, or ‘norts’, and sports trainers (also Nike, duh.) There are four main variations within these popular t-shirts. They are: sleeveless or sleeved, tie-dyed or plain, variations in colour, and the logo or writing displayed on the front and back.

Given the way in which USC distributes free t-shirts, I’m not surprised everyone wears them. I’ve been here for seven weeks and have almost been given one free t-shirt a week. You can even sign up to a service called ‘MyCarolina’ that gives you text alerts if free t-shirts are being distributed on campus. So far I’ve had two shirts from football games, a study abroad shirt, a shirt for my university dorm, a shirt just for tweeting a picture of our mascot, and I’m due another t-shirt this weekend for running a 5K. I’ve started to feel silly for even packing any clothes.

But it occurred to me recently that there’s something about this that makes me uncomfortable. Staggering around the running track yesterday I realized I could tell a lot more about people than if I was at home. The girl on the treadmill went to Hilton Head Island in 2010. The guy on the rowing machine is a member of Chi Psi and joined on bid day 2012. The girl on the cross-trainer participated in a hockey tournament in 2010, which raised $2000 for Breast Cancer Research. Despite the fact that fashion tends to be more monotonous over here, people have made it easier, not harder, to make a statement about their identity through their clothes. 

This seems to be somewhat characteristic of American university life. When I arrived I was startled by the deadpan ways in which people stereotype sorority members. Categorising people by their sorority allegiances is so normalised that you actually catch people saying, ‘I met a girl from such-and-such a sorority today- and she WASN’T a slut- how strange!’  So just as joining a sorority is a tool for self-identification, wearing a t-shirt that reduces you down to a couple of words and a logo seems to be, too.

Of course I’m guilty of wearing the t-shirts myself, it’s impossible not to here. I love my study abroad shirt and wear it loud and proud at the gym. There’s nothing wrong with showing pride that you’re part of a sports team or that you took part in a charity event. But what I’m skeptical about is the fact that it’s so normal to wear these baggy t-shirts on a daily basis that you stick out like a sore thumb for wearing anything else. International students have people coming up to them saying things like, ‘You’re kinda overdressed’, or ‘I’ve noticed you around campus’ because of what we wear. My greatest reluctance towards the t-shirt fad is that, like sororities and fraternities, it encourages people to categorise. It’s like putting people in separate boxes according to their interests. What’s worse is that it encourages people to push themselves away from those in ‘rival’ boxes.

Don’t get me wrong- I’m all for self-expression through clothes, and wearing printed t-shirts seems to be the way it’s done over here. But at what point did it become acceptable to wear your identity, to literally put it on in the morning and have it written across your chest? To me, fashion is creative and explorative: a derivation of my personality. But I won’t succumb to the T-shirt fad because my clothing choices aren’t the be-all and end-all of my identity, they’re just the symbolic exterior. 


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