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Devil's Advocate: Do St Andrews Students Care Too Much About What They Wear?


It wasn’t until a couple of weeks ago that I started to ponder the question of style in St Andrews, when I came across possibly the most put-together person in the town. Picture this: a woman standing at a bus stop, Hunter wellies on her feet, a Barbour jacket draped across her back, a Burberry scarf nestled between her neck and her collar, and, hung proudly from her elbow, an Hermès Birkin bag. All of which I’ve recently grown to recognise as the ‘epitome’ of St Andrews fashion — or at least, Hope Street fashion.

Now, what I’ve come to calculate as an over-£20,000 outfit is an unattainable feat for the everyman. When we’re already shelling out that outfit’s cost annually at our dear university, the expectation that we all dress like who I can only assume is a member of the Clay Pigeon Shooting Society, remains merely that: an expectation. I, of course, am a minor hypocrite — I do own a Barbour jacket, but one I managed to sneak off my dad, and which has seen entirely better days. But an Hermès Birkin bag? Out of my tax bracket. 

What she inadvertently caused by dressing in such a prim and proper fashion was an existential crisis regarding what I wear around town. In a town of 18,000 people and 12,000 students, it’s hard not to overthink how you present yourself on a day-to-day basis. Not only are you given the inevitable eventuality of seeing everyone you know the second you step foot onto Market Street, but you’re also handed the inadvertent meeting of everyone you wish you didn’t know, too. We’re all on show, all of the time. 

We’re in this weird limbo — we all care too much about what we wear, but no one else seems to care at all. The one time I stepped out of my DRA flat in sweats (I was heading to the library at 10 pm — clearly, I had given up hope), who did I run into but two people I fancied, surrounded by their all-male friendship group. Not my finest moment. After having a very rushed and awkward encounter  —  a melange of nods and reluctant smiles — I rushed into the library particularly frazzled. Naturally, I relayed my encounter to my best friend, whose only response was a dismal sigh and a shake of the head. From that point on, I knew I couldn’t be caught lacking. 

But that’s a sad conclusion, isn’t it? That this town is so small that, on the off-chance you see someone attractive, you have to look your best all the time. Pre-9am tutorial me certainly doesn’t care enough to blow the dust off the Barbour jacket — so why should every other version of me care? It’s time where we realise that despite how much internalised anxiety we give ourselves about looking prim and proper, no one else cares at all about what we wear. Above all, this town is too damn small to give a hoot. After a year and a half of the DRA commute, I can finally — and confidently — warn the Tesco workers that the sweats are coming back out again, and the Barbour jacket I brought to help me fit in will remain shoved in the back of my closet.


To serve or not to serve, that is the question. Many in the St Andrews community opt for the former. But to some, this is unacceptable. Perhaps they do not enjoy seeing a peer “eat and leave no crumbs”. Perhaps they hate being left “gagged”. Perhaps, dare I say, they fear a “motherquake”. Whatever the reason, I feel those people are not just mistaken but are attacking one of the very fundamentals of St Andrews culture. 

Before I make my case for serving, I should clarify an important point. I myself am far from fashionable. Often, the closest I get to being stylish is a very large turtleneck or jumper that makes me feel like Harry Burns in When Harry Met Sally. That being said, I am also fortunate enough to have a partner who serves and slays almost compulsively, pulling together outfits I can hardly fathom with a level of care I can only hope to apply to anything in my life. These two facts mean that every day I engage in a sort of ‘servalectics’ (serve dialectics), and am thus ideally positioned to definitively say whether St Andrews students care too much about being fashionable. 

To begin with, I would argue the preponderance of slaying in St Andrews is a very unique phenomenon, especially relative to other places in the UK. Travel anywhere else in Britain, and you will find yourself awash in a sea of navy, grey, and black clothing. Perhaps this is due to the bleak year-round weather conditions. Perhaps it is the result of a general melancholy that pervades Britishness. Regardless of the reason, St Andrews is surrounded on all sides by a serious and substantial dearth of slaying.

This, in my opinion, provides St Andrews with a fantastic opportunity. Rather than push against it, we should welcome the maximalist mania that has overtaken the student body. Let’s embrace a town of bright colours and zany outfits, of vibrant accessorising and extroverted style. Why on Earth would we try to shame away something that’s both fun and makes us stand out as a community?

Illustration by: Clodagh Earl

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