When walking through campus today you see girls in Nike shorts and guys in cowboy boots, but where did these trends start? Did college students always dress so casually? As we go through the years, fashion changes. Trends come and go like leaves on trees and over the years fashion at UT Austin has changed too. Instead of wearing the floor length dresses of our predecessors on the Forty Acres we don sneakers and big t-shirts.
Let’s look back at tradition on UT Austin’s campus. For the most part, men and women dressed up for college until these more recent years. In the 1910s and 1920s women wore almost floor length day dresses in muted colors (due to war rations on dye) and men wore basic (and kind of bland) suits. Hats were still a huge part of both men’s and women’s wardrobes and in the 1920s the “boater” became popular for men while the beaded headband was in style for women.
The 1930s and 1940s brought very modest clothing for women, because when in times of economic crisis and war, hemlines drop. But for women’s clothing there was a more practical sense as they were in the workforce and attending college. Some women started wearing trousers, while others went to more freeform dresses. Men were still in those bland suits.
Unlike the 30s and 40s, the 1950s ushered in whimsical poodle skirts, peter pan collars, saddle shoes, and high white socks for women. Men stopped wearing suits and opted for high-waisted jeans, Converse All-Stars, and tighter t-shirts.
The 60s still called for more formal wear than the modern Longhorn’s wardrobe. The mini-skirt was made popular for women, dresses in bright colors were big, pocketbooks became stylish, and bouffant hair was still a big trend. For men the V-neck sweater with an Oxford shirt became a popular choice accompanied by black knit suit pants. The 60s & 70s both had the wide collar phenomenon.
The 80s for men meant polos with colorful and patterned pants. Women started dressing more casually with the acceptance of workout wear as an everyday outfit. Also bright colors for both genders became more and more acceptable.
Also around the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s school spirit became a much bigger deal to show through clothing. Men and women in previous generations would wear ribbon to represent their school or maybe their dress would be orange. But recent decades have seen the popularity of UT Austin themed shirts of all colors and varieties. Instead of just wearing something to go to the football game students could and still can be seen in UT Austin gear every day.
From the 90s-on trends have come and gone on UT Austin’s campus at a steady pace. Today both men and women dress extremely casual as compared to the buttoned up students of the 1910s. Girls are walking around in XXL t-shirts, athletic shorts, and sneakers. Boys are wearing light colored jeans with cowboy boots and bright polos when they are not in shorts. Granted the comfort aspect comes from the Texas weather and the phenomenon of workout wear that became prevalent in the 1980s.
Today’s trends on campus are highly influenced by the trends of UT’s yesteryears but there has been the downturn of dressing up for classes into the casual outfits we see of today’s students. Maybe the next time you reach for your sneakers think about what your grandparents or great-grandparents wore to college for some outfit inspiration.