tertiary chic: australian university trends explained

Melbourne loves normcore, Sydney is into DIY-Vetements, Tassie just wants to keep warm and Canberra students are business casual.

by Sasha Geyer
04 March 2016, 2:35am

The first week back at university is a chaotic period where determination, confusion, reintegration and helpless despair converge. My favourite part of the mix are the statement "I'm here!" back-to-school outfits. Australian universities serve as mini petri-dishes of micro trends that sometimes spread nationwide, sometimes retire as a memory of, "What was I wearing?" Each state has it's own take on uni fashion, so to get a better understanding of Australia's various student trends we spoke to kids across the country who gave their insight on what is hot at their school.

RMIT, Melbourne

Spoiler alert: I go to RMIT, so know how the outfits reflect the current Melbourne fashion quirks and obsessions. Right now these include the archives of Japanese fashion designers and hyper-aestheticised streetwear brands. Outside of the dedicated fashