The denim obsession of college students

Cody Parsons

The stereotypical American “starving college student” is easily imagined. Sublime posters on spotty walls, cupboards full of Top Ramen, and rooms decorated from a Spencer’s Gifts catalogue. It used to be easy to see where a student’s recreational money goes. More and more commonly at City College, you’d have to check their keister.

Before the words “voyeur”, “Chris Hansen”, or “creep-job” start flying, I’m referring to designer denim. And it was not I who first exclaimed in the Campus Center: “OH-EM-GEE, I want his pants”, but friend and fellow student Melissa Smith.

When questioned why, she took on the look of incredulity derived from educating someone born under, currently leasing, and destined to retire far beneath the fashion rock, and said simply: “Rock and Republic! They’re like $250 bucks!”

It may be stunning, but Smith is not alone. Since time immemorial (at least pre-“Grey’s Anatomy”) students have saved their money to afford such status symbols as a reasonably stylish car, or a stereo system that could, in a pinch, be used to signal the International Space Station. Many students of higher learning, when faced with the question of where to put their money to show they’re getting the most of their college years, choose to sit on it.

David Borrego, shift supervisor at Nordstrom’s men’s department, says its primary customers of such fashion-savvy jeans brands as, well, Savvy, or True Religion, Burberry, TBD, and Façonnablé (pronounced: “ex-or-bit-ant’) are college-aged men and women.

“I see it all the time,” Borrego says as he rifles off such high-priced and high-selling brand names. “The savvy kids pick up TBD, Hugo Boss, Burberry, Rock and Republics. It’s common even at my bible-studies group, and I see them on students all over town.”

Horseshoe-stitched pockets, twisted inseams, and likenesses of a guitar-playing Buddha will let everyone from English composition all the way to advanced calculus know that you, wearing True Religions, are showing true devotion to your studies.

Although Borrego was unable to offer Nordstrom customer statistics, he was willing to show price tags. Rock and Republic features jeans anywhere from $198 to $398, with the women’s most prominently featuring a large flamboyant “R” across both rear pockets. And with such flashy fans as Cameron Diaz, Sarah Jessica Parker, Britney Spears, and Paris Hilton, what nose-to-the-grindstone college student wouldn’t want one?

Megan Ackerman, sociology student, was eager to point out how fashion-conscious the current college generation is. “You can’t buy unknowns,” she bubbled, “but it’s not even so much about brand names these days as who wears the brand. American Apparel prides itself on ‘no brand names’ but everyone knows it’s them anyway.”

Rock and Republic and True Religion are relatively new brands, both founded in 2002, as a result of the demand for expensive attire. R&R for example brought in heavy hitter Victoria Beckham with their “VB Rocks” line. Available in sizes -3 through .5.

Neil Dryden, sociology instructor at City College, says that label popularity turnover is increasing, so the cool market becomes more volatile. “Average popular brand name costs will rise accordingly,” said Dryden, “just because the brands want to stay in the lead.”

As the desire to dress up for the first day of class stays constant throughout the semester, so will the popularity of high-priced apparel.

Some of us just want to avoid indecent exposure charges.

-Cody Parsons is a contributing writer and a former Journalism 271 student.