Chucks and chinos: navigating Pitt fashion


Mitchell James decides whether to wear shorts or pants based on if he has clean socks that are short or long. (Photo by John Hamilton | Editor-In-Chief)

Sitting among a sea of Pitt students at Schenley Plaza wearing all types of clothing — T-shirts, baseball hats, dresses — Emily Steele’s plain romper doesn’t stand out. Her accessory — a pet iguana named Olive — is a different story.

College might be the most diverse place you’ve ever experienced, and it won’t take long to figure that out. Compare any two students and you’ll see for yourself.

At Pitt, you will meet people that you have things in common with, and you’ll meet people that you have nothing in common with at all. You’ll meet people that study all sorts of majors, probably even ones you didn’t know existed. You’ll meet people that shop for clothing in stores you’ve never even stepped foot in.

At the University of Pittsburgh, there are no uniforms.

Dress Well, Test Well? Not Everyone

We all know that college is hard. It’s not easy waking up to go to class only to head straight to the library to study, and then to do it all over again the next morning.

“When you have a busy schedule — going to class, you have to wake up early,” Steele said. “I just kind of throw on whatever’s there, especially for early classes, and if you’re on a budget, you don’t really have that much money to spend anyways.”

Between busy schedules, early mornings and empty wallets, it’s not hard to understand why the college routine leads so many people to prioritize comfort.

Grant Birdsong, a senior majoring in film studies and communication, is clad in a Pitt baseball hat, a T-shirt and white Converse sneakers. He said he is increasingly heading toward comfort over style.

“My Converse shoes are pretty much like walking barefoot, and now I have orthopedic shoes — New Balances,” Birdsong said. “I don’t care how they look. Function is more important than [style] to me now.”

Birdsong acknowledged that being on a college campus has a lot to do with appropriate dress and that presenting yourself professionally in college is very important.

“It seems like you’re going class to class. I think once I start working more, I’ll probably wear more of the same clothes more often. I’ll probably shop at the thrift store less, sadly,” Birdsong said.

Despite the busy day in the life of a college student, some students don’t let their schedules diminish their sense of style.

Alex Connor, a senior majoring in chemical engineering, said he is always on the side of style over comfort. Between his funky shirt, bright red headphones and roughly six-inch beard, it’s no surprise. However, he doesn’t see any inconvenience in dressing so stylishly each day, and he thanks his gender for that.

“I think for guys it’s a little bit easier to look nice than it is for girls,” Connor said. “Most guys don’t wear makeup or anything like that, so I could just put on a button down and chinos, and it takes like five seconds.”

Lena Gallager changes into comfy pants and a slouchy jacket after a long day dressed up at work. (Photo by John Hamilton | Editor-In-Chief)

Ballin’ on a Budget

Oh, sweet college budget. It’s what keeps students eating ramen and buying used textbooks. So when making outfit choices, Steele and others dodge the super-expensive wardrobe and head for a more practical and inexpensive one.

Steele said that when shopping for clothes, her go-tos are places like Forever21 and H&M — where she can get decent clothing at an inexpensive price.

Matt Mendelson, a fifth-year student majoring in architecture — who wears shorts and a tee representing his fraternity — said he also doesn’t have to pay high prices to get clothes that he likes.

“Wealth is in the mind, not the pocket,” Mendelson said. “A$AP Rocky once said that. It really inspired me as far as stylistic choices go.”

But some students have reasons why they buy inexpensive clothing other than merely to spare their paychecks.

Birdsong buys most of his clothes at the thrift store. While price is definitely a factor, he shops at thrift stores and estate sales because he doesn’t like to purchase clothing at places that may misrepresent his style.

“Usually I prefer to find something that I feel speaks to my own style more,” Birdsong said. “I’m going to the thrift store to search out for something, rather than going to a store that has its own focus group, clothing brands and is pointed at my demographic.”

Mitchell James decides whether to wear shorts or pants based on if he has clean socks that are short or long. (Photo by John Hamilton | Editor-In-Chief)

Dress Yourself to Express Yourself

Everyone had an awkward phase. For those who grew up in the ‘90s, it consisted of headbands, capris and feather extensions. We look back on grade school fashion and it’s simply cringeworthy. I’m sure I’m not the only one that regrets each of my five hundred Aeropostale sweatshirt and sweatpant combos.

