You care more about fashion than you’d think

- in Nyheter

Humans signal, more or less consciously, who they are and who they want to be, through their clothing. Is there such a thing as “typical Lund student” style-wise? Lundagård went on the prowl for answers.

Written by Vendela Källmark
Photos by Magnus Göransson
Translation by Estrid Ericson Borggren

It is not entirely uncomplicated to pinpoint the fashion style of the typical Lund student. Many develop their identity during their time at university, both with regards to career, friendship, and love. An important part of the personal identity can be linked with how we choose to dress, and it is not uncommon to change one’s style or make drastic changes to one’s appearance in times of development. Many students, who generally are not in the greatest of financial situations, still spend a lot of money and effort on their clothing. Probably because the clothes they choose to wear signal who they are or strive to be.

It is common that certain pieces of clothing or a specific brand get associated with a socioeconomic group or a subculture. Vans belong to the skate-culture, Louis Vuitton goes well with the rich and flamboyant, and Adidas has its connotations.

Your style becomes a subject for interpreting
“Most strive to belong to a group through their choice of clothing, but it can be equally important to mark that you are putting yourself outside of the group, and by that showing your individuality”, says Emma Severinsson, doctorial student in fashion science at Lund University.

Fashion science is cross-disciplinary, and Emma Severinsson has a background in gender studies, comparative literature, and history. Today she is writing a dissertation on modern women in the Swedish weekly press during the 1920s. Parallel to that, she lectures at the bachelor program in fashion studies at Campus Helsingborg.

“You can mark your individuality through a piece of clothing that contrasts your own style, or with a brand you would otherwise never have worn. To do so requires some courage. When you break the informal dress-code it’s easy to end up in the spotlight, and your style risks becoming a subject for interpretation and preconceptions”, says Emma Severinsson.

She remembers when the author and anti-capitalist Nina Björk came to give a lecture at the Småland Nation.

“She (Nina Björk, red.) pointed at the students who lived at the nation and what they were wearing. Adidas jackets, Dr. Marten’s, Fjällräven’s Kånken, these clothes and accessories are fairly expensive. Nina Björk questioned how they fit into an anti-capitalist environment”, says Emma Severinsson and continues:

“It can be very unpleasant to be scrutinised like that.”

Coded pieces of clothing and brands
She cannot say anything regarding the typical Lund student, but adds that there is a pronounced academic classic style with certain key pieces. These pieces, for example the tweed jacket, are coded to be perceived in a certain way.

“If I, as a woman, put on a tweed jacket, which my male colleagues often wear, it has a different meaning”, says Emma Severinsson.

One of the brands Nina Björk mentioned at her lecture at the Småland Nation was Dr. Martens. These leather boots with the sturdy sole that today costs between 1000-2000 Swedish crowns, has made a journey in its symbolic meaning. They belonged to the violent extreme right-wing, SKA-musicians, and nowadays an intellectual left with a large cultural capital.

“Depending on how you wear them, that is, with what accessories, they (Dr. Martens red.) symbolise different things, and this holds true in a historical perspective as well”, says Emma Severinsson.

The classic backpack Fjällräven Kånken has become a student symbol in recent years. It has also got an international breakthrough. The backpack is not cheap, but despite this it is common at Swedish universities and university colleges. To carry a backpack has long been considered nerdy, but it has become trendy in the past few years. The backpack is a practical accessory, and the reason for its popularity is a general upswing for “nerdiness” in general.

The black beret also has an interesting journey behind itself. It was politically charged when it was adopted by the Beat Generation in the American 1950s and by the Black Panther Party, part of the civil rights movement, in the 1960s. The beret is also a symbol for Francophiles and is not uncommon among students at Lund University.

Clothes tell a lot about an individual. Even those who say they “don’t care” about fashion, they still say something with the clothes they choose to wear. Dressing neutral is also a statement.

No clear dividing lines
Fashion and trends change, it is in their very nature, and all humans do not fit into the mould for how to dress in accordance with what they study. What is deemed trendy at Lux might not be deemed trendy at Juridicum. The humanities are often connected with a classic look: a well-worn jacket or knitted sweater, thick-rimmed glasses, and a book under the arm. Juridicum and Lund School of Economics and Management are dominated by slicked down hair, wool coats, and leather gloves, a timeless and preppy style with pearl necklaces and Ralph Lauren shirts, Louis Vuitton bags, and fur details. There is also another category of law students, those with an interest in civil rights and who keep an altruistic attitude towards law. At the artistic faculties in Malmö, you are supposed to wear an oversized suede jacket paired with straight dark jeans and preferably Adidas sneakers. All of these are of course stereotypes without any scientific ground, yet it is common that “uniforms” appear in different social groups – and Lund University is in no way isolated from these uniforms.

