A coalition of student activist groups has called for radical new dress reform at the Ancient Eight.
Under the proposed new rule, items of clothing that developed under the legacy of the Ivy League’s formerly all-white-male student body would be banned, and students caught wearing items such as penny loafers and oxford-cloth buttondowns would face stiff punishment.
Acting under the name Student Totalitarians United for Prohibiting Ivy Duds, the coalition said it considers traditional American menswear a microaggression that alienates marginalized identities and reinforces white privilege.
The group presented a list of demands to the deans of all eight Ivy League schools with a 48-hour deadline for their administrations to issue a ban on the following items: tweed sportcoats, khaki trousers, oxford-cloth buttondowns, penny loafers, argyle socks, Shetland sweaters, rep-striped ties, madras shorts and shirts, boat shoes, tweed caps, duffel coats, schoolboy scarves, duck boots, Ray-Bans, popovers, surcingle belts, critter pants, gold-buttoned blazers, and anything patchwork.
In addition, Students For The Ethical Treatment of Animals issued a statement of solidarity, and demanded a further ban on all polo shirts with logos depicting members of the animal kingdom, such as whales and crocodiles, as well as their subjugation, as in humans riding horseback.
Most activists were wearing this black t-shirt:
Just as the Ivy League Look spread to campuses across the country during the 1950s and ’60s, so do the activists hope that banning will catch on nationwide. “Clothing items such as blue buttondowns symbolize the white male cisgendered heteronormative sartorial patriarchy,” said coalition cofounder Star Smith, a Yale sophomore who self-identifies as “otherkin” and is majoring in Furry Studies. Smith was wearing a t-shirt depicting Bernie Sanders in a blue buttondown.
While today the number of students who wear the Ivy League Look is realtively small percentage of the student body, admitted Pat Wozniak, a Gender Studies major at Brown, they said they occassionally glimpse Top-Siders and khakis and find them “triggering.” Furthermore, they said there are legacy students on campus who sometimes wear fancy blazers, “and society cannot reach its goal of equality when certain people dress better than others.”
Many coalition members who spoke to the media are also members of other activist organizations.
Dwayne Washington, a Penn freshman majoring in Art, represents Students Of Color Against Color and voiced his discomfort with peers who wear pink, yellow and green, saying that he was “not OK” with it. “I grew up in Pittsburgh,” he said, “and in my community males don’t wear colors like that, so when I see it here, I feel like I’m not welcome. I wouldn’t presume to tell other people what they can or can’t do — this isn’t about that. It’s about creating an environment that respects all people, regardless of background.”
Nisha Gupta, a Dartmouth senior majoring in Computer Science and member of Womyn Helping Instill Nonargumentative Environments, said she finds the wearing of madras by Caucasians to be “problematic.” A native of Chennai, India, where Gupta’s family has run a successful weaving business for four generations, Gupta said, “I appreciate all that the Ivy League Look has done for my family, but I still find the colonialist term ‘madras’ to be offensive and the wearing of it to be cultural appropriation. It’s fine if people want to wear it on summer break, but Dartmouth should be a safe space where madras isn’t visually forced upon you without your consent.”
Under the proposed ban, only white male students would be prohibited from wearing items of clothing associated with the Ivy League Look. Male students of color, females, transgendered students, and those who identify outside the gender binary would be permitted and even encouraged to wear the Ivy League Look as a means of shattering stereotypes, subverting white supremacy, and dismantling traditional patriarchal structures. “There’s a long history of overthrowing tyrants and then donning their vestments,” said Gupta, clarifying that it’s not cultural appropriation because “appropriation is a one-way street.”
As for white males caught wearing the prohibited items, under the proposed ban they would face a public tribunal in the campus quad, where they would be forced to fully disrobe (tartan boxers are also prohibited) and place their clothing on a bonfire along with an effigy of themselves, which they would be required to provide. New clothing would be selected and provided to them by each school’s Disempowered Students Association, which is empowered with the authority to administer social justice as it sees fit.
Backlash to the STUPID demands was swift.
On Facebook, a group emerged calling itself Gay Preps United, where white male students posted requests for exemption from the dress code on the grounds of sexual orientation. On Twitter, Yale undergrad Charles Woodrow III wrote, “Love my grandpa’s tweeds from J. Press; seriously considering going gay in order to wear them.”
Meanwhile, on several Ivy campuses the phrase “OCBDs Forever!” began appearing in white, blue, pink, yellow and ecru chalk. At Cornell, Conchita Ramirez was particularly offended by the term “loafer,” which was scrawled on the sidewalk outside her dorm. “I feel unsafe,” said the undocumented Latinx Studies major on full scholarship. “I feel like this is what it must have been like to be Jewish in the 1930s.”
At Princeton, the school whose legacy of the Ivy League Look runs the deepest, students suffering from Chalk Trauma were given sanctuary in counseling centers, which quickly exceeded capacity. Outside a group of students began chanting, “No justice! No peace! No ties with flying geese!”
“I’m waiting for it to get dark so I won’t have to see any chalkings,” said trauma victim Molly Coddle from an impromptu safe space set up in the Future Leaders Of America Center. “There’s warm milk and cookies and puppy videos,” she said from the fetal position. “There was a real puppy here for awhile but someone objected.”