20 Mar 2013

Measuring One’s Own Yalieness


Teo Soares ’13 did some recent navel-gazing in the Oldest College Daily on the perennial sterotype of the classic Yale man, against which Yale undergraduates have unsuccessfully compared themselves since roughly the time of Nathan Hale.

Yalies own MacBooks, smartphones, blazers; they wear boat shoes in October and North Face jackets in November; they eat in restaurants that serve neither endless pasta bowls nor specials with names like “Lobsterfest” and “Admiral’s Feast”; they know how to handle chopsticks; they shell out $1.75 for coffee at Starbucks while Atticus, less than 30 yards away, charges a flat buck.

And also: Yalies vacation abroad; they call New York “the city”; they have access to their parents’ credit card; they hold true a geography that includes places like Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard; in short, they show signs of what might be broadly labeled “privilege.”

I mention these stereotypes because I share them. In my head, I conceive a group of students to whom they apply. These are the real Yalies, the people who truly belong — and this is of course a fallacy.

That I weigh my own Yalie-ness against that standard is a defense mechanism, a way of coping with the fact that, even as a second-semester senior, I sometimes feel I don’t belong.

Read the whole thing.

Back in my day, everyone knew that, properly speaking, the genuine Yale man ought to have spent his secondary school years at one of perhaps a dozen elite preparatory schools, starting with Andover and ending somewhere around Lawrenceville or the Hill. The authentic Yale man was tall, elegant, handsome, and athletic, and had won his letter playing football against Harvard or (possibly better yet) rowing crew.

His true defining feature, however, was effortless competence, succeeding at everything and rising naturally to the top leadership positions on campus and joining the most exclusive clubs, all without ever being seen by anyone actually to be trying. True Yalieness in the old days was indistinguishable from the Yale cult of coolness, of nonchalance at any cost.

The material emblems of membership in the real Yale were the aged, but recognizably expensive, tweed sport coat, khaki pants, and a pair of deliberately unmaintained white bucks.

Sporting an aged pair of buckskin oxfords simultaneously proved that you habitually moved in the kind of circles who dressed all in white and played croquet between Memorial Day and Labor Day, and that you had owned the esoteric footwear appropriate for such occasions so long that you had an aged pair, unmaintained and demoted for use in daily walking around. The kind of person seen wearing aged and soiled white bucks on weekdays in Winter would be thought to represent the very height of Yale cool, and would be referred to as “shoe.”

Needless to say, in my day as well, the actual majority of Yale undergraduates had attended public high schools, failed to resemble closely the Paul Stuart man, and had yet to acquire their first pair of white bucks. But we, too, just like Teo Soares today, thought deeply about these things.

Hat tip to James Harberson.

2 Feedbacks on "Measuring One’s Own Yalieness"


“Yale” and “cool” in the same sentence? Heaven forfend!

Maggie's Farm

Yale and Harvard links…

Measuring One’s Own Yalieness (fixed) Harvard Commencement Day speakers: upward and onward…


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