People shift away from trends rather than follow them. Brand and gender labels weren’t at the forefront of what defined themselves. These things made me realize that the style at UC Santa Cruz has a deeper meaning than I thought it ever could.

Coming from L.A., a place where trends were accepted more than authenticity, where only one type of style was primarily seen, UCSC exposed me to a style that was built on originality and creative and personal expression, which is where my fascination with style first began.  

Clothing here displays an ambiguous nature that allows for expression through color, shapes, patterns, and accessories — all styled in a way that displays one’s most truthful self without the need for either brand or social label. Though this style has become popularized on social media platforms such as TikTok and Instagram, it is undeniable that the style is ever so prevalently found in the UCSC student body.

This clothing style depicts ideals outside the norm, but that does not transcend into politics. This aesthetic can be looked upon as political or apolitical, all depending on the personal message the person is trying to display. 

One essential part of this anti-norm style is that it doesn’t have to make sense — there are no rules or restrictions. Each person’s outfit doesn’t have to make sense to the rest of the public, only themselves, similar to that of an abstract art piece. 

There is no need to match each individual outfit piece, each can make a statement on their own. Our body is a canvas, able to be covered in paint and depict a landscape, an abstract piece, or any other art form that falls between or outside those lines. Sometimes an artist’s message is clear to the viewer and other times abstract, not understood by all viewers, but both are art pieces nonetheless.

These stylish people got most of their clothing from thrifting, recycling timeless clothing pieces, and transforming them into pieces of wearable self-expression. In contrast to fast fashion, where there is pressure to follow societal trends deemed acceptable and normal, leading to a sense of loss in authenticity and originality, this style instead goes against consumer culture. By trend, I mean mainstream/corporate-related fast fashion.

In a way, dressing in contrast to the status quo is questioning it. 

The average UCSC student’s style also reveals a bit about UCSC’s history, as it was a school founded on progressive ideals, purposefully made for nontraditional students who did not confine to society’s standards.

They were seen as rebels who thrived in an unconventional university setting, distancing themselves from the typical bureaucratic university system and society.

Each outfit from the students pictured below is made of unique pieces that, seen alone, wouldn’t have been thought to be paired together but fit together like a puzzle once put on. Each piece has found its companion — whether it be color, pattern, or shape. 

I’ve learned that my idea of style has evolved. I now see style as meaning more than just clothing. It is revolutionary in its own right and holds sociopolitical meaning, whether it is purposefully trying to or not.

Style is art — and art is unrestricted, labelless, and revolutionary. 

Lavender, they/them, 3rd year

Lavender: “Style is your chance to show what’s on the inside and communicate how you feel.”

Alea Rice, she/they, 3rd year

Alea: “Style is self-expression and can be really fun and creative, it’s like art, it’s all really cohesive even if it seems kind of random.”

Demetrius Rauck, he/they, 3rd year

Demetrius: “Personal style is indicative of what a person likes themselves.” 

Jesus Ortiz, he/him, 3rd year

 Jesus: “An individual is able to present themselves in society as they would like to be seen by others unable to express their concerns, interests, or discoveries within society, thus making them an individual.”

Julian Kenji Carrero, he/him, 3rd year

Julian:  “Style is a way of visually telling a story.”