Queen's Uniform: Fashion or Function

Since the first time I set foot on campus as a frosh, I noticed something, that all the Queen’s students were wearing similar clothing items, and that was big considering I was coming from a high school with a uniform. Turns out just when I thought I managed to shake the uniform thing I’d walked back into a school with another uniform…albeit not as strictly enforced, but nevertheless.

As much as this phenomenon of all of us wearing the same clothing amazed me when I first began my time at Queen’s, I was only a few months into first year before I too began to desire and wear the same clothes as everyone else I saw strutting up and down University Avenue.

It was only recently that I began to question this habit and dig for answers amongst my friends as to whether these trends were purely for fashion’s sake or if they were to serve their intended function? I mean do we all really need knee high rain boots and arctic expedition grade parkas?

Well, I have compiled the results of my own pondering and my reasonably small scale investigation into the Queen’s Uniform and, in my opinion, it all comes down to one question; fashion or function? Without further ado, I present to you my findings;

1.     Blundstones

As an equestrian, I’ve owned blundstones for years, way before they were popular (yes, I am the original hipster). Naturally, when they first began to make their appearance on campus I rushed out to the store to buy myself a new pair (because my muddy barn boots wouldn’t cut it anymore) and while some of my friends told me they were ‘the ugliest boots ever’ I noticed that before long the trend had caught on and they were everywhere.

But were they everywhere because of their warm liner, waterproof qualities and grippy sole for all my icy walking needs or were we all just following each other blindly into another trend?

My answer, I’ve always been a fan of blundestones, and them becoming a trend was a welcome excuse to buy a new pair and wear them all the time.

Fashion or Function: Function


2.     Hunter Rain Boots

When I first asked my Mom to buy me Hunters as a birthday present, she remarked that I’d never have a use for them, but nevertheless bought them for me. Years later, I’d have to say they’ve gotten their fair share of use, between working outside in the summers and sporting them to class at even the slightest suggestion of rain, they’ve been a worthwhile purchase. But did I really need them?

Probably not, I mean realistically my equally waterproof blundestones would have done the trick (as anyone who owns Hunters can attest to the fact that they actually aren’t that waterproof) and I certainly wasn’t waltzing through rivers needing them for their height.  In the words of one of my friends “Kate Middleton has a pair and Kingston also rains – a lot” so there we have it while their intended function has come in handy on numerous accounts the overarching reasoning behind the boots is style.

Fashion or Function: Fashion


3.     Leggings

They’re stretchy, they’re skin-tight, they’re versatile and above all, they’re comfortable (for those binge studying sessions at Stauff). While they are quite literally everywhere on campus I would have to say that unless everyone is rushing to or from their daily yoga class (their intended function) or we all need to be ready to assume tree pose at a moments notice that this is purely a fashion statement.

Besides campus opinion (in the form of my friends) says that “they’re cute and they work with all boot choices which is necessary for Kingston weather.” So there we have it.

Fashion or Function: Fashion


4.     Canada Goose Parka (Parkas in general)

As someone who did not own a parka until this winter (I know, how ever did I last?) I can attest to how necessary this is living in Kingston (I only wish I’d figured this out before my fourth year). I used to wear a ski jacket and wool sweater walking to my classes in the winter and I usually arrived at the other end freezing and lamenting my decision to live in Kingston where winter never seems to end.

 I was amazed after I bought my Helly Hansen Parka (because I did not want to jump on the band wagon and buy a Canada Goose, also I couldn’t justify the price but alas I digress) how I was able to actually enjoy the beauty of winter on my walk to class (sort of) without freezing myself silly.

We all know with Kingston’s reputation as the real ‘windy city’ that there is nothing like a Canada Goose coat to keep us warm while walking from Bio-Sci to Mac-Corry (or at least, this is something I’ve recently learned.

Fashion or Function: Function for parkas in general, Fashion for a Canada Goose Parka in particular


5.     Sperry’s

Forget about Parkas for the moment and think about fall and spring on campus…what shoes do you see on almost everyone’s feet regardless of whether they know how to sail? Everyone’s favorite (floating) shoe, that’s right, Sperry’s.

I remember when my Mom sent me to buy my first pair of Sperry’s she said go buy yourself some normal shoes (apparently anything plaid or with writing on it didn’t count) so to appease her I found the most boring pair of brown Sperry’s I could and bought them, never did I think they would soon become my favorite shoe. They became particularly useful in my summers working at a marina where they often fell into the water and I could catch them because they floated. However, given that we aren’t all throwing our shoes into the water, I’d have to say this is all fashion statement (unless you’re a sailor…then I guess you can claim function).

Fashion or Function: Fashion (unless you have an excuse)


6.     Herschel Backpack

We all know what its like to gear up for an all night studying binge at Stauffer, you absolutely must have every possible textbook you own, a supply of snacks, a water bottle, laptop and charger etc. etc. etc. Before long, your backpack is quite literally bursting at the seams and you feel like you’re setting off on a week long camping trip as you leave your house heading in the direction of campus. This would imply that a good backpack is necessary.

However; I do not have a Herschel Backpack, I have other backpacks but not a Herschel one that so many Queen’s students seem to swear by; “it’s such a pain to haul all your crap to Stauffer without a proper backpack” in the words of my housemate.

In that case, I’d be inclined to say that it’s all function, however, I’ve gone all four years without one and I’ve survived just fine…so take that however you wish.

Fashion or Function: Function


7.     Military Coat

We all know it’s spring on campus when the TNA (and knock off) military coats come out of hiding. But what’s so special about these coats?

Answer; not much, aside from their light canvas weight and military aesthetic. But we aren’t all in the military (even then they don’t wear coats like this), and the limited protection they offer from the elements can be replicated in a lot of different styles.

Fashion or Function: Fashion


8.     Varsity Team Swag

While not everyone can participate in this trend, the varsity athletes can attest to how necessary wearing one’s varsity team swag around campus is…I mean how else will your teammates recognize you off the field and how will the rest of us be able to know how exceptionally gifted you are at [insert varsity sport].

I mock but I do it too. So is it necessary? Sure, the clothes serve a purpose when you’re at your games, and if your entire wardrobe consists of various varsity editions of team sweaters from your four years on the team, then I guess it’s necessary, but don’t try to pretend that you need to wear it all the time, because you don’t.

Fashion or Function: Both


So there you have it, the truth about the Queen’s Uniform, well my truth anyways. Next time you’re walking down University Avenue in your Hunters and Canada Goose take a look around and remember what a fashion statement you’re making (and how lucky you are to be able to make that fashion statement…my friend in sociology reminded me of this and how the economic bracket many of us fall into has actually shaped the Queen’s Uniform, but you already knew that).

Keep looking fashionable and functional Queen’s! 


Image Sources: Google, Queen's Yearbook and Design Services