Showing Off at First May not be that Bad

Peggy Li, Opinion Editor

You’re moving into your new freshman dorm and everything seems so foreign. For some reason, a good number of males on campus have hair that is both longer and more extensive than what you’re used to, everyone talks about climbing, and that kid down the hall won’t stop blasting rap music from his extensive stereo system. But beyond those first impressions, you notice something perhaps even more insidious. Literally three in five students have some variation of the Birkenstock, Chaco, Blundstone theme. The sorority girls must’ve planned to all wear their Lululemon yoga pants and Nike free runs because there’s no way that happens naturally, right? Patagucci’s are also plentiful, and perhaps you wonder why someone who drinks their water out of a used salsa jar is also wearing around 300 dollars in expensive outdoor clothing. And the answer is pretty simple. They’re showing off.

I have friends who like to call it “flexing,” but essentially our student body really enjoys wearing extremely expensive clothing and accessory items while also occasionally shopping at Goodwill for clothing pieces they will surely not wear more than twice (to seem “down to earth”). While nobody ever addresses it directly, when many (not all) of us strut around in these brands that are so pricey yet so popular at Whitman, in addition to flashing our cash, it’s really just a plea for acceptance. When you order those Birkenstocks that you thought were absolutely fugly just two weeks before, in a way, you’re showing off that yes, you have “good taste,” or at least enough “good sense” to be able to fit in.

If you really break it down, it makes sense that we buy these expensive things to gain the approval of others. If other people didn’t judge us by external factors, material possessions wouldn’t matter in the slightest. But other people do judge, and we do care what we wear, in part because of the opinions of other people. That guy with the 500 dollar speakers probably just wants to make friends to invite over to his little room to enjoy the music with. I definitely bought Lululemon leggings just to see what everyone was going on about, and to bond with the literal half of my section that already had them. It is showing off that I can afford these things, but when you’re feeling crunched for time as you usually are within the first week, it’s much faster to just have these things and fit in than to slowly try to become friends. It’s not like you could literally expose your own soul and character to another person and instantly become comrades, so you were left with very few other options to gain the acceptance and friendship of others. One outlet to let everyone know who you were in an efficient way is just to have nice stuff to share with everyone, or at least the same (expensive) stuff as everyone else so you don’t look out of place.

We all live in a society with other people and constantly desire the validation and approval of our peers. Rather than spending 300 hours with someone to slowly become their friend and gain their respect, it really is easier to initially bond over how warm your Patagonia down keeps you. It seems superficial, and it is, but when Mr. 500 dollar speakers shows off his things, he really just wants you to like him–just like you want everyone to like you. So take it easy on all the bandwagon hoppers splashing 90 bucks on Birks. And if you’re on the patient side, save yourself some money buying into the Whitman uniform and just get to know people, and make friends organically.