Friday, December 4, 2009

My Harvard Jacket

Say What You Wanna Say - Hit the Lights (mp3)
The Good That Won't Come Out - Rilo Kiley (mp3)

"Why are you wearing a Harvard jacket?"

You'd be amazed just how often I get this question whenever I'm wearing my Harvard jacket. It's a windbreaker, actually. Very nice for a September in Boston or a November in Chattanooga. It's crimson (natch) with an adorable, palm-sized patch on the right breast of Harvard's crest, a crest as old as the Dead Sea Scrolls and as revered as that cool "Unite or Die" snake of our revolutionary period.

Way back in 1998, I attended a 2-week special course (for special people with special needs) combining key figures from Harvard's Kennedy School of Government and their Graduate School of Education, a school not quite important enough to be named for important or wealthy people. The course focused on teaching and discussing media literacy and contemporary issues with high school classes, and the experience was absolutely stellar. It was precisely the kind of inspiring academic experience one has every right to expect out of what is generally considered the most revered educational institution in our country if not the world. As such, I found myself feeling very much like Wayne Campbell, confessing "We're not worthy! We're not worthy!" and bowing to the venerable institution's grounds and professors.

Before I left the school, I purchased a very nice Harvard-labeled shirt for my wife and this windbreaker for myself. Because, ultimately, I'm that kind of tourist. And because I was attending a class at Harvard. And because it's Harvard, and I think that's kinda cool... if also snooty and debatably overrated or unfairly singled out in comparison to dozens of universities of comparable measure.

But a funny thing happened on the way home in my Harvard jacket.

People wonder why I wear it. Like, they wonder aloud. And the better they know me -- which is to say, the more certain they are that I didn't graduate from Harvard -- the more likely they are to ask that vital question: "Why the hell are you wearing a Harvard jacket?"

There's this unspoken code about college gear. You wear it if you went to the school. Period. The only exception seems to be that it's perfectly acceptable to don another school's schwag if you ROOT for them in athletics. Sure, a few alumni might raise their nostril angle in your presence, but the rest of the world could care less whether you attended the University of Georgia or are just a fan.

But who the hell roots for Harvard in athletics? Nobody. So if I don't cheer on their football team, why the hell would I wear their jacket?

Yup, welcome to the South, where a university's athletic acumen is much more important than its academic credentials. Does anyone else find this odd?

If I were wearing an item of clothing with ABERCROMBIE plastered on it, no one would ever think of asking, "Why the hell are you promoting Abercrombie & Fitch? And why the hell did you pay money to serve as their walking billboard?"

Apparently it's less offensive to wear an Alabama sweatshirt than a Princeton one, and less offensive to wear a Polo logo than a Stanford crest.

In my wacky little world, we'd be much more eager to promote and wear gear that proclaimed the awesomeness of a college education than we would the logo of a corporate entity. Instead of UnderArmour shirts and Gucci pants, we'd don Emory University jackets and Amherst College jeans. And sure, for good measure you could throw in a UNC Tar Heels hat and cheer for them as a great school or as a great athletic program. Take your pick.

If John Travolta can do it, why can't we??

Hit the Lights' Skip School, Start Fights and Rilo Kiley's The Execution of All Things can both be found at eMusic for a very reasonable price! Mega awesome props to eMusic!


BeckEye said...

Oh, silly boy. John Travolta can get away with a lot of things that mere mortals cannot.

Daisy said...

Maybe it's okay to wear attire for a school that is worthy only in athletics, but one has to earn the right to wear the Harvard crest? I mean afterall anybody can go to Alabama.

troutking said...

Your post is right on. Except for college counselors. There's a lot of free stuff, so my rule is if I've been there, I can wear it. Unless I hated the place, then I won't.

Earl said...

As a Yalie, I am honor-bound to inform you that Harvard Sucks.

jed said...

Amherst jeans?

Hank said...

I disagree with this statement: "Sure, a few alumni might raise their nostril angle in your presence, but the rest of the world could care less whether you attended the University of Georgia or are just a fan." In fact, it is just the opposite. Often fans of other schools use the support/gear wearing of non-graduates to denigrate a school's fan base. For example, people talk trash all the time because 5% (at most) of UNC fans actually went to UNC. Same for UTK.

Billy said...

Jed -- Why not? Can't be any worse than Banana Republic.

Hank -- Are you really suggesting that a valid put-down of another school is that too many non-grads cheer the team on? Really? (I guess I'm saying I don't quite agree with you. What school doesn't have this "problem"? What school is safe from such denigration? UAB? North Dakota State? Rutgers??)

I guess Ohio State has the only legit fanbase because they enroll roughly 4.2 million students per year.

Honestly, the only time I've ever heard UNC alum fans lament "posers" is when gangs start choosing our gear as their "colors."