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Abbi and 3 friends posing in very colorful attire in a dorm room

In my very first experience as a Dartmouth student, I was anxiously preparing to say goodbye to my mom and leave on my first-year trip. As we walked up the Dartmouth Outdoors Club headquarters, my mom and I were greeted by a mass of upperclassmen dressed in ridiculous leggings. At the time, I was super stressed about saying goodbye to my family, introducing myself to a bajillion new people, and beginning a new, independent life. All of those emotions make it difficult to find a comfort zone during the first few weeks of college. I was still nervous to move into Dartmouth, but the fact that all of the upperclassmen leaders were dressed in tie-dye crocs and zebra print crop tops helped alleviate the pressure to be cool or impressive. Because our leaders all seemed comfortable in their flair and in their own skin, I felt that some of the stress of trying to fit in at a new place was gone.

 As I would soon learn, the scientific term for wacky attire here at Dartmouth is "flair," and the weird prints and neon colors are not limited to orientation week. During my first term and a half at

The club swim team outside at a meet dressed in flair!
The club swim team wearing flair at a meet!

Dartmouth, I've encountered flair in a ton of different places, but the effect is always the same. In my experiences, I've found that flair helps level the playing field because when everyone looks weird, there's fewer reasons to feel out of place. Of course, Dartmouth is not a perfect bubble free of all social norms, but flair does help me feel more confident in new social spaces.

There are also a wide range of socioeconomic backgrounds on campus, and flair is something that is usually found at thrift stores, easily borrowed, and relatively affordable. Dartmouth as an institution works really hard to provide accessibility to people from all financial backgrounds (check out the financial aid website for more info) and flair is just one example of how that manifests itself in the campus culture.

The first time I wore flair myself was to a Greek life event on a Friday night. Because I am from a place where Greek life is a predominant and exclusive part of many big schools, I came into Dartmouth with a lot of preconceived notions about the Greek system. However, in my experience, Greek life at Dartmouth has been far more inclusive than I expected. The majority of events are open to campus and sometimes, you're even encouraged to look ridiculous by wearing flair. Based on what I heard about Greek life before Dartmouth, I expected there to be lots of pressure to look and act a certain way, but when student groups encourage others to wear flair, there's a built-in message of embracing individuality.

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