As years pass and people transition from high school to college, their wardrobes seem to transition, too. Once arriving at college, many students learn to express themselves in their own way, whether it be by clothes unique to themselves or clothes that purposely don’t define them at all.

Mendelson said that in high school, he was into style and bought all of the designer brands he thought were cool. Now, he doesn’t depend on clothing to identify himself.

“Back in high school, I feel like I was more concerned — I feel like that came out of a place of insecurity,” Mendelson said. “I feel like once I got to college, I kind of just throw on whatever and I feel good about it.”

Mendelson found his sense of self separate from his style — that his lack of style that makes his confident personality shine through.

“I think that I’m pretty confident about my appearance, so I don’t really need to have clothes identify me. I kind of just rock whatever and I feel good about it and I go on with my day,” Mendelson said.

Similarly, Steele’s wardrobe doesn’t necessarily reflect her character. Between her neutral dress and bright green iguana, it’s safe to say that Steele and her style don’t necessarily line up.

“I’d say I’m actually kind of a Plain Jane,” Steele said. “My style is kind of bland, but I have an exotic pet, so I guess my style doesn’t really match my personality.”

While some students don’t depend on clothing as a means of expression, others’ wardrobes are deliberate extensions of themselves.

Connor said that being able to express himself is one of the top three reasons behind his own style. While Connor is a designer for a Downtown custom clothing store, Surmesur, even his own style once stemmed from stereotypical inspiration — magazines and TV shows like “Mad Men.”

“Once I started getting involved with the more custom end of things, I got a lot more creative,” Connor said. “My style became much more of what I think is cool as opposed to whatever GQ tells you to wear.”

Connor said that although he works for a suit shop, he never wants anyone to think that his look is corporate. On his suit, Connor wears crazy colors and details, like his sky-blue suit with brown stitching.

“There’s obviously some trends that I like or follow, but I think for the most part, I’m doing me,” Connor said.

Connor Riano bases his looks on what his day has in store. A date? Dress up.
Class? Go relaxed.(Photo by John Hamilton | Editor-In-Chief)

Go Panthers!

At Pitt, you’re likely to see more than a few shirts and baseball caps donning the school’s logo on campus.

Some students wear their Pitt gear to class — like me. Some wear their gear outside of the Burgh’. Others, well, they just don’t wear any at all.

Steele isn’t likely to be seen wearing the Pitt label on campus. Despite owning numerous Pitt tees, Steele said that she tends to only wear them to represent the University when she’s off-campus.

And when it comes to Pitt gear securing a spot in Connor’s wardrobe, there’s little to none.

“I have like one Pitt hoodie. Sometimes I wear it when it’s cold in my house or something,” Connor said.

Despite those that choose to wear Pitt gear elsewhere, or only when it’s cold, there is no shortage of school spirit at school. Donnie Moses, a Market Central chef, said that while he sees a bit of every style, nothing is as common as Pitt gear. In fact, Moses confirmed he would know he was at Pitt’s campus just from all of the clothing.

“I get excited seeing all of the paraphernalia,” Moses said. “Every time I’m interacting with a student, it’s a Pitt hat or T-shirt — a lot of people support it. I see it every day all day.”

Our Single Similarity

I remember the days when I used to pick out my outfit the night before. I suppose I still do, if you count purposely sleeping in the next day’s outfit to save time in the morning.

I remember the days when I put my hair in curlers before bed instead of befriending good old dry shampoo. Or my favorite — the days trying on double digit amount of outfits before leaving the house wearing one that I’m only partially satisfied with. Such distant memories. There’s not much to say — cleary, college has changed me.

As my wardrobe is fit to me, others’ wardrobes are fit to themselves. Even as I see someone wearing strictly thrift store clothing, a Plain Jane with a grey romper or a guy in a bright blue suit — we’re students all the same.

When it comes to fashion at Pitt, I fit in without matching a single person. Compare any two Pitt students, and the single similarity is diversity. Talk about style.