A ride through decades of Eckerd fashion and what it means now
In the depths of the Eckerd library archives sit dozens of yearbooks and stacks of aging binders bursting with photos. From the school’s founding class in 1958 all the way to today, Eckerd’s students’ fashion is documented in all its glory: barefoot students and all.
Since its chartering as Florida Presbyterian College, our school has had a name change, experienced a transition in school colors and expanded in both student body and building construction. Obviously, this beloved campus has undergone some changes in the past 65 years, but the free spirit of its residents has not.
Free to be you
Ella Marx, a first-year International Studies major and Chicago native, described fashion style as an “external amplification of who you are inside,” She said she’s always felt more at home in warmer climates, being allowed to dress in a way that makes her happy, which is a side of herself she’s fully embraced at Eckerd.
“You can kind of recognize in each other that desire to be yourself, even if you’re not there yet,” sophomore Literature and Anthropology double major Nora Colussy-Estes said. Starting fresh and moving to a new space after high school has made a world of difference to them and many other students.
“You can come here and re-create yourself exactly as you want to be,” Macy Beckman, a junior, said.
While the Tritons of the past reflect the style of the times profoundly, the Tritons of today mix all the decades before them into one cohesive style, having a wider range than ever.
In Eckerd’s first decade, the yearbooks show students with short, styled hair, wearing “proper” clothing. However, the ‘70s kicked knee-length dresses to the curb in favor of statement pants and brought forth long hair, bushy mustaches, and sideburns, which are popular once again on campus in the 2020s.
On a surface level, beanies and bucket hats have replaced baseball caps, students dress less formally than those of the ‘60s and ‘70s and tattoos are a staple of Eckerd fashion. However, on a deeper level, Eckerd students appear to be outwardly articulating themselves now more than ever, using what they wear as a vessel for artistic expression and communication.
In the ‘70s, there was a surge of Eckerd students sporting those square-frame glasses we know all too well and wearing very muted colors on the amber, yellow spectrum. The square necklines of the ‘60s were replaced with boatneck tops and an exploration of flowy clothes. With this, came the exploration of what can be best described as “hippie chic,” a style that has evolved but still remains dear to the hearts of Eckerd students.
“I go through a lot of different eras, and when I enter a new era, I go headfirst,” Emily Poncin, a first-year, said. To Poncin, there are two routes one can go down in fashion: dressing for yourself or dressing for how you want to be perceived. Many Tritons enjoy viewing their body as a canvas to communicate whatever story they feel needs to be told. Eckerd students enjoy a wide spectrum of accessories, hair colors and tattoo styles, being able to choose a look purposefully and go all out.
Grandma chic, thrifting and reinvention
While the yearbooks from the ‘80s slap you across the face with retro-ness and tight shorts, the ‘90s introduced: baggy clothes, the rise of piercings, “dad” sneakers, scooped necklines, dangly earrings, low-rise pants, long shorts, sandals, and T-shirts with brand names and logos on them. Most of these styles are still worn by students today.
“Everything I own is thrifted at this point in my life,” Beckman, who described her fashion as “functional,” said. Beckman started thrifting in high school when she realized she didn’t want to dress like everyone else.
The popular style derived from thrifting is described as “grandma chic” which Beckman said consists of long flowy skirts, simple pants or capris, lots of accessories- such as chunky rings or necklaces- and flouncy shirts. However, she has moved past her “grandma chic” era, saying she prefers to dress more simply now.
The 2000s brought to the table what can best be described as “Matrix sunglasses,” thin eyebrows and vibrant hair dye, influenced by what some call “grungy futurism.” And, of course, we’re all familiar with the peculiar fashion of the 2010s, having just broken free from the clutches of leggings, “VSCO girl” fashion and Nike shorts.
Creating their own trends, many Eckerd students are channeling parts of themselves into their clothing by deriving inspiration from music, fellow students, celebrities, places they’ve traveled to and been influenced by, or just a general vibe that makes them happy.
