Student fads: hookahs, porkpie hats, and ukuleles

I work on a college campus, so every year is a fascinating adventure into hipness. What will college students be doing / wearing / eating this year? Hoop skirts? Viking helmets? Fright wigs?



Actually, this year, it seems pretty sedate to me. “It looks,” I said to the shuttle driver the other evening, “like it did when I first came here in 1978. I guess the wheel has finally turned all the way around.”



He snorted a laugh. “Did they have blue hair back then?” he said, nodding toward a girl on the sidewalk nearby. “I don’t think so.”



Well, he was right about that. There are always changes and aberrations. But if you’d shown me a photo in 1978 of what the average student is wearing in 2011, I would have shrugged. What’s so different about that?



College students are very attentive to trends. I remember Bullwinkle when he went to Wossamotta U.: “I’ve got my raccoon coat!” he said. “I’ve got my ukulooloo and my hair stickum!”



(Yes, he said “ukulooloo.” I can hear it in my head even now.)



But modern college students look very similar to the way we looked back in the 1970s: simple, black t-shirts, jeans, floppy hair. 



But Shuttle Driver was right: there are some differences.



There is, for example, the Ironic Porkpie Hat.



A few years ago, all the boys (or at least the cool ones) were wearing classic porkpie hats. It was a little odd, but certainly no odder than the lime-green leisure suit I bought in Spokane in 1977.



Now they’ve moved beyond the conventional porkpie. They’ve actually become post-modern about it.



Today I saw a white porkpie hat. And a straw porkpie hat. And a flannel one, with a little flourish of feathers, like a Tyrolean hat!



And have I mentioned the proliferation of hookah cafes in the neighborhood? That, at least, was not something we did in the primitive nineteen-seventies.



Ah, youth! What next?



(For us, it was disco music!)



About Loren Williams
Gay, partnered, living in Providence, working at a local university. Loves: books, movies, TV. Comments and recriminations can be sent to

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