How to Look Like a Berkeley Student

By October 30, 2015Blog, College Life, Fashion

After my first month here at Cal I have noticed a few things about our collective style choices. There are a few Berkeley staples that I will venture to say at least 90% of us are guilty of wearing once or twice in a blue moon. Fitting in overall at a school with over 40,000 students is one thing, but broadcasting what niche you have settled into here at Cal is another. Apart from a few universal wardrobe fixtures really blending in with the golden bears takes a little bit more nuance. This is the #1 PUBLIC UNIVERSITY IN THE WORLD after all.

To kick off this unofficial, and un-credentialed fashion guide let’s start with the basics.


Cal Gear


Who wears this stuff? Everyone. And their mum (because she is proud of you)

Can I get some navy blue, and California gold? This is Berkeley. We go to Berkeley. But in case you ever forget just look around at about chest level, and someone’s clothing will remind you. It seems like everyone owns at least a few pieces of cal gear. Some just bought the first shirt they found with “Berkeley” written on it, and others search long and hard for the perfect bit of cal gear that is original, but cute at the same time. To person number two: stop trying so hard. It’s more than likely that other people have that super vintage looking visor you found wedged behind a rack and the wall at t-shirt orgy.  Going here is the one thing we all have in common, so I guess it all makes sense. My lack of cal gear also probably explains my lack of friends…but that’s not fashion.


Not Cal Gear


Who wears this stuff? Visitors, and Cal students who want Oski to personally beat them up

I get that you bought that UCLA sweatshirt a year ago when you were still applying to schools, and you didn’t know where you were going to go…But we’re more than half way through the semester, and I hope you’ve realized this…is…CAL! If you haven’t, look up from your phone once and a while, and I’m sure you’ll see a bunch of reminders (see cal gear). You don’t have to rep Berkeley everyday, but if you will not rep the school you’re at, why are you repping a school you don’t even go to? Reasonable excuses are limited to: You did in fact go there, you will be going there, or members of your immediate family go/went there. Please note that uncles, aunts, and cousins, are not considered immediate family, grandparents are a grey area.



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Who wears this stuff? Waaaay too many of us

Like some sort of sick self-fulfilling prophecy our campus seems to have fully embraced the shoes with who we share a first syllable. Fun fact: Birkenstock was founded in 1774, that’s older than Cal AND America. From flower children, to sorority royalty, to even the business clubbers (on casual Fridays) are seen sporting these open toed super-sandals. They’re granola, but hip and with the times. They give off that I’m cool and unique, but not crazy vibe. There only known weakness is rain.


Action Shoes

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Who wears this stuff? Anyone not in Birkenstocks or Rainbows

This category is pretty broad, but all in all is just to capture all the different types of shoes we wear for activities that we are not currently doing. Vans, and converse, and other skate shoes for the person not skating to class. Boat shoes for the students not boating to class. Running shoes for the kids walking around. Action Shoes. An important part of fitting in on campus is NOT doing the action that your shoes are made for while wearing them. Such commitment would be far too much for the average university student.

Tie Dye


Who wears this stuff? People capable of feeling happiness, and those who want to pretend they can

Ever want to advocate for free love, world peace, and fight against the tyrannical hegemony of monochromatic solids while raising money for diabetic baby seals from low-income single parent homes? Just throw on a tie dye t-shirt and you’re ready to go. Or it’s Tuesday. We wear tie-dye on Tuesday. Shout out to this golden bear rocking some serious berkeley style in her tie-dye and birks WITH some fun Cal-branded socks.


Nalgene Bottles


Who wears this stuff? Anyone into hydration right now, and really what’s not to be into. All the kids are doing it these days.

Some of you may be thinking, “but wait, water bottles aren’t fashion.” I’m here to tell you that YES! They are. It is scientifically proven that a thoughtfully chosen nalgene bottle can make any outfit 26% more attractive than the same outfit with no means of constant hydration. Your high school track coach would be proud of you now are banking at least 3 liters a day. You’re peeing 5-10 times a day, and you’re peeing clear. I’m kidding of course, but it is scientifically proven that drinking water is good for you. What better way to keep potable water on hand at all times than a nearly indestructible, brightly (or neutrally) coloured bottle. Toss it in your bag, or clip it on with a carabiner. Welcome to the fam.


The Suit and Tie Combo

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Who wear this stuff? The kids going to an interview aka Pre-Haas, Pre-Med, Pre-Law, Pre-major with supposed job security.

The suits on campus are going somewhere, and they want you to know it. If it’s honesty hour they’re probably speed walking through Sproul to try and make it to an information session for some soul-sucking super bank on Berkeley time, which is in the business world is late. They’ll arrive at 3:04 with the panache, and confidence of someone who has arrived a whole SIX minutes early only to find that KT Morgan and Co. have already selected the two students they will send an intern application to. Shortly after you see them stonewall someone handing out fliers to help the homeless, the suit will be standing in a crowded room making a mental note to do better next time before rushing off to their business frat fundraiser at ShareTea. But hey, at least they got to network

A Nike Backpack with Cal Embroidery… you know the one

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Who wears this stuff? The Athletes who are part of the GM where someone said to match everyday, the ones who only never bought a backpack of their own, and a few of laymen who found it online and just think it’s a killer school-spirited backpack (see Cal Gear).

Often worn by a person who looks like they came to school naked, and allowed the student store to throw up on them, the owners of the backpacks play a sport for the school… or used to… or knows someone that does. They’re somehow affiliated with the athletic situation on campus, and they want to broadcast that to the rest of us. Their method of self-identification creates this fun little game where you guess if they’re actually an athlete, and then what sport they do. Football? Not big enough. Basketball? Not tall enough. Water Polo? Not blonde enough. Golf?


Greek Letters


Who wears this stuff? Why the Greeks of course, not the ones from Greece. The ones who bring the party. Or the professional frats (see The Suit and Tie Combo)

Before we get started here, I would like to formally apologize to all Greece the country, and all the people from there. The US seems to have looked through your culture and when asked to give a summary has produced a red solo cup. I think our misinterpretation of your country can be made up for by the resurrection of your language. Alpha, Sigma, Zeta, and friends haven’t seen this much action since Calculus. The greeks are bringing back an ancient language by overlaying them on to recognizable logos of relevant corporations. I’m pretty sure there are some copyright violations happening on the shirts of every other frat brother, but I guess when you’re trying save an alphabet from anachronism you don’t have time to deal with IP law. Bonus: they go great with sperrys and pastel colored-boat shorts.




Who wears this stuff? Southern Californians, and those allergic to the sun (weather dependent)

Ever wanted a way to discriminate against people from “So-Cal”? What about people with sun phobias? Now you can. Whenever it drizzles, or rains, or pours look out for the folks from the south that whip out the umbrellas. This is a near perfect “not all rectangles are squares, but all squares are rectangles” situation. Not every southern Californian has an umbrella, but most that rock the ‘brellas probably grew up saying “duuuuuuude, gnarly” in an un-ironic way, and has definitely thrown up a shaka in their lifetime, plus a few umbrella users from Arizona. As for the rest of us when it drizzles our lives don’t change, and when it rains we own things called raincoats.


Long Socks with Shorts


Who wears this stuff? ‘Dem Boiiiis

Honestly this one confuses me. I don’t fully understand it. I am not sure who decided it was okay for guys to wear socks that come up over their ankles with shorts and low tops, but it seems to be very widespread in California. Growing up in Canada, socks that came up more than a couple centimetres from the tops of your shoes was the biggest fashion faux-pas one could make. For my sake, and the sake of other western Canadians please clarify the following:

  1. Is this just a Californian thing? Southwestern states thing?
  2. Don’t your lower shins get warm?
  3. How long do your weird tan lines last?

For any Canadians (or other internationals) that find themselves at Berkeley wondering why there are so many long sock wearers, it’s not because we’re all really nerdy here, it’s because that is fashion. Get yourself a pair, preferably in classic white, or with a fun pattern on them, or maybe some “palm fronds” and you’ll fit right in.


EthiCAL Shirts

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Who wears this stuff? Only some of the coolest kids on campus

This shirts are part of a brand of custom clothing for a cause. Not only are they sick looking t-shirts appropriate for almost any occasion they are also made by a great student organization with a charitable social mission. The profits from these t-shirts are entirely donated as microfinance loans around the world. Those loans try to stimulate meaningful ventures who are creating positive change in their own communities.


Please direct all complaints, compliments, and questions about this article/life/love/loss to Aleesha Hsu, 1st Year, Undeclared.