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10. 21. 22

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College is the point in our lives where we think the most about our style. It’s many of our first experiences with complete autonomy as well as exposure to endless inspiration. While college influencers in particular help us craft our dream vision boards, they also promote unrealistic expectations for developing a new wardrobe. Curious as to how students curate their aesthetic, I interviewed various students to find out how college life has changed or influenced their approach to fashion.

Most students revealed how their style is a tool that allows them to mature and grow into a more authentic version of themselves. After a long period of gender exploration, J Betts noticed a new “strength and confidence in [her] femininity that [she] didn’t have in high school.” Now that she’s in college, she feels very intentional with her presentation and is appreciative of the incredible role models she met here. Shoda Taylor, another student whom I interviewed, found that her outfits could be a means to engage with others around her. Fashion was a natural topic on which she could confidently relate to others. Upon entering the school community, Taylor utilized clothing as her way of making our big school feel smaller.

Others seemed to reflect their academic explorations in their style. “Shapes and layers are what I’m really into at the moment,” says STAMPS student Idris Young. Their style and work are often reflective of each other, and Young confirms that much of their “interest in layering is due to [their] identity as an artist. I am a painter and printmaker. Both mediums deal with the layering of compositional elements to create a finished piece.” Young’s background in both art and fashion has undoubtedly influenced their current approach to clothes as they noted that, “with each new layer something unexpected surfaces which leads to an abundance of opportunities for creativity”. Similar to Idris, I’ve noticed that my major at college has uniquely influenced my style. Having switched my major to architecture, a structural as well as a male-dominated field, I’ve been especially drawn to items with new unique silhouettes that reflect geometry and femininity.

With many students in college using their new independence to explore their style, it’s no surprise social media platforms like Instagram and TikTok have facilitated the rise of college student influencers. These platforms have even adapted to create a more convenient interface for the consumer and a more lucrative system for brands and ambassadors. For example, Instagram Shopping now lets creators post items so they aren’t just tagged with the brand’s name, but linked directly to purchase. As a result, many brands, across various countries with access to Instagram Shopping, have seen an uptake of 1416% in traffic and as high as 20% increase in revenue according to statistics released by Instagram.

Because students identify with college influencers, their rise in prominence throughout the advertising world allows for brands to appear more accessible and authentic to the student demographic. Utilizing their inherent relatability, college influencers are more convincing because an ad directly from a brand is less effective than a recommendation from a friend or a college influencer. In a study about consumer culture on the app, Tiktok revealed that 37% of users immediately went to buy an item they discovered on the app. Additionally, while shopping, users spend 14% more when Tik Tok is part of their purchasing journey.

It’s exciting to dream of curating a new closet, but what’s not as fun is the crushing reality of a college student’s bank account. Even though these college influencers aggressively work to combat gatekeepers in the industry and bring us closer to our aesthetic goals one “link in bio” at a time, the major downside to them is the unrealistic expectations they set for the average student’s purchasing power. TikToks frequently come up on students’ For You Pages that feature influencers receiving spending budgets from several brands of up to $1000 each. This spending amount would unquestionably allow anyone to elevate their style, even excluding the additional deals, hauls, and pr packages college influencers receive. After watching countless videos like these where it seems to be Christmas for everyone else, let’s remind ourselves that anyone can look like a Pinterest board when they are gifted curated merchandise from various brands. What’s more important is what about yourself inspires your style and how you can build your aesthetic from whatever is uniquely available to you.

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