The fall 2023 semester is in full swing at the University of Kentucky, and the campus is bustling with fresh faces excited to express themselves in their first year at college and seniors who are ready to take their experiences and embark into the “real world.”
A new year calls for new styles and new trends, with each student eager to show off their unique identity.
Throughout the first week of school, students showed up put together in their best outfits that made them feel good and prepared for the semester.
From casual, baggy streetwear to colorful, eccentric ensembles, a common theme surrounding students’ style on campus often circled back to second-hand clothing. Thrifting is an especially popular form of shopping amongst Gen Z, and it is prominent on UK’s campus as well. “Goodwill” and “thrift stores” were stores students said they often frequent when shopping.
Adorned in unconventional, chunky jewelry and a long, flowy midi skirt, freshman art studio major Paige Bright touched on their thrift-shopping methods.
“I go to the cheapest [thrift stores] I can find…” they said. “I hate paying a lot of money for old people’s clothes.”
Aesthetics on campus vary widely, ranging from casual athleticwear to distinctive, “non-traditional” clothing. Chloe Huettman, a sophomore theater major, said she considers her style as “experimental.” She said her style is “not bound by the male gaze or a specific body type or skin color.”
“I’m from a small town, so going from that to a metro area, I was drawn to outsider art. I saw different people with different clothing,” Huettman said.
Being around different types of people and different art styles helped inspire and expand her horizons, and other students could relate to this. They referenced people in their personal lives. They look to those whose paths they’ve crossed: friendships, past relationships and their dads’ drawers of band tees.
Personal influences help cultivate the personality in our style; however, celebrities and popular media icons also foster this sense of expression. Huettman, specifically, mentioned icons from the 90s, such as Mary J. Blige and Lauryn Hill, as style inspirations.
Often when people take pieces of others’ style to form their own, they’re introduced to others with similar tastes. Students like Bright talked about how fashion links individuals together through the way they present themselves.
“I definitely think the way we dress and appear helps us connect to other people, especially those with the same interests and aesthetics,” Bright said.
Not only does fashion connect students to each other, but it connects them to themselves, as well.
“If I have a good outfit on, I feel good, and as silly as it sounds I’m nicer to people when I feel like I look good,” Huettman said.
Feeling good about how they’re dressed even improves their performance in the classroom, some students said. Put together in a casual button-up and trousers, sophomore nursing major Levi Dickey said, “When I dress well, I feel good and I actually do better academically.”
He talked about how he uses that for motivation to get schoolwork done.
“Sometimes when I’m home and I know I need to get stuff done, I’ll get out of my pajamas and that alone puts me in the mindset to do work,” he said.
UK students agreed that they show up for themselves more and connect with others when they’re dressed in a way that makes them feel confident and motivated.
Bryson Fields, a senior political science major, tied this together with the motto he often goes by.
“‘Look good, feel good, play good.’ If I look good, then my day is good,” he said.