Emma Severinsson admits that there are certain patterns for how different students dress at different institutions but does not want to draw any clear dividing lines.

“The first thing you see when you meet a new person is the dressed body. Clothes say a lot about an individual. Even those who say they “don’t care” about fashion, they still say something with the clothes they choose to wear. Dressing neutral is also a statement”, she says.

Fashion as a science
It has become all the more common that collections carry social criticism or a political message, which invites the upvaluing of fashion as a science.

“Sustainability and awareness of our consumption become more and more important. Even museums take on a responsibility in this development. It has become more common to exhibit fashions as art and not just as historical items”, says Emma Severinsson.

Historically the fashion industry has been associated with the feminine, shallowness, and desire, and hence not been upvalued as a ground for academic studies.

Hanna Wittrock is a lector at Lund University and teaches at the programme in fashion studies. She has a background in anthropology and has long since been interested in consumption and trends. She has among other things researched sales through Facebook groups such as “Lyxloppis”  (“Luxury Flea Market”).

“The internet has been very important for the formation of different communities and subcultures in relation to clothes and fashion”, says Hanna Wittrock.

She thinks there still are gaps in the fashion studies research, but that it is starting to take on a form.

“Fashion studies is a young discipline. We need to develop an elaborate conceptual structure and be more accurate in our definitions in order to shed light on fashion from different perspectives”, says Hanna Wittrock.

She is interested in fashion as a concept and notion, and wants to clarify that it is about more than clothes and the fashion industry.

“Trends come and go in everything, from how we build organisations and politics, to what coffee or beer we drink. Fashion builds on renewal, but is often carelessly interconnected with clothes, even though clothes are a grateful object for the study of fashion”, she says.

At the same time, she means that many who work with fashion are starting to question the logic of everchanging fashion.

“Nowadays, many who work with fashion focus on sustainability, craftsmanship, and quality”, she says.

Apart from teaching at the programme in fashion studies in Lund, Hanna Wittrock is a lector in the subject Textile Management at the Swedish School of Textiles in Borås. She is happy that fashion studies is becoming more established and taking place in the academic rooms.

“Historically the fashion industry has been associated with the feminine, shallowness, and desire, and hence not been upvalued as a ground for academic studies”, she says.

Hanna Wittrock is interested in symbols and what our clothes and bodies communicate. She agrees with Emma Severinsson; clothes are important for the creating of our identities. She adds that there is a lot of prestige in how we choose to dress.

There is a lot of thought behind how one chooses to dress. Not everyone wants to admit that to themselves.

Fashion studies strongly associated with Sweden
Another person who is happy that fashion studies have made its way into the academic room is Pernilla Rasmussen, responsible for the fashion studies programme at Lund University. The teaching at the fashion studies programme takes place at Campus Helsingborg. It is the only bachelor programme in fashion in all the Nordic countries.

“Research on clothes and fashion has long existed, but fashion studies as its own discipline is a Swedish and not very old initiative”, says Pernilla Rasmussen.

Research in fashion studies is strongly associated with Sweden, also internationally. The world’s first PhD in fashion studies is Philip Warkander, and he, as well, is active as a teacher at the fashion studies programme at Lund University. The programme has some international applicants, mainly from other Nordic countries. For the fall term of 2017, there were 344 applicants, of which 90 first-hand applicants competed for the 30 SPOTS/PLACES/POSITIONS.

“The foundation for fashion studies was laid at Stockholm University in 2006, but the bachelors programme in Lund is the only of its kind and was founded in 2012. It was a co-op with the service management programme and a general idea at the Faculty of History in Lund that fashion should be upvalued as a scientific subject”, says Pernilla Rasmussen.

“The fashion studies programme aims at studying fashion as a phenomenon in our society, and it’s not a programme about creating or sewing designs”, says Pernilla Rasmussen.

Pernilla Rasmussen does not want to comment on how the typical Lund student dresses. Her research is rather aimed at the historical aspect of fashion, but she adds that it in general is important with clothes to create an identity and a belonging to a group, and she sees affectionately on people’s efforts to fit in using clothes and fashion as a tool.

“There is a lot of thought behind how one chooses to dress, even if you’re not very into it there is still a thought about what goes and what doesn’t. Not everyone wants to admit that to themselves”, says Pernilla Rasmussen.

More fashion-conscious than you think
The typical Lund student is perhaps more fashion-conscious than they are aware of.

“It could be difficult to be accepted and taken seriously if you go to the university in a big, bleach-blonde hairdo, and all-pink, feminine clothes. Therefore a gender-neutral uniform has emerged at the university”, says Hanna Wittrock.

Street-style at Lund University

Photo survey: Lisa Bergenfelz
Photo: Magnus Göransson