Bowdoin College seems to be a place where comfort never goes out of style. The ostentatious is frowned upon, the frills are scoffed at and nice outfits are always inquisitively received with: "Did you have an interview or something?"
This standard of garb might make it easier to get dressed in the morning, but many inside the "Bowdoin bubble" have become ultra self-conscious about wearing put-together ensembles. For example, a beaded headband topped with an oversized flower makes it seem as though you're trying too hard rather than making a fashion statement.
The simplistic ways of Bowdoin style must obviously be credited to location. In the middle of the boonies, it is both unnecessary and impractical to wear espadrilles to class. This year, however, I have noticed the rapid emergence of a radically different shoe: the Vibram Five Finger. This strange quasi mold of one's foot provides a "barefooting alternative," according to the company's website.
To be honest, I was initially repulsed; it was loathing at first sight. These shoes certainly grab your attention, but not like a beautiful centerpiece at the dinner table would. I would compare it to a situation in which you can't help but stare at a scantily dressed girl among a group of guys. The shoes also eerily resembled the booties I had to wear on my sea kayaking pre-orientation trip—I vividly remember that they had suffocated my feet, subsequently emanating an awful stench each time I took them off.
I recently spoke to my friend from high school who now attends Washington and Lee University in Virginia. She is involved in Greek life, as is 98 percent of the student population there. She spoke about her unofficial (yet very official) dress code. If she forgets to wear a skirt or dress every Monday, her sorority will issue her a fine.
No, this is not a joke. Something to bear in mind—my friend would wear sweatpants and over-sized T-shirts to high school, daily. But at Washington and Lee she has been instantly transformed into a southern belle, not by choice but by necessity.
Now, that's just one example of a college that dictates what you can or cannot wear. Though Bowdoin students may do a double take at your outfit, you will be hard-pressed to find anyone who would actually say something insulting. Just as beauty is in the eye of the beholder, fashion here at Bowdoin is really what you make of it. You might feel out of place wearing a sundress and heels, but you will never be penalized for dressing too nicely.
I have ultimately concluded that my friends at Washington and Lee, Emory University or Columbia University would not be caught dead wearing these Five Finger shoes, but they will not be going on weekend sea kayaking expeditions or enjoying free lobster either. Now, rather than looking at the Vibram shoes with repugnance, I put on my Bowdoin goggles and find myself secretly wanting to snag a pair, just like I did with Crocs and Sporto rain shoes, both of which I would have never dared to purchase pre-Bowdoin.
I had the epiphany that I could even garner respect for embracing—or feigning—"outdoorsiness." Thanks to Bowdoin's non-existent standards of dress, even replacing a sweatshirt with a simple and casual cardigan will be sure to usher in a compliment or two.