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Photo by Mariah Wilson

Students must balance fashion and functionality

By Hurmut Humayan, Oct. 28 2017 —

The CBC recently reported that many people have been going sockless and getting foot fungus as a result. The reason why these people — particularly men — are going sockless? Style. The argument lends itself to the age-old adage, “It is better to look good than to feel good.” As someone who loves fashion and style, I get it. Most people think it’s important to dress well and look good. Doing so can have many positive effects, such as an increase in self-confidence and self-esteem, helping people make a good impression or putting them in a good mood.

However, this doesn’t mean that the argument between fashion and function is clear cut. During my time at university there have been many occasions when I have observed students struggling with this, particularly when it comes to creating and maintaining a professional appearance. University students are not just students. They are also part-time employees, interns or volunteers in environments where professionalism and looking the part is very important.

Every university student needs a backpack or bag to carry books, supplies and a laptop. However, book bags with the features that benefit students are often downright ugly, while more aesthetically appealing ones are typically expensive. This can lead to students leaning towards book bags that are poorly designed and made from cheaper materials. Heavy and poorly structured backpacks can lead to chronic back pain and muscle strain. One-strap backpacks or bags — the go-to backpack alternative for female students — can also interfere with blood circulation and nerves. Buying fashionable book bags made from cheaper materials also means they will need to be replaced or repaired more often — a difficult feat on a student budget.

Another example of students having trouble finding a good balance between fashion and function is shoes. Living in Calgary means having to adapt to cold winter weather for approximately eight months of the year. Someone who is dressing for an interview or professional work experience may find it difficult to find shoes that are comfortable, warm and look good with a formal outfit. This issue is further compounded for students who commute, as they usually encounter ice and snow and need shoes that are safe and have a good grip. Shoe choices are not any easier in the warmer months either. For women, professional settings sometimes require a pair of high heels or ballet flats. Both shoes lack adequate arch support, which can lead to foot pain. Wearing heels for prolonged periods of time can also lead to short-term issues such as blistering and swelling and long-term issues such as bunions and back pain.

Though options that balance fashion with function exist, they often require time for a long search or a large budget — two resources that most university students lack. More often than not, the choice of fashion over function is justifiable in the short term, but it’s important to be aware of the possible negative long-term effects. While more functional options that are also fashionable can be pricier, consider investing in sturdier options for items such as book bags and everyday shoes.

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