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10. 21. 22

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A sea of maize and blue rush to the Big House. While Michigan Fans are focused on the game, Michigan students are focused on the fits (and the game.) Along for the ride, we have friends complimenting friends for their fashion-forward looks and others silently praising those who showed up to impress. Don’t get it twisted- this isn’t fashion week. It’s game day.

Gameday apparel is reflective of campus culture. And at the University of Michigan, we definitely don’t fall short of priding ourselves on our school spirit. At such a diverse school offering a multitude of activities in any area of interest, it is no surprise that students have shifted from tailgate-specific apparel to the versatile options dominating the stands of the Big House. I have seen everything from maize and blue activewear sets to functional dresses and onesies. This unofficial nod to Michigan presents an exciting interpretation of what was worn in the stadium just a few years ago. With fashion being such a dynamic industry, it is to no avail that students are taking the reins on what they want to wear.

Balling on a budget is not as easy as it sounds. There is a reason why the college game day fashion industry is worth over 20 million dollars. If any opportunity presents itself for me to repurpose an outfit, I’m taking it. I mean, last week, I wore a navy activewear set in the stands of the Big House on Saturday, and that next Tuesday, I wore the same set to the gym. This so-called shift of flexible gameday apparel has expanded the way I visualized gameday fashion and kept me from breaking the bank.

Yet, the market is still saturated with small businesses and brands specializing in game-day attire. All are attempting to place their own spin on tailgate wear for college football season. These self-made entrepreneurs show what the real competition is. Whether it’s a one-of-a-kind piece from Etsy, a subtle staple from Hype And Vice, or a vintage piece from U of Vintage, students are increasingly conveying their uniqueness through their stylistic choices. U of Vintage, in particular, was founded by Ella Gitler, an undergraduate student currently enrolled at the University of Michigan. In a recent interview, Ella discussed her love for versatile gameday wear stating, “I love wearing cargo pants these days.” She also notes the importance of first-year students on her business, “when you first get accepted, getting Michigan gear is so exciting so there definitely is still a market there.” With the explosion of collegiate branded apparel making its mark in the retail market, licensed merchandise is currently a 4.6 billion-dollar entity.

Whether we realize it or not, the increasing presence of social media influences what we wear. And with a new rise in curated content creation, influencer marketing, and social media advertisements, there isn’t one dominant style that is featured in the Big House. The power of social media is shown all throughout collegiate fashion, at Michigan and college campuses across the country.

Even though influencing has shown its impacts nationwide, Northern and Southern game day fashion is exceedingly different. It is hard not to notice Instagram posts from girls at SEC schools attending their game days in dresses and heels. Coming from a Michigan student, it almost seems strange and impractical.

Fashion market trends in each geographic region can tell us why these differences occur. Among other high earning women’s clothing retailers in the south, the Pants Store stands out as an extremely popular distributor. This brand primarily sells preppy skirts, dresses, and tops, and has grown 16.3% in revenue from its first quarter, which tells us how important what they are selling is to the southern female consumers. Southern women want “southern” clothes.

What makes clothes “southern” has grown from the cultural significance of the “southern belle aesthetic,” which represents southern femininity with muted colors and patterns on debutante-esque style dresses. This fashion ideal modernized into the preppy dress we see in the south today, including on game days, because its cultural importance lingers.

Northern fashion has historically focused on statement and expression instead of the incorporation of southern femininity, which leads people in each region to apply this difference in everyday fashion – including game day. We as students cherish our Michigan game day outfits because we get to experiment with bolder pieces and style as a collective and creative student body.

Although we all confidently select our favorite tailgate apparel to wear on those favorite fall Saturdays, we never lose sight of our Michigan community. It may seem that fashion is the furthest thing from anyone’s mind on gameday, yet it unites our diverse school. No matter what we wear, the wave of maize and blue compiling into the stands of the student section before kick-off ignites our competitive nature, exciting us for the game ahead. And, after all, it’s partly about the style in the stands but mainly about the game on the field. There really is nothing quite like a gameday.

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