It’s the evening before my first day at uni. I’m a fresher, and think planning an outfit for tomorrow’s lecture is completely normal. I’m studying my wardrobe instead of my timetable – I want to look stylish, but not like I’m trying too hard, and not like a total slob either, but casual, yet put-together. I’ve washed my hair and contemplate sleeping in heated rollers (I’m a Northerner) and planned the subtle brown smokey eye that I will finesse at my desk-turned-makeup-station tomorrow at 7am.
Fast forward to the present day, I’m in my third year. Its 8:50am, and I’ve only woken up ten minutes ago. I’m already late for my nine millionth lecture, and I’m desperately looking for anything to shove on. Literally, anything that’s clean. My room is an absolute mess – there’s coffee-stained notes everywhere and textbooks piled up on what would have been two years ago, my makeup station. Sadly, the heated rollers are gathering dust under my bed. I go for possibly the easiest clothing option I can find – a sports bra (because who has time for clasps) a jumper and the same black gym leggings I’ve been wearing for years. I’ve tied my hair up in a bun on top of my head to hide the built-up dry shampoo, and slapped a bit of concealer under my eyes. I’m out the door without even so much as looking in the mirror.
Fortunately, I take comfort in the fact that I’m not the only one who has taken such a laissez-faire approach, and a quick scan of the library is enough to determine who’s a fresher and who’s a third year. It’s easy to tell the difference – the freshers are still smiling. But if there’s one thing I’ve learnt at university, it’s that arguments must be backed up with evidence, so I’ve decided to conduct some research of my own. I start by thinking back to the open day where I met a second-year law student in Foxhill house, who told me he rocked up to his first law lecture in a suit. A suit. That definitely makes me feel better about doing a full glam look just for a welcome lecture in Palmer Building. Tragic.
So, I focus my attention on getting evidence firstly from freshers. In order to eliminate any bias, I ask both one male and one female first year student the same question: ‘On a scale of one to ten how much effort do you make with your appearance for a typical day on campus?’ The male student gave a strong answer of 10 (credit to him) with the female also giving a high answer of 8. As us girls know, it takes a lot of extra time and energy to get to 10 on the effort scale, and we usually reserve this for nights out or special occasions.
Next up, I ask second year students. Personally, this is where I started to give up with making a real effort appearance-wise, purely for the fact that we lived miles away from campus. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find the energy to wake up at the crack of dawn just to pull together an outfit worthy of a feature in Vogue, and attempt a cut-crease and cream contour. Here, the male student gave an answer of 8, where the female student gave an average answer of 6. Just to clarify, there is nothing average about the female in question – she is effortlessly cool and super nice, and really makes me wish I could pull off street style like she can.
I probably don’t even need to ask my third-year pals because I know from living with them roughly what our answer would be. We pick gym clothes every time (even on rest days) and stroll out the door with a coffee in hand 15 minutes after waking up, so I’m predicting some pretty low scores here on the 1-10 effort scale. It genuinely is a rarity if we ever put on anything other than sportswear and trainers, and we truly get excited for occasions where we can put ‘normal’ clothes on, whatever they are. That being said, we might just be a house of absolute slobs, so I ask other random third year students the same question. The male third year student gave an answer of just 4 – much lower than the fresher male student’s rating. Again, the female 3rd year student in question gave an answer of 6, so no lower than the second-year student. Upon asking why, she said she felt more confident facing the world wearing a little bit of makeup and dressed in something that made her feel good, which I totally agree with. Sadly, this only happens when I have time in the mornings before a lecture, and so I think of her as an actual goddess.
To conclude, these were pretty much the results I was expecting, despite the slight anomaly in the 3rd year female student still managing to look so good. Interestingly, she went on to tell me about the dress code at other universities that some of her and her boyfriend’s pals go to, and that rocking up to their 9am lecture in pyjama bottoms and slippers is completely normal. Now there’s a difference between not making any effort, and literally not even bothering getting dressed for the day. Some may agree that third year has turned us into emotional, workaholic messes – we’re just here trying to get a degree with sadly, little time for much else other than deadlines, due dates and deathly dissertations. And the odd beer at Park Bar. Oh, and you can be sure I’m going to be wearing my men’s Primark joggers and my old baggy t-shirt through it all. The world of fashion and beauty isn’t ready for us yet anyway…