Aesthetics from the archives

By Anna Gibbs 

One aspect of the ebbs and flows of the fashion realm I love dearly is the constant recycling of eras, core design archetypes, and the juxtaposing of these age-old classics with new spins on tradition.

For the 800th edition of Palatinate, I was curious to discover what the students of Durham University were wearing back in the younger years of the paper, and how this both compares to and could potentially inspire the Durham student style scene in 2017. I spent one indulgent lunchtime between a lecture and a seminar cross-legged on the Palatinate office floor poring with increasing glee over the archives. They are kept in a worn, overflowing cabinet in the office and the most ancient sheets crinkle and sigh in your hands as you turn the pages. The cheeky attitudes and quips of the long-gone student writers, however, remain perfectly intact. A particular favourite of mine is the savage ‘Horrorscope’ column from an edition published in 1969, with the prediction for Cancer being ‘Give it up, whatever it is.’ and ‘Personally I’d stay in bed for the next fortnight – If you can’t well don’t say I didn’t warn you.’ for Aquarius.

An interesting point to note is that the attire of the boys in the photographs doesn’t differ too drastically from that of Durham boys and their chinos today – I could have sworn that I saw the fair-headed one posing next to a ladder in a Classics lecture the other day. Perhaps not the bloke in the cloak though.

There is also a sole emphasis on women’s fashion – who aren’t often seen wearing anything noticeably androgynous, possibly the most significant difference between student fashion then and now. I’m not particularly fond of the idea of a section titled ‘Woman’s Moan’ either, as that can’t have been particularly helpful for perceptions of women back in the day, but I do feel ‘Chic Feed’ could make a comeback.

The ‘Best Dressed Student’ has got me thinking of resurrecting a similar competition – though with social media it would hopefully be more democratic a voting process than in the 1960s. Of course, this time around we wouldn’t have only female students in the running… style transcends gender after all.

Photographs: Palatinate Archives 

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