One of the first things I learned upon entering New York University was not to buy anything affiliated with my school. "Don't go to the bookstore," an upperclassman cautioned me, "You're going to blow all your money on overpriced NYU stuff that you will never use." So I didn't. But maybe I should have. After all, one of the first things most people ask for upon acceptance to an institution is a sweater, so maybe I am missing out on a fundamental college experience...
These days, pencils, notebooks, sweaters, t-shirts, sweats, socks, and even underwear are subjected to commodification as colleges and universities attempt to sell institution-affiliated items to a narrow market: students; specifically, students who attend their school. These overpriced items are sold to freshmen and seniors alike as students clamor to advertise their school to the world. With the amount of money being spent on these products, one wonders: What is the point? Is it reputation? School pride? A sense of community?
The most obvious reason students wear college apparel is recognition -- of the institution, that is. I mean, if you were accepted into Yale or Harvard, wouldn't you want to buy every piece of clothing printed with their iconic lettering and rub it in everyone else's face? No? Just me? Okay, that's fine. All joking aside, being accepted into institutions with eminent names, such as the ones I have mentioned above, do come with a reputation; attending a local community college would not gain you nearly as much prestige. It is therefore not uncommon to walk onto the campus of an Ivy-league school and see students walking around in apparel affiliated with their institution.
Still, school pride need not depend on the institution you attend; it can also be formed through the relationships you have with others. That being said, smaller campuses, such as state colleges, have an advantage because they create an environment where students at least recognize each other, if not socialize together. The tight-knit community would ensure that school spirit thrives, so wearing collegiate clothing would be conventional. However, in a campus as disjointed as New York University, it is impossible to create this feeling of community, leading to a lack of school pride, or at least the desire to display this pride in the public domain.
Another reason to wear college apparel would be in support of various sports teams. It would be a shame to attend a game without at least wearing your school's colors, especially if your team is oftentimes victorious. As the teams advance, so do the number of people attending, and with that, the amount of regard they have towards their institution. Indeed, there appears to be a correlation between the advocacy of intramural sports and the amount of school pride students show by wearing clothing emblazoned with their school's name or colors.
Perhaps donning college apparel becomes more personally acceptable as students get older for, as they get closer to graduation, nostalgic emotions rise up as the affiliation with the school that they had attended for four years comes to an end. How many times have you seen your parents walking around the house in a ratty college sweatshirt?
One day, we will be the ones walking around in our college sweatshirts, that is, if we decide to purchase one. Although pricey, it seems beneficial to own at least one thing with the name of your school, whether it be for school spirit or posterity. College will be one of the best times of our lives, so we should probably have something to remember it by -- even if it cleans us out $50.