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The UGGs never left: Thoughts on St. Olaf normcore

Fashion - Hannah Anderson (1)

Hannah Anderson/The Olaf Messenger


Oles, I have something to admit: when I first came here as a freshman, I was shocked at what I saw, clothes-wise. I’m not from the most fashionable place in the world, and I’m not going to pretend that I’m the best-dressed person here – far from it. But even still, I quickly realized that Northfield, Minnesota is… perhaps a little behind the times.


I distinctly remember walking into a rare in-person lecture during my first year and seeing multiple pairs of UGG boots proudly on display. I remember one day when I wore a pair of 60s-style velvet pants that I thought were cute, then feeling like I was turning heads to such an embarrassing extent that I almost went home and changed into, I don’t know, a pair of off-white leggings. One time last year, a guy insisted on guessing my major and confidently said “fashion!” – I was wearing jeans and a brown button-up shirt.


Last semester, I studied abroad at Trinity College, Dublin. At this university in the center of the city, I immediately noticed that people dressed extremely well. The gray halls of the arts building where I spent most of my time were brightened by the fascinating outfits of my fellow students. I think that the fashion-forward culture of my Irish university was a result of the fact that many of the students were fairly rich, and the fact that up until now they had all been forced to wear uniforms to school.


In Trinity, I saw vintage trench coats, bright-colored scarves in all weather, long skirts, blazers… everyone seemed to dress well. And they dressed creatively, too – sometimes I would see students who were actually quite popular show up to class in things like full Edwardian-style gowns. The Onitsuka sneakers, which had felt like a revolutionary fashion choice when I ordered them to the St. Olaf Post Office, now felt like the bare minimum. I bought a leather jacket.


When I came back to Minnesota, I noticed the different approach to clothing in an even more intense way than I did as a freshman. Right now I’m writing this in a public area on campus, and as I gaze into the crowd in front of me, I can’t help but realize that more people are wearing hoodies than not. The only man not in a hoodie is wearing a t-shirt.


And sure, there are fashionable people here. It’s not all hoodies and joggers. But even the most well-dressed hew closely to specific trends – the clean-faced girls in dainty jewelry, and the boys in loose jeans. Here, we often think about fashion in terms of allegiance to specific brands, too. Enter the platform UGGs.


But don’t let me be misunderstood – I don’t think the intensely normal and casual way of dressing here is entirely a bad thing! I actually find it really endearing that, while the rest of the country seems to be revitalizing the UGG boot trend, it seems to have never left Minnesota. There’s something incredibly unpretentious and earnest about it.


Call it Normcore. I think the lack of any widespread avant-garde fashion sense is a culture in and of itself, for better or for worse. The worse: a little bit of a Midwestern fear of standing out/drawing attention in any way. But the better: a genuinely very comforting, honest clothing vibe. People aren’t putting on a persona along with their fit when they leave the house – instead, they’re throwing on a bright yellow St. Olaf T-shirt that the got for free and calling it good. It’s kind of nice that the rise of the internet hasn’t erased regional differences in how people dress. It’s nice that there’s a corner of the world where, since they were first invented, UGG boots have always been cool.

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