How to dress in Manchester, if you're a student; This Student Life

Spring term, week 9 at the Manchester Student House; The way to spot Mancunians from a distance? They're the ones who look smart and strut. Unlike our chums at the university.
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The Independent Culture
SO WHAT does the modern student wear? And with which anthropological tribes does he or she choose to identify? Ian has a sort of urban hippy image: long hair in pony-tail, necklace, jeans and trainers. David is more eccentric, while Robbie is immaculately dressed in polo-necks and jackets. Only Alistair has been in the sartorial wilderness - until now.

"We call him Uncle Alfie," says Tash, "on account of his corduroy trousers, old-fashioned leather jacket and wavy hair." But when he went clubbing last week, his friends hardly recognised him. Now his hair is blond and spiky, and the cords have been ditched in favour of combat trousers and a black T-shirt. He's even lost weight. "He looks much better," observes Leona, "but he still can't dance."

David and Robbie are both rather dapper. "Style comes from within, but clothes make you look better," waxes Robbie, who has somehow been influenced by Roger Moore. "I love that classic, early Seventies James Bond look. I hate labels that are in your face. Firetrap and Quicksilver are pretty cool brands, but I don't think much of Ralph Lauren because everyone's got that little polo shirt on down the pub." In fact he spends nearly twice as much on clothes as any of the girls.

When it comes to glam, David's got it sussed. "University will be the only time in my life when I will be allowed to experiment with my hair," says the man who loves glitter. When he first came to college he was painfully shy, so as soon as he got the hang of being extrovert it went to his head. "My hair's not really about expressing myself," he explains. "It's more the fact that I just get bored with having the same hairstyle so I just do something different and dye it another colour."

Youth culture is now about subtle differences, not tribal uniforms. The days of punks, rockers and Brit Pop boys seem gone forever. "If a girl is wearing Kookai or Morgan you know she's pretty rich," explains David. "And then there are the rude boys with their Camper jackets, baggy jeans and caps. But none of it is really obvious.

"That Brit Pop thing was really pretentious. Now it's cool not to be influenced by any one trend." So does he enjoy dressing up? "I spend quite a lot on clothes and I've got a bit of a shoe fetish. I like laced, square-toed ones with a little bit of heel on them. I'm quite individual. I don't really care what others think."

Ian reckons his almost waist-length hair is less of a style statement, more of a dare. "I had a tragic basin haircut before I came to university," he says. "I've kept my hair long because my friends said, `University is the only chance you'll get to grow it. When you get a job, you'll have to get it all chopped off.' So I've kept it. Now it's part of me."

He's also hates designer labels. "I bought an Yves Saint Laurent shirt for pounds 80, and it's falling apart," he says indignantly, "and something similar from BhS which is still amazing." He reckons you can spot Mancunians a mile off. "You can tell who's a student in this town because they're nearly always scruffy, and you can tell people who come from Manchester because they have this walk. It's like a strut."

Rosie and Tash don't seem to own a skirt between them and don't have the time or money to care about fashion. "Leona's got a gorgeous figure," says Rosie, "so she's more fashionable than either Tash or me. I don't wear skirts ever, and I don't wear heels. If I'm going to the pub I'll just wear what I put on when I woke up. Clothes are just not the big deal that they used to be. If I had pounds 100 to spend I'd shop in Warehouse or Oasis, but most of the time I'm in bargain shops."

"I'm always worried about my stomach," says Tash, patting her tummy under a padded jacket. She's just grateful that her tomboy look is back in style. "Clothes are less glamorous than they used to be when girls wore little tops, mini-skirts or pedal pushers to House and Garage clubs. I never felt 100 per cent in them because there were no pockets and they weren't very useful. If I was tall and skinny I would wear more fluffy clothes. But now there's so much more of a drum `n' bass scene in Manchester, combat trousers and trainers are fashionable again. And they're so much more practical." Prada and Gucci, eat your heart out.









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