Style G.P.A.:Capturing Co-ed Chic in NYC

Sociology of Style at Columbia

"NYU girls are much more stylish than Columbia girls," said a male Columbia grad friend of mine one day as we discussed the merits of each school's location. "They shop in Soho between classes. And they're more hipster."

"I'm not hipster," I replied.

"Yes you are. You're carrying a leather backpack."

The dialogue of that day seemed rather fraught with assumptions and stereotypes. Having gone to NYU for four years, I can say with a fair amount of certainty that there is no such thing as a "typical NYU student" –– no single type or group of students who embody a characteristically “NYU look.” Yet this idea of "the stereotypical NYU student" prevails, and there are indeed moments when I think to myself, "Those must be NYU kids."

This begs the question: what are the identifying characteristics for NYU students? And for other schools? Curious to see whether this idea of school-ness –– specifically, NYU-ness, Columbia-ness, or Parsons-ness could be captured, I set out to photograph students from each one.

The first consideration that came up was that of objectivity in selecting my subjects. My short answer is that these subjects were "chosen at random," but I will divulge a few more small details of my ethnography. I stationed myself centrally or near what I've come to know as popular buildings of each of these schools on late weekday afternoons, and with the help of a friend/unofficial assistant, attempted to photograph every fifteenth student that passed me -- an attempt not to privilege one look over another and capture a truly “random” sampling. So with all that said, behold the slideshow of students from each of these institutions, "chosen at random."  Have some thoughts on NYC collegiate style? We welcome your comments below!


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