Schooled in the Art of Southern Style

New Yorker learns the ABCs of fashion

By Kristie Jacobs

When I first decided to pack up my bags and head to North Carolina for college, the first question everyone asked was, “Why?” My plan appeared to be extremely random since I had never shown an interest in leaving the state of New York, and with my outspoken nature, colorful vocabulary and love of the fast-paced city life, it was assumed that I wouldn’t be able to adjust to down South living. It would only be a few  weeks after my arrival on campus that I’d realize how the style culture drastically differed from that of my hometown.

In Westchester, New York, a county right outside New York City, fashion means a lot. Everyone is expected to be up to date with the latest trends. On days spent in the big city, one would be dressed in mostly black — a sign of being a true New Yorker. New York’s fashion scene is quite unlike the South’s. “Street Style” was my wardrobe choice in New York; I was typically in Timberlands or studded Steve Madden boots. In North Carolina, my style is simply casual. Wearing leather and ripped clothing was ultimately my go-to but the moment I came to the South, I knew I would stick out like a sore thumb. Cowgirl boots would eventually become a part of my vocabulary and in my fashion rotation.

Here in North Carolina, college girls like to wear oversized T-shirts, two sizes too big, paired with Nike running shorts, aka “Norts.” Many people call this the Southern college girl uniform. This trend often confused me and, during my freshman year, I refused to conform. Dressing up for class in my street style clothes, heads would often turn my way with looks of confusion. It didn’t cross my mind why until a peer stopped me and said, “I like your outfit. You aren’t from here, are you?” That day I was wearing ripped-up leggings, a graphic T-shirt, Timberlands and held a leather jacket in my arms. She was wearing the Southern girl uniform: cowgirl boots, a black dress and a cardigan. There are many rules to the Southern girl’s style code:

1. Never over-accessorize — simple is better.
2. Pearl earrings; simple, long necklaces; and watches are always go-to’s.
3. AVOID mixing metals.
4. Chaco sandals (seen mainly on camping trips in the North) are must-haves.
5. Always stay in season.

I soon realized I should probably tone down my outfits while attending school. My all-black fashions paired with a beanie turned into wearing a black dress with brown cowgirl boots and curled hair. My ripped jeans with cut-up shirts and booties were exchanged for light-washed jeans, a halter top and an oversized cardigan. I never imagined I would go with an oversized T-shirt (where you can’t see the Norts paired underneath) as the comfy outfit I’d rock to class. I look like the typical North Carolina girl until I open my mouth to speak. Although this New Yorker has conformed to a few Southern clothing styles, I’ve promised myself to keep my closet free of monogrammed items and keep my attire as unique as possible.

To say the least, it was a bit of a culture shock when I decided to live in the South for college. I’m proud of my Northern roots and the decision to try out a new region. I have even embraced the nickname Yankee (and no, not the baseball team...Go Yankees!) and adopted the Southern style to meet cultural norms. Now, the only question that remains is will I be able to fit in when I return home, or can I balance what I learned in the South with my Northern heritage? 

Tags: #newyork #charlotte #southernstyle #fashion #style #allblack #timberlands #cowboyboots #university #collegelife #citylife #stevemadden #simplycasual #leatherjacket #chaco #norts #northernheritage
Subscribe to the blog