Durham: fashion capital of the world

Flares, puffer jackets, thin scarves… all three come to mind when you think of the typical “Durham” outfit. Durham stereotypes valiantly persist through the Durham wardrobe, one that many of Durham’s students seem to withdraw their daily outfits from.  I remember dressing for a particularly chilly day at home and being told by my friends that I looked like a “Durham girl”. This group of home friends had never stepped foot in Durham in their lives – the Durham stereotypes have evidently spread beyond the borders of County Durham. Our fashion is, however, largely a microcosm, one confined to the cobbled streets of the university. Maybe it’s the lack of clothing shop options, or a sheep-like mentality, the stereotypical Durham wardrobe is one with little variation. This lack of variation is what makes it so fun – I am not afraid to say that I love dressing like a bit of a Durham girl. Here’s a sneak peek into the ins-and-outs of the Durham wardrobe…

We’re not ones for dressing up. On the contrary, jeans and the classic “nice top” are perfect for a night out (Jimmy’s doesn’t deserve much more to be honest). Air Forces are perfect for every occasion. Formal is never too formal, and Crocs have their own society. We like the loose and the baggy – the oversized jumper, the loose white trousers, and the long skirt when the warmer months hit. A solid colour is varied enough for the Durham wardrobe, with the palette ranging from white, to navy, to black at a push. We’re also never too casual – the Billy B sometimes feels more like a fashion show than a study space. 9ams are surprisingly stylish. It is a delicate balance to make Durham fashion suitably low effort. 

“College stash, or any stash for that matter, is for the sartorially unimaginative…”, according to Durfess. I disagree. Stash, for me, is perhaps one of the most defining aspects of Durham style – our devotion to stash, whether its college, sport, or society stash, is the uniquely versatile uniform of many Durham outfits. Outside of Durham, stash becomes uniquely unwearable – I recently wore my college puffer at home and felt the need to apologise for deigning to wear the jacket outside of Church Street. On the streets of Durham, my puffer fades into the many others surrounding it. Need an extra layer? Quarter-zip fleece. Sports kit? Stash. Stash is afforded a hard-earned space in the Durham wardrobe.  

Urban Outfitters remains the staunch favourite shopping haunt of the Durham fashionista. The answer to, ‘So where did you get that from?’ is often ‘Urban’. For faux fur jackets, patterned flairs, and everything in between, Urban makes it mark on many Durham outfits. Second, perhaps to Urban Outfitters, Depop retains its reputation amongst the Durham set. Often a badge of honour, proclaiming that you ‘found it on Depop’ is a mark of respect. 

Admittedly, the Durham style does likely say quite a lot about Durham culture – whether it is our need to conform to the same trends, manufactured pressure to confirm to the trends mentioned above, or reliance on fast fashion to feed Durham’s ever-changing trends. Durham fashion is intertwined with Durham culture, and it’s worth giving thought to what is behind the skinny scarves and trendy coats that adorn our lecture halls. 

For now, the Durham wardrobe is one to enjoy, one to analyse, or one to ignore. Skinny scarves are just as common as silly social costumes, and maybe that’s what makes Durham so unique in its sartorial output.

Featured image: taken by Fiona Steer

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