Is "Harvard Fashion" An Oxymoron?

Bloggers question the taste of the new Harvard menswear line, in more than one way

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On Sunday, the New York Times ran a story about Harvard University's decision to "[enter] into a 10-year licensing agreement for a line of preppy clothing." Under a subhead not-so-subtly slapping the institution with a new "elitist" charge, the story re-ignited a debate that began when the original news broke in early August. Some consider the clothing line a good business move. Others are shocked by the elitism of the high-end merchandise. Still more question the wisdom of letting academics anywhere near matters of style. Here are the highlights of a debate rife with social commentary, reproach, and ridicule.

  • It Is Not Elitist  It's seems likely that the editors of The Harvard Crimson weren't wild about the New York Times' subhead, but they haven't responded yet. Last Tuesday, an editorial countered "unwarranted student criticism and media attention" by emphasizing that the line's profits would "directly benefit Harvard's financial-aid program." Nor did they think the clothing--to be sold at what will be, for many, prohibitively high prices--would reinforce an elitist image or discourage applications from the less affluent.
  • 'Moneygrubbing, Elitist, Passé,' Gawker's Foster Kamer dubbed both the menswear and the newly cash-strapped university. Baffled by The Crimson's total lack of outrage on the matter, Foster Kamer concluded that "the final question comes down, then, to what [the clothing] looks like, and if it's even worth buying."
  • Harvard Haberdashery? Really?  The ever-present Matthew Yglesias has an answer to that "final question": "Harvard undergraduates dress terribly ...  Probably," he mused, "a snappier looking bunch than what you'd find down the road at MIT, but that's a low bar to clear." Fashion writer Amy Odell at New York Magazine said as much a month ago regarding the mismatch: "Would you give a child an Oreo and a glass of Dr Pepper to dip it in?"
  • This Just Doesn't Make Sense  Likewise amused by Harvard's foray into the fashion field, The Business Insider's Joe Weisenthal particularly enjoyed a statement from the clothing's creative director. "Just for effect," snickered the habitually snarky Weisenthal, "we'd like to repeat that last line: 'We want to combine the power of Harvard with the power of a plaid shirt.'"

After a full month of debate, we're right back where gossip columnist Perez Hilton started on August 6: "Harvard University Launches Fashion Line, Confuses Everyone."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.