An ‘ode’ to Durham stash…

By Martha Powell

Have you fallen victim to Durham stash culture? Do you reach for your college fleece whenever you need something quick to throw on to put the bins out? Do you live in crest embroidered Canterburys despite never wearing them for sport? Has your puffer been sighted on Overheard on the floor of Jimmy’s? (Why would you take it with you?) Stash is a staple of Durham culture, and comes with both benefits and drawbacks when it comes to originality, college spirit, and a desire to fit in amongst our peers. But why is Durham so obsessed with stash?

The collegiate system is, in my opinion, the greatest contributor to this fatal lack of individuality in Durham’s fashion scene. I find myself seeing more college stash than generic Durham ones, such as Team Durham or the infamous curry club quarter zips. In fact, as soon as I got the opportunity to buy my college stash, I leapt at the chance without a second thought, of course I wanted some. However, I never stopped to consider why I wanted it so badly. If I were to break it down, it is clear the sense of identity and community found in the college crest is what encourages a student’s preference for college stash over university ones; I was buying into having something in common with my friends.

Has your puffer been sighted on Overheard on the floor of Jimmy’s?

The aesthetics of a college and its community are also heavily reliant upon the ability to identify others within your college in public. If you take a trip down Church Street on a weekday, you’ll be ambushed by crests and logos. John Snow, for whatever reason, assert dominance in this regard from what I assume must have been a combination of great marketing on the college’s part and a very heavy puffer order. This sense of community transfers across all aspects of university life, and is heavily impacted by college pride. For example, take a walk to Maiden Castle for a floodlit fixture, and all of a sudden wearing college stash mimics wearing your favourite football team’s shirt.

Outside of college, Team Durham stash also proves incredibly popular, acting as the equivalent of a jock’s letterman jacket in a 1980s film. In my understanding, the acquisition of illicit ‘old’ fleeces bought separately from Team Durham appear to be in the highest demand. In this case, stash not only acts as a uniting front between clubs, but also exudes a sense of exclusivity as not only are these not available to the everyday student, but they also require sourcing through external means.

Stash isn’t about setting a fashion statement; it’s instead about a statement of identity

Despite the lack of individuality I feel wearing my Durham stash around the city, coming home changes that entirely. Although no longer surrounded by other students, the sense of community does not entirely vanish. My friend and I had a running joke that he was taking his college fleece skiing in the hopes that he would no doubt run into your average Durham stereotype. Away from university, finding something as recognisable as a college crest is intriguing rather than repetitive and boring.

I don’t think that there is anything inherently wrong with stash, other than feeling slightly uninspired with my fashion choices when I wear it. However, stash isn’t about setting a fashion statement; it’s instead about a statement of identity. Despite all stash’s flaws, there is something nice about feeling a part of something, be it a sport, a college, or a society. However, I will draw the line at wearing a sports club tie on a night out, even if it’s a Wednesday.

Image credit: Anna Kuptsova

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