Lawrence is nothing if not diverse. Walk down the length of Massachusetts Street on any given day and pass local troubadours, religious demonstrators and the honk-for-hemp guy. The city's spirit influences Kansas University students, and while college fashion is equally diverse, comfort is key.
Crawling out of bed in the morning with only minutes to prepare for an 8 a.m. class can be a challenge. For students who give themselves only the bare minimum to get ready, sweats are the most common fashion staple. However, when going out, the pendulum swings from the need for speed to the need to be seen, and students opt for more trendy styles.
This is true for sophomore Alexandra Wickersham, who wears velour Juicy Couture track suits to class. However, for her job at Britches, 843 Mass., or hanging out with friends, she puts more effort into her style.
Wickersham goes big in what she wears but still stays comfortable.
"I always like big belts and purses," she said. "It's becoming more popular to dress down than up. You don't see the low-cut midriff stuff as often."
Wickersham's job allows her the opportunity to find out what's in and to stay up with the trends.
"Britches is what is popular now," she said. "It's edgy, but it's not glitter everywhere. It's taught me how to dress stuff up and down."
Glitter and glam
But a lot of students opt for glitter and sequins when going downtown to a bar or to dance. Kym Scafe, who works for Arizona Trading Company, 734 Mass., sees the styles come and go. Scafe has noticed that vests, bubble skirts and tall boots are in. ATC also sells many slips and lingerie items that can be worn on the outside of clothing.
"It's underwear as outerwear," Scafe said.
Beside the lacy tops, Scafe notes that students like the more dressy tops.
"For an average student going out, it is a beaded, sequiny tank top," she said. "That's pretty typical."
Tank tops line the front of the store in order to prepare for students' arrival. Jeans are still the most popular item ATC sells, with an emphasis on the straight, skinny leg.
"Usually I wear stiletto heels, and depending on the weather, dark jeans and a dressy top," senior Darcy Ralls said. "I have a lot of nicer beaded spaghetti tops, which I wear a cute little blazer or jacket over them. I layer a lot."
Ralls pairs her look with the right accessories. Even if it just involves wearing studs to class or adding a boho necklace, Ralls dresses up her outfits.
"When I go out I wear a bracelet or a necklace," she said. "I wear more of the chunkier necklaces or beads with chandelier earrings."
While cowboy boots are a little less popular than last year, both tall and short boots are in. Students wear these with either jeans or a skirt for a dressier look. And sandals, especially in Kansas are always a necessity for any college student. Besides the common bathroom flip flops, the gladiator shoe with a little decoration is popular. And for an even dressier look, espadrilles are the newest trend with ankle straps and woven heel.
A new chance
Some students opt for a more unique and economical look. During a walk down Mass. Street, there are stores that cater to the same clientele. Abercrombie & Fitch and Gap offer the most popular trends. However, a little walk down the street and up the stairs will bring a person to Ecoboutiquo, 918 Mass. It offers students unique, reworked items lovingly made from vintage clothing.
"I think everyone likes the creativity behind it," owner and creative master Loni Hosking said. "Students are totally into the eco thing. We've gotten a great response because college students are smart. I think everyone wants to do their part to recycle."
Hosking shops at thrift stores and accepts donations from her friend's closets to deconstruct articles and create something new. She tries to recycle everything she uses, including the thread.
"You're reusing something that could otherwise be obsolete or throw-away," she said. "I've always been a thrift store shopper in high school. The idea is rethinking what you wear with thought and effort. It's coming across things to give them a second chance."
Students visit her store to buy anything from colorful tops to unique handbags.
"I love the rubber purse," she said. "The fact that it used to be a tire rolling around the road and now it's fashion. I find that fascinating."
And for the men ...
Male KU students don't have to try too hard to fit in with fashion. Most men go out in faded jeans and polos.
And apparently, real men do wear pink polos.
"When guys go out they stick with jeans, mostly," junior Cory Kitch said. "If you're going out, the tops go anywhere from polos in the summer to layered button-up shirts. A lot of guys are doing polos with the collar up."
Kitch knows the trends. Working every week at Gap, 647 Mass., has trained him to watch for what is in style.
"I'd say one of the most popular things I've noticed is that men's shorts are going preppy - very golf-short plaid," he said. "They look silly on the rack, but when paired with an equally courageous shirt, it kind of works."
Even for guys, besides the outfit, accessorizing is essential. Many KU students opt for a cap when going out.
"I wear a hat most the times," senior Jordan Bartel said. "Whatever matches the polo I have on."
The hat store Lids, 729 Mass., caters to college students looking for the latest headwear. The store opened in August of last year and also offers hat embroidery.
"Look around and see how many people wear hats," store manager Travis Slover said. "I have no idea why hats are so in. I call it an inexpensive accessory to add to what you are already wearing."
Lids has about 25 different KU designs in one style of hat. In a different style of hat, logos such as Guinness and Corona are the biggest sellers.
Putting aside the accessories, denim is still the biggest college necessity. With more cuts and styles than ever, finding the perfect pair is easy. However, with the heat of Kansas, women opt for capris or cropped pants instead of the denim. Men stick with cargo shorts.
"The one thing that is most consistent with girls is anything that will keep you cool," Kitch said. "Halters, camisoles or capris. When I go out it's denim jeans, flip flops and a light oxford shirt. With the sleeves rolled up."
When it does cool down, the preppy look will still be popular. Solid or stripped sweaters or track jackets will keep students warm. For men who want to dress up, a blazer over a graphic T-shirt will be stylish. Blazers and mini jackets will also give women a more polished look.