On the menu: fresh aesthetic for all

Photo by Ian Holloway

Hey, this is To Serve. Maybe you’re confused, because until this article, I wrote a column called Hi! Fashion (R.I.P.). Fashion is endlessly interesting to me, and so it took me three semesters of writing a column every other week to call Hi! Fashion quits – and it’s not even totally goodbye to fashion, either. To Serve is is just a meditation on style writ a little larger.

I’ve always thought of fashion as one of the pieces of the story we tell about ourselves, but also to ourselves. It’s fun to play with fashion because it lets us alter that story in ways that can be both superficial and deeply transformative. But the story we cultivate when we put on a tank top is intrinsically connected to the story we tell when we hang little hooks around our room and display our hand-beaded necklaces next to our Klimt posters; or when we arrange semi-circles of banana around the edge of our bowl of oatmeal and sprinkle raisins only in the middle. “Style,” in this column, will mean the aesthetic choices we make, sometimes in fashion, sometimes in arrangements of time or space or food.

That’s a long way of saying, welcome to To Serve, a style column and the descendant of Hi! Fashion. “To serve” means to show someone up, to bring it to the table. Its meaning in the context of style is intuitive: to bring something arresting, something exciting —something shocking— to the table. I’m here to serve for you, as best I can, or show off others who are already serving, in this fashion-slang sense. But I’m also here to serve you —  with ideas for fashion, for food, for anything with an aesthetic you can control.

Here’s my recipe for the beginning of the school year: fresh. I inevitably enter into a new semester with lots of “plans” — or, ideas of structure that usually crumple but provide some preliminary sense of stability. This year, those plans feel especially wound up with that frantic, half-realistic sort of busyness, because I have so little Swat time — one fall semester, followed by a spring abroad and maybe a summer too. But fresh is the key. Fresh takes that frantic busyness and makes it a cold, bracing wind on the back of my neck rather than sticky sweat on my palms. Fresh is productive. Fresh is an attitude. But fresh is also — here comes the style — an aesthetic. It gives activity clean lines, it gives food crisp healthiness. I have a pair of black sneakers coming in the mail, and a stack of plain ribbed tank tops, which I begged my mom for, laid out ready on my shelf. I finally pushed myself to truly purge my gigantic and impractical wardrobe through the productive (hopefully…) means of an Etsy store, and have all kinds of ideas about the many jobs I will work on campus. This is fresh. Fresh is a motion so streamlined it becomes a glide, purposeful and graceful.

Freshmyn, of course, get to be the most fresh. You are arriving at a huge moment of change! This is a ridiculous and unhelpful comment, of course, because you already knew that. And yet you won’t really find out what that means for you — on an individual, emotional, and practical level — for a few months, at least. If you’re a little slow on the uptake, like yours truly, it might take you most of this year.

And yet, in the eye of this storm lies the gift of freshness, a generative openness that holds endless possibility. In terms of style, I mean this: your whole life looks different now. You walk through grass on the way to class whereas before maybe you walked across pavement; what does that mean for shoes, for the speed at which you walk and the angle at which you tilt your spine? You eat in a dining hall with myriad options of food and myriad people next to you, whereas before you probably prepared a plate from a moderately stocked fridge or had food set in front of you, optionless, by your parents, to eat with a limited number of household residents; what does that mean for the foods you eat and the way you conceptualize your body, for the times and spaces in which you structure alone time? Your life looks different, you look different, and you get to tell your story, through your aesthetic, differently. You are fresh, in motion, going forward. For upperclassmen, here’s my plan and my advice to you: let’s emulate this, this crisp possibility and excitement, this spirit of examining or reexamining the ways we hold ourselves on this campus.

Because fresh preserves fun, too. Change requires effort, and so can be unappealing, or even scary – especially when you aren’t in control of the change, as is often the case at that the beginning of a new year. Looking at change as the freshness that infuses your look and allows you to make new aesthetic choices gives you an upper hand, and gives the malaise of the beginning of the school year direction. Personally, I’m excited to leave behind my first-day of school stress dreams and get gliding. It’s time to serve, fresh style.

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