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 A Cliff's Notes to Cal style, 2005 edition: printed bags; layered T's, long and short; and cropped pants and jackets are in. (BAP photos)

Cal Style 2005: Flip-flops, floods, and fur — fake, of course

Sample Cal's top styles in this Flash slide show
– Fall is definitely turning into winter here on the UC Berkeley campus. How do we know? Not from the dropping temperatures or the changing colors of the trees, but from the shrinking numbers of flip-flops seen crossing Sproul Plaza.

Berkeley students love their flip-flops. Many female - and some male - students own enough pairs to slide a different set between their toes every day of the week. "Flip-flops are definitely an expression of personal style," asserts Magen Farrar, a fifth-year political science and film studies major. "On the high end, you'll see Marc Jacobs, in darker and brighter colors, and David Aaron's very thin-soled, embellished ones are also very popular. But so are your basic standard Gap thongs."

The executive chair of the Fashion and Student Trends (FAST) student group, Farrar agreed to serve as the NewsCenter's guide to what's hot - and what's so, like, not - on campus this season. She hails from Perryville in southeast Missouri, "where the fashion hasn't changed in 50 years," but her credentials derive from more than reading InStyle and watching America's Next Top Model: Farrar was an account manager for Bloomingdale's in the "cutthroat" jewelry sector for two years while attending New York University in Manhattan.

"I never had any intention of going into the industry, but ever since then fashion has piqued my interest," she explains. "Like most Berkeley students, I'll always choose comfort over fashion." (She admits to owning six or seven pairs of flip-flops and as many hooded tops, or "hoodies.")

 Magen Farrar
'Like most Berkeley students, I'll always choose comfort over fashion.'
-Magen Farrar, Fashion
and Student Trends (FAST)
On a recent Friday around lunchtime, we lounged on the steps of Sproul Hall, camera at the ready to record the latest shifts in Cal fashion. A caveat: Even though it was a bright, sunny day, we couldn't have picked a worse time for stalking style mavens, Farrar told me. Few Berkeley students bother dressing up for class, reserving their put-together looks for evening get-togethers at the Bear's Lair or the movies. And Fridays are the last day of the week, and therefore represent the bottom of the clean laundry basket.

Berkeley gets Tsarry-eyed

While the changes from last season are subtle - "it's not like students can afford to go out and buy a whole new wardrobe every season," shrugs Farrar - we managed to observe more than a few instances of fashionableness. Some Cal students have definitely gotten the message from the fashion industry that embellishment is in.

 jackets embellished with a little luxury, like faux fur.
Go for jackets embellished with a little luxury, like faux fur. 

"We call it the Imperial Russia look, very regal and luxurious," says Farrar. "We're seeing a lot of faux fur and embroidery, grayish blues and purples - all the colors that you find in Russian art." Last season's shrunken, waist-length blazers are still in for women, but with a twist: now it's a little more embellished, with faux fur, lace, or embroidery on the collars, and a little more feminine, with a more fabric in the shoulders.

But Berkeley being Berkeley, students are adapting the Russian Imperial look their own way. According to Farrar, "at Cal, it's about taking fashion and putting your own spin on it, making it personal." That means mixing in vintage (or "used") pieces from secondhand stores like Mars, Time Zone, and Crossroads. That also explains the dearth of logos one sees on campus - except for a particular yellow one, of course. Farrar posits that freshmen load up on Cal gear and wear it proudly, but "little by little, that starts to fade. After their first year, most people only wear their Cal gear for cold days and sporting events, or as a last resort when they run out of clean laundry."

Standards get lower

 Jeans: slightly worn look is in; homemade ventilation flaps are not.
The slightly worn look is in; homemade ventilation flaps are not. 
Distressed denim is still in on campus, but one sees less of the "dirty" denim look popularized by Diesel. The trend for men's and women's jeans is toward more solid colors now, grayish blues and grayish blacks, with a distressed portion usually just around where the leg meets the torso. Rips are back, along with other '80s touches, but only as small, worn holes - "not so large that you see skin," Farrar stresses.

The bad news for those of us who have more hips than Kate Moss is that low-rise jeans are still in - and the waistlines are even lower. The good news? It's no longer cool to wear cropped shirts with them: longer shirts that hit at or below the beltline are in.

Farrar agrees that the ultra-low-rise jeans are perhaps not right for everyone. "You know, you come to college and put on some weight, or your body matures naturally…When your body changes, maybe your style should, too," she says carefully.

She also gives a big thumbs-down to those who pair "kitten" heels (shoes with a small and dainty stiletto-like heel) with jeans that are too long. "That's definitely one of my pet peeves," she says. "You shouldn't cover up the kitten heels, and you discredit your jeans by letting them drag on the ground." While too-long is bad, too-short is apparently good. Female Cal students are into cropped pants - a category that encompasses both capris and regular-length pants that have either been cut off or rolled up to mid-calf - worn with flip-flops and stylish athletic shoes like Pumas. (Older readers may know this length as "floods." [or high-water pants])

 long skirt and short skirt
Bohemian skirts can be paired with almost anything, but a backpack doesn't do last season's micro-mini any favors.
Mid-calf is the preferred lengths for skirts this season as well, especially for the new Bohemian skirts that come in any color from white to black and in bright or neutral colors. "We're not seeing the skirts with two layers of ruffles that were so popular last year," says Farrar. "They appear to have been retired. The uneven hem thing is also out, as is the denim micro mini."

Men get belted

This season finds male Cal students still doing what Farrar calls the "preppy hipster" look: track jackets over t-shirts, paired with jeans and flip-flops or Pumas. Revamped '80s looks are still prevalent, with LaCoste and other polo shirts still very in, but structured to be more contemporary: tighter in the chest and fitted to show off the more buff male body of the '00s.

The biggest trend among male students is layers: a tight long-sleeved t-shirt under a short-sleeved polo shirt in a contrasting color. But women, too, have adopted this casual, functional look, usually topping the long sleeves with baby tees instead of polo shirts for a more feminine twist.

Men are also wearing belts more than they used to: bigger ones, with more metal. "I'm glad to see guys wearing more belts. It makes them look more put together," smiles Farrar.

Uggs get the boot

The must-have accessory for both sexes remains the iPod and its little white earbuds. A few iPod Nano versions have been spotted among the most fashion-forward (and deep-pocketed) students, but the iPod Mini is much more prevalent. According to Farrar, scarves are back in, not only for girls, but guys too. To handle these in-between fall temperatures, scarves don't have to be layered with a coat; many have been spotted draped around a bare neck.

Layers — good. But layers of accessories? Not so much. 
For women, bigger is better when it comes to accessories. Oversized, chunky necklaces are all the rage, especially if worn with solid shirts in toned-down colors, according to Farrar. David Yurman is selling them at the high end, but even the Gap, BeBe, BCBG, and Banana Republic have them. Big sunglasses that recall Jackie O's for the older crowd are also in, as are wide, patterned or solid headbands. Belts are also wider, in fabric or leather with metal embellishment (yep, there's that word again), slung around the hips both for jeans and skirts.

Handbags are - you guessed it - bigger and embellished too, with bits of faux fur, lace, and even sequins making an appearance. Printed, zany handbags, the kind many students' grandmothers might have worn in the '60s, can also be seen slung over the shoulders of practically every female student.

And as the weather starts nipping at bare toes, flip-flops are giving way to flats and boots. The embellished, Ottoman-style slippers are still in, especially when worn with the Bohemian skirts. Farrar says it's still a bit too early to name the boot for this season, but Uggs - those tan or pastel descendants of mukluks - are not it. "Wedge heels are very popular, with a leather combination of Western, Native American, and Scandinavian looks," she says, adding that the home page at shoemaker NineWest.com right now boasts several examples. These are more "designed" looking than Uggs: some have fur detailing, while others have "very Swedish-looking embroidery on them, like flowers and tulips." Cowboy boots are another contender for the title of this season's must-have boot: not actual rodeo stompers, but a pointier-toed, narrower, more feminine version.

 And in case female readers failed to get this fashion memo, really chunky platform heels are out. "Yep, sorry. Get rid of them," says Farrar cheerfully.

What about clogs, the fallback footwear of most older Berkeleyites? Farrar doesn't pull any punches. "Dansko and other clogs are absolutely not cool," she says. "I'm not sure they ever were. I know they're comfortable - I admit, I have a pair - but you would never see a student wearing them. Maybe a graduate student, or a professor, but not a student."

Don't say we didn't try to warn you.

Fashion show: Sample Cal's top styles in this Flash slide show

Previous Berkeley fashion stories: