Last night I asked a couple friends who go to college in Hartford and New Haven, Connecticut, respectively, how the east coast fashion culture differs from what we’re used to on the west coast. They said in unintended unison, "They tuck in their shirts!"
Most of us California folk who have never lived or studied in the east have a sense of shared fascination and horror at the ultra-preppiness that infects all private prep schools (and then the prestigious colleges and universities the prep-school kids attend).
While the fashion annoys me — popped collars, Polo shirts, button down shirts, khakis, Brooks Brothers blazers — I also hate the elitism / condensation that seems to come with it. I’m not sure which comes first: the clothes, then the attitude, or the attitude then the clothes. They feed on each other. It’s hard to blame the student for coming out of a prep school with a pompous attitude. Can you imagine being sent away from home at 14, living with tons of other old money rich kids who want to know what your father does for a living, having to obey insane rules about when you can interact with someone of the opposite gender, and on top of it all, comply with the intense academic pressure these schools project?
I’m biased, but I much prefer the San Francisco high school style. First, it was extremely casual by east coast prep-school standards. With a few exceptions, no button down shirts or loafers, no perfectly combed hair and suave mannerisms. Sandals, shorts, and t-shirts ruled. Second, even though 75% of my junior and senior year teachers had PhDs, we still addressed them by their first names. Finally, since it was a day school, you really got to know the families of all your friends. This gives you a deeper sense of the person and the issues at home that animate their life. At boarding school, you have nothing to go on but your friend’s performance in the high pressure environment of school.
I don’t want to seem too heavy handed — not all east coast prep school kids are fuck-ups. And surely there are good reasons to participate in an institution that has a long history and prestigious brand name. But I’m happy I’m headed to Southern California for college — I do plan on living on the east for some part of my life, but not for college.