Leah Horner is a journalism junior and Mustang News study abroad columnist.
Before arriving in Brighton, England for my fall semester abroad, I was told to expect a small coastal town filled with students from surrounding universities. It sounded like the English version of San Luis Obispo. But the town is, in fact, the complete opposite of San Luis Obispo and in many ways it seems completely opposite of America in general.
In only 12 days, I’ve seen drastic differences between the United States and the United Kingdom. From public transportation to education to gun rights, I plan on delving into the differentiations of two countries that used to be one.
England is a fashionable place. Many Europeans go with the “less is more” approach to shopping and therefore have fewer articles of clothing which are higher quality, rather than following the American approach and having an abundance of T-shirts and jeans.
Alexis Godoy, junior at California State University, Stanislaus, is studying abroad in Brighton. When she got off the airplane in England, she said, she instantly felt out of place.
“Compared to us Americans, I was in sweats, super baggy,” she said. “I just felt like I had no fashion sense whatsoever.”
Godoy noticed the other women were wearing fancy clothes and had their hair and makeup done in the airport — a place where she and her American friends were dressed casually.
Godoy is not the only American to notice the trendy change. Monika Hershey, another U.S. exchange student from the University of Houston, also spotted the differences in style.
“I feel like in university in America if you dress up, all of your friends are wearing sweats and they all comment and they all try to ask you where you’re going — when you just dressed up for class for no reason,” Hershey said.
Patrick Lyall, a University of Brighton student who lived in Cambridge, England for a majority of his life, agrees with Hershey and Godoy. He visited the United States multiple times, seeing places like Santa Barbara, Los Angeles and Manhattan. Looking back on his times in the states, he remembers Americans would go to shops wearing what the English would consider their pajamas.
“People wear flip flops a lot in America, and I say that because I think it sums up the attitude there a lot from what I gather,” Lyall said. “People are very comfortable to dress down and they don’t seem too concerned with what other people are going to think of them. They’re just going to kind of slum it.”
Lyall describes his own country’s fashion as a class system. Their lowest class would still wear name brand track suits, like Adidas. The next class up would wear polos and as Lyall puts it, more “smart” and “elegant” clothing. The next step after that is even fancier: a group who would not be caught dead in denim.
Lyall and other English men, like Luke Bachelor, enjoy wearing decorative scarves, a trend that has not hit the majority of American men. Bachelor also grew up in England and says European men have the confidence to dress well and not be worried about gender stereotypes.
“I don’t know why, but it seems like there’s a lot of guys out there that dress that very metrosexual way that a lot of people would look at some guys and go ‘they’re gay,’ but they’re not,” Bachelor said. “I think there’s a confidence to dress well and dress very smart.”
Both Lyall and Bachelor commented on American men’s lack of comfort in their own skin and the need to be part of the “beef culture,” as Lyall put it.
“I know that — what are they called — fraternity houses are a big thing in the states. It sounds as though American males seem to have quite a complex around asserting their masculinity that perhaps we don’t … I think maybe we’re more comfortable here in our skin, or at least in our masculinity,” Lyall said. “I can wear a scarf and I’m still a man.”
A question both the Americans and the English had is “why?” Why is it that America puts less effort into their looks on a daily basis?
None of them could answer that question.