Colussy-Estes said, “[Coming to Eckerd] really did fit me the way that I was hoping it would when I chose it, and that meant that I felt comfortable enough to explore myself through my clothes.”
Many students noted a distinct difference between what they wear on campus versus what sort of clothes they wear in town. Eckerd has its own rules when it comes to fashion. Those being there are no rules.
“I just pick clothes that I think are cool,” Junior computer science engineering major Zee Hotz responded when asked about what inspires each clothing or makeup look. “Every look I’ve ever done, I just kind of sit there and paint on my face until I’m happy with it. It’s just kind of like free therapy.”
A few students pointed to the 2020 COVID-19 quarantine as a reason for the drastic change from the 2010s to 2020s fashion.
“I was divorced from that constant interaction with people, which in some ways was obviously bad. But, in other ways, it meant I wasn’t constantly thinking about what they thought of me,” Colussy-Estes said.
During this time, students say they were able to look inward more purposefully and nurture a style they thought best suited either who they were or who they wanted to become.
“Imagine who you are and also what you want to become,” Marx said. To her, fashion is a form of manifestation. “When you feel good in how you look, I think you bring that energy to your life in other aspects. That’s how I like to think about fashion.”
No shoes and no problems
From the founding of Florida Presbyterian College in 1958 to becoming Eckerd College in 1972, it appears the token barefoot style wasn’t as practiced. However, the yearbooks of the ‘70s and ‘80s are chock-full of students lacking shoes (even in the main cafeteria), which went out of style in the ‘90s.
Being the roller coaster that it is, barefoot culture at Eckerd became popular again in the 2010s, falling off again in the 2020s. As more people begin to ditch shoes again in 2023, students are left to wonder: Is Eckerd approaching another season of barefooting?
Barefoot or not, beach culture has remained a prominent influence on Eckerd style, promoting the “free spirit” look even more.
“I’m just trying to be cool because it's hot out here. I’m trying to wear the least amount of clothes as possible,” Beckman said. To which first-year Environmental Studies major Max Seiler replied, “Well, then you came to the right school.”
No matter your style be driven by the beachy climate or
“I think once you stop trying to fit a certain picture of fashion, and you start wearing what you’d like, all of a sudden you create this very beautiful version of you. That’s a foundation of the Eckerd culture— that self-expression,” Seiler said.
Dressing queer and cultivation
Creating a safe space for students to be whoever they want to be is a big part of what defines the Eckerd community today. Many students who said their fashion has changed since coming to Eckerd said they let the fear of judgment hold them back until finally allowing themselves stylistic freedom.
“It was definitely my queerness that changed my fashion. I had no idea who I was in high school,” Hotz said. “I didn’t ever see a lot of queer people back home being expressive, so when I came here, I was like, ‘You can just do that?’ ”
Coming to Eckerd helped some students create their own definition for their style in terms of gender identity and how they want to be seen by themselves, disregarding the assumptions made by other people.
“Being able to express myself and be who I am here has been the most therapeutic thing that I could have done just because now I’m getting to release a side of myself that I kept repressed for so long,” Hotz said.
Seiler, like Hotz, attributed his fashion development to Eckerd’s community as well as the act of maturing and getting to know himself more.
“I think that the rest of your mature life is often spent peeling back those layers that you made up to protect yourself,” Seiler said.
In high school, Seiler didn’t have much wiggle room when it came to fashion. He said he began expressing himself through clothes after he started attending musical festivals where “radical self-expression” is celebrated.
“I think that’s something I didn’t experience a lot growing up. I would wear jeans that had cuffs on them and be called something in the hallways,” Seiler said.
Self-expression is definitely a favored pastime of Eckerd students. But, this certainly isn’t true for all college campuses, which some students pulled to attention.
“I’m really proud of the Eckerd students for being so true to themselves,” Poncin said. “There’s a noticeably less amount of fear in Eckerd students [to express themselves] because this campus is so accepting. I think it’s really important to note the community we’ve cultivated here.”
Welcome to the discussion.
Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.