Cheaper Than a Diploma

at 12:35 AM

There was a long line at the check-out, and the woman waiting in front of me had on a sweatshirt featuring varsity-style letters of the name of the university I attended.

"What year did you graduate?" I asked her.
 
"Huh?" she said "I didn't go there. I found this sweatshirt in the laundromat."

Hmm, I thought, isn't there a rule you're only allowed to wear school logo clothing if you actually attended?

But, judging from hordes of tourists jamming campus shops at UC Berkeley and Stanford, snapping up tee shirts and sweatshirts, some fashion rules are meant to be broken.
 
Like all fashion statements, sporting the insignia of that college you didn't go to provokes strong reactions. At least Berkeley shirts only arouse a laid-back "Go Bears." Some college cheers for the home team can be a little too enthusiastic. I know a guy who often wears his girlfriend's University of Mississippi tee shirt, and nearly every time some stranger hollers "Flim Flam, Bim Bam, Ole Miss, by damn!"

Wearing an Alabama sweatshirt means random shouts of "Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer!" And don't get my friend Kelly started on her first time wearing that Arkansas shirt she bought at a garage sale, not realizing "Woo-Pig-Sooie!" is their team chant.

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Wearing collegiate clothing instead of enrolling does make financial sense. With the average price of a private university education at $44,000, a Princeton tee shirt seems like a better deal than a Princeton diploma, and it's almost as impressive as you browse at the farmer's market. And nobody asks about your SAT scores when buying a tee shirt.
 
If actual alumni get a little huffy when they find out you're sporting the sweatshirt without sweating through the admissions application, remind them school apparel is highly profitable for universities, easing pressure for alumni donations. And how different is a Yale emblem than a miniature crocodile or a tiny polo player? Fashion is about self-expression, so if your idea of designer clothing is a Harvard hoodie, I am pleased to inform you that you have been accepted.
 
I wear my San Francisco State University sweatshirt with pride. But if you're wearing one and you were never a Gator, it's ok. Purple and gold looks good on everyone.
 
With a Perspective, I'm Richard Swerdlow.

Richard Swerdlow also wears the colors of the San Francisco Unified School district, where he is a teacher.