The Big Fashion Stereotypes

Hannah Yakobi is an award-winning journalist and communications specialist. Throughout her career, she has written for the National Post, OK! Magazine, the Ottawa Citizen, Canwest newspaper network and dozens of publications around the world. Currently, she is the Editor-in-Chief of FAJO Magazine, a Canadian publication with staff in Canada, U.S. and U.K.

There are so many stereotypes we face on a regular basis – they can be gender-related, culture-based and even in tandem with a person’s occupation. Whenever I mention that I’m a Canadian, female fashion journalist, with a Russian/Spanish background, what is the first thought that comes to your mind? Do you picture me to be dressed a certain way? Have an accent? Be more demanding because of my profession?

It’s always very interesting to see how stereotypes play into our perception of the world, sometimes even without our knowledge. And the fashion stereotypes can be particularly amusing, including the peculiar incident I recently faced.

During a getaway to upstate New York last weekend, I ended up in Ithaca. There are very few places that can be described as “student central,” but Ithaca is one such location – it is home to Cornell University, Ithaca College and Tompkins Cortland Community College. As we drove around this small city (population of about 30,000, with 20,000 from Cornell), I was naturally curious to drop by Cornell. I don’t know about you, but whenever someone mentions an Ivy League school to me, I start picturing men in tweed jackets and ties, and women in silk dresses and pencil skirts. In my mind, many of them wear glasses. Men carry vintage briefcases, while the women sport the latest Louis Vuitton purses.

I was not expecting any kind of high fashion, of course. This is a university campus, not a fashion show. But I have built this image in my head of what Cornell dressing style would be and it is easy to guess that if I went on, these stereotypes could easily get blown out of proportion in my imagination.  

Naturally, the question was: to what extent is that stereotype that we also frequently see in movies actually true? What is the real Cornell student population like?

And the reality is, Cornell students all dress like regular students. They wear hoodies and running shoes, shorts and backpacks, T-shirts with their university’s name and leather jackets. Many of them have messy hair because they are getting ready for exams. In fact, a little bit of investigative journalism tells me that May 5, which was the day I was on Cornell’s campus, was the last day of class for that semester, with exams beginning on May 9. They like to party and wear Mexican hats on Cinco de Mayo.

There are students who dress like punk singers with plenty of tattoos and piercings, students who dress like hipsters with skinny jeans and oversized glasses, students who dress like sportsmen because they play for the university league. They all look tired and overworked, but they all have that sparkle of energy that only university life can bring – the excitement and belief that you can take over the world and be successful in anything you set your mind to.

Alas, the stereotype was dissolved! It was very warm in Ithaca last weekend, so I wouldn’t have seen any tweed jackets or pencil skirts either way. What I did see was a mix of cultures, energy and personal preferences. And it was great.