Frat culture brings hyper-masculinity

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Frat culture brings hyper-masculinity

By Joseph Dillier, Columnist

Fraternities are obsessed with status: who has the coolest house, who blocks with the hottest sororities, who gets featured on “Total Frat Move,” who has the strongest bar pull, etc. In this status-centric culture, looking good to the outside world is key. This is why brands like Vineyard Vines, Supreme and Patagonia have become so popular. They are clearly expensive, easily recognizable (having a giant whale in the middle of your shirt makes it obvious what brand you are wearing) and often these brands use flamboyant colors and patterns, bringing attention to the wearer.

Being stylish is a double-edged sword for frat guys, though. Be too stylish and you look effeminate, but appear ill dressed and you risk looking lame. Both ends of the spectrum scare status-driven and hyper-masculine fraternity brothers.

In their attempt to circle this square, they have created their own style. The key is wearing clothes that are clearly expensive so the girl they’re chatting up at Red Lion on a Monday night knows their dad has money, but at the same time isn’t too fashionable. This results in outfits where bright pink shorts are matched with a Patagonia pullover whose design looks like a stitched up hotel carpet and chunky boat shoes. Or maybe it’s American Flag Chubbies with a Southern Comfort T-shirt and a JUUL in the “frocket” because it’s “lit.”

The fear of looking effeminate many frat guys harbor is not really their fault. It is the result of many complicated and masculinity reaffirming narratives we have been telling young boys for years.  However, this problem doesn’t exist only in frat guys.

Another clear example of this is sneaker culture. The sneakerhead community is a loose, mostly male internet group dedicated to discussing, trading and fanboying over expensive, name brand shoes — and they are usually straight men. The r/Sneakers subreddit is probably the biggest community, with over 563,000 subscribers. Incidentally, there’s a lot of overlap of sneakerheads who are also fraternity bros.

The sneakerhead forums are places where you can watch straight men excitedly talk about Kanye West in the same way women stereotypically talk about designers like Marc Jacobs.  Yet no one will question a brother’s sexuality because they are associated with traditionally masculine things like sports, famous rappers or popular athletes. Their forums are a safe space for guys who genuinely care about fashion without feeling less masculine. They use unique lingo like “flex,” “clout” and “hypebeast” that set themselves apart from the otherwise feminine, mainstream fashion community.  

In the pursuit of looking cool without wearing anything too fashionable, men have started many ironic and ridiculous trends. The fact Eminem’s Air Jordan 5 are $27,000 — an indication that collaboration between an athlete and a rapper can double a price tag — or that frat dudes are willing to go out in public wearing shorts with a blazer, shows how far they are willing to go to avoid being classified as anything other than the perfectly straight, rich man.

Joseph is a junior in LAS.

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