Confessions of an Oxford Student: Impressions

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So it’s the first week of term. Some of us are opening our eyes for the first time to university life, some of us are settling in to our next year with a feeling of familiarity. Most of us, however, can’t help but peer over to the new arrivals in college, be they our fellow Fresher buddies or those taking out place… We all like that we are superior to judging a book by its cover, but when it comes to first impressions, clothing can speak louder than words.

The old saying goes that you need to dress to impress, but it didn’t warn us that sometime we’d find ourselves trying to do this every day – and this is what it can feel like in Freshers Week.  Once you’ve been around for a couple of weeks (or years) you might get a bit too savvy with your fashion stereotypes…

The wide-eyed fresher. Lots of us are one, and all of us have been one. Often, the Fresher mob looks pretty good – well, for the first week, at least. Luckily, mum treated you to a new university wardrobe, in one last attempt to bribe you into coming home every now and again. Just like it was for all of us at first, every day is a fashion show, but they will be spotted by their slightly bedraggled Freshers t-shirt and prim and proper Matric outfit. Oh, how much will change by Trinity…


The humanities/sciences fashion face-off. We are all humans, we all get on like a house on fire – but it does ring true that when it comes to dress sense, you can tell an English student from a Medic with your eyes closed. In one corner we have a woolly, oversized jumper, large (often un-prescribed) glasses, and a rugged just-got-out-of-bed hair style. In the other, sometimes a put-together, trendy outfit, but often just a rowing kit and trainers, neat hair and most importantly no sign of the all nighter just pulled. I don’t have to tell you which one is which.

Red trousers? People claim that an Oxford student can’t go a week, let alone a term, without discussing the phenomenon that is red trousers.  For a male student to purchase and put on a pair of red trousers is to make a life-altering decision. Some flee from them, some cling to them. If I am perfectly honest, I’m not really sure what the red trousers truly signify. And if you don’t either, I would suggest you stay clear of the most character-defining clothing item on the market.


The Oxonian. The word is passed around quite a lot, but not many people actually call themselves an Oxonian by definition (do they??). There will be some, however, that one might mistake for  tourist given the overwhelming amount of Oxford University paraphernalia then sport on a slightly too regular occasion. The official Matriculation hoodie? Got it. The college hoodie for when the Matric one is in the wash? A staple item. The college scarf for the winter months? It’s a shame it can’t be worn in the summer, too! Now we all love our stash an appropriate amount, but there is such a thing as over-enthusiasm.

The sportsman. Or woman, of course. We are all aware, in my case far too often, that we should do more exercise. Yes, I know how many calories there are in wine, and yes, I know that walking to Sainsbury’s to get said bottle of wine does not strictly count as exercise. Contrary to popular belief, it will not be the strapping athletic figure that shows us who does and does not do exercise (that does make a difference, though). Rather, it will be the fact that you will find said athletes in their sports kit all the time. Indeed this might be for purely practical reasons – we all get a bit busy during term time – but is it really necessary? I think not.


First impressions are often based on more on what we wear than how we act. It is not an admirable feature of social interaction, and as Freshers week will prove to you, first impressions are not usually to be trusted. Yet, superficially and shallowly, we do usually fall into our very own fashion type. Which one will you be?



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