I am an undergraduate student in Beijing Foreign Studies University. I had the honor to attend a summer course at the University of California, Berkeley last summer. This semester, I came to Korea as an exchange student, and I found something really interesting in these three countries—collegiate merchandise.
It is not difficult to see clothes with school logos and mascots in videos or TV programs in European and American countries. However, campus T-shirts are actually not common in China and South Korea. You can even say that only a small number of Chinese universities sell their own T-shirts. In Korea, we can see that universities may sell them, but the styles are not very good.
However, in the United States, there are many shops selling campus T-shirts in the vicinity of the school. The styles are also very ornate, covering the four seasons of spring, summer, autumn and winter. Clothes are also included from sportswear to house clothes. I think that this phenomenon is not just an accident, but rather there would be some reasons for this difference. So, I conducted a few simple interviews with my friends and tried to find my own cause-and-effect relationship.
Firstly, I think students’ attitudes towards campus T-shirts are different.
When I studied in UC Berkeley, I met some American students there, and they often think of campus T-shirts as comfortable everyday wear. Karen Lowe, who is studying at the University of California, said, “I usually wear them at least once a week, but it depends on the weather and what activity I am doing. For example, I often wear those clothes to work out or sleep in. If I am running late for class, I just quickly wear a school hoodie or something like that. I feel comfortable when I wear those clothes. Overall, I would say those clothes are meant for comfortable or lazy days. Not to necessarily show off.” Students in China also agreed that they are casual clothes, but still unique.
Ms. F, who studied at Beijing Foreign Studies University, said that she thinks the campus T-shirt is a kind of casual clothing, but she would not be willing to wear it on campus. She feels a touch of shame in wearing school shirt as all the surrounding people are also attend the same school. She is worried that she would be seen as a snob. Students in Korea also think that this is casual clothing, but they are reluctant to wear it off campus. Vision Cho, a Korean student from HUFS, said, “I love my school, but it is only in my mind. I do not want to show off my affiliation to others.”
Secondly, I think students have different standards on how much they value their appearance. For example, even in the United States, if I give a presentation in class today, I would prefer to wear formal clothes rather than a school T-shirt. If there is nothing special today, and I get up late and do not want to spend time picking out clothes, I will just choose the campus T-shirt to wear. Vision Cho said when he was a freshman, he wore his HUFS T-shirt about twice a week. Moreover, as he loved the school’s goods, he bought a HUFS jacket for winter.
But in South Korea, I found that some students here pay more attention to what they wear every day, and they think that wearing a school T-shirt can make their externals too casual. A girl from HUFS revealed to me that wearing a school T-shirt would make people think her clothes are too simple and ordinary. However, student in the U.S. may not pay that much attention when they go to school every day. Karen Lowe thought, “It really just depends on where I go. In my opinion, majority of college students in the U.S. do not particularly care about their outfits.”
Thirdly, I think that it is related to the compulsory school uniform wearing system. My high school alumnus Tommy, who is now a college student at Hunan University, also took summer courses at the University of California. He said, “This phenomenon does not happen in China. As we start wearing the school uniform since primary school, almost everyone wants to stand out after becoming an adult.” Ms. F also thought it has some relation to the compulsory school uniform wearing system in China.
On the other hand, U.S. student Karen said, “A school uniform is mandatory and is uniform. There is no choice in what you can buy, and they are usually more formal. On the other hand, “Campus tees” or collegiate merchandise is often considered sloppy.” But actually, as the pictures above show, there are also big differences between uniforms in the U.S. and China. Therefore, it can also be argued that the uniforms in the U.S. are different from school shirts because they are more like formal clothes, while there are many similarities between the two in China. I met May Simpson at UC Berkeley, and she said, “I do not really like or dislike school uniforms; I think it is as neutral as you can go while attending campus. Maybe I will like them more after I graduate.”
Lastly, it has to do with how often people around you wear it. Tommy did not think he would buy a T-shirt at a university in China, but he bought one at the University of California during his summer school. The reason, he said, is the need to do as the Romans do, as students at the University of California generally wear such shirts, and the number of styles is abundant, as well as many of them are collaborations with the famous fashion brands like “Champion.”
Perhaps because of the reasons mentioned above, campus T-shirts are rarely seen in China nowadays. In South Korea, there are campus T-shirts, but not many people wear them. In the U.S., on the other hand, campus T-shirts are sold in large quantities, with various styles, and a lot of people wear them. What I want to say finally is that I think all the students that I interviewed can only represent themselves and maybe can just stand for part of the students of their countries. I do not think any of these reasons can be divided only by country or culture. Cultural background is indeed a very important reason, but wearing a campus T-shirt is also related to the background, personality, hobbies, and so on. Therefore, whether to wear the campus T-shirt or not may have nothing to do with cultural background, gender, or growing environment. It is just a simple personal preference. What I want to show here is the experience that I had while studying in many countries and the interesting ideas that I want to share.
By Xinran Dong Guest Reporter