This article was featured in the 2017 Freshman Issue.
One time, I went to Forever 21 with my grandmother. It was not an enjoyable experience.
“AIN’T WORRIED BOUT NOTHIN’,” announced the shirts.
“Victorian funeral in the front, public nudity in the back,” suggested the dresses.
“I will disintegrate the second time you wear me,” promised the sweaters.
“I’m going to wait outside,” whimpered my grandmother.
Now, you might be wondering what possessed me to drag my sweet, unwitting grandmother to Forever 21.
Alas, this was a decision born of perceived necessity rather than deliberated pragmatism. I was about to begin my freshman year at Dartmouth, and I was painfully aware of the fact that my flair wardrobe was wanting. In retrospect, the sparkly dress, mesh cheetah-print shirt and tutu were not worth the steep, steep price of my grandmother’s twenty dollars (thanks, Geraldine) and discomfort (sorry, Geraldine).
I’m sure you have questions. What is flair? Do I need to buy flair? Where do I buy flair? Why does Forever 21 sell mesh cheetah-print shirts?
“Flair” is what Dartmouth students call the tacky clothing and costume attire worn non-ironically to social events. It is often worn in other scenarios as well, such as Dimensions and supporting the Fifty. Many other extracurricular activities, including a cappella groups, DOC clubs, sororities, fraternities and sports teams, also have “bequests” or hand-me-downs that represent meaningful or funny traits.
While I won’t pretend that a shark onesie doesn’t make for “fintastic” party attire or that a pair of iridescent leggings won’t let you shine, you certainly do not need to buy anything. In fact, the best place to find flair is the back corner of your closet. The hideous “Donuts make me go nuts!” shirt you wore three times in the sixth grade and for some reason have not yet thrown away? Gold! The sweater that your mom made you wear for family photos? Not a waste after all! Old Halloween costumes? Recycling is good for the planet!
If you have the means and the will to spend money on horrid clothing, I would recommend checking out Forever 21, thrift stores and Walmart. Maybe even Justice: Just for Girls! if you’re feeling adventurous. But please, please do not feel like you have to buy — or even wear — flair. We will love you just as you are.
In fact, that is one of my favorite things about Dartmouth. Here, you will soon learn, we celebrate the weird and wacky. At Dartmouth, your first thought after seeing someone out and about in a tutu, ski jacket and feather boa is “I wonder where they are going,” rather than “I wonder if they would like my therapist’s number.” At Dartmouth, people compete aggressively for the esteemed honor of making a fool of themselves in front of the incoming freshman class (remember Dimensions?). At Dartmouth, we (you!) run around a multi-story blazing inferno to commemorate freshman matriculation.
In short, at Dartmouth, there is absolutely no reason to worry about sticking out or being different, because we all stick out and we are all different. It would be weird to not be, weird. So go all out with the flair, or don’t — you will be perfectly fine either way.
And if I see you walking down the street in a tube top made out of Keystone Light boxes, I will tip my camo bucket hat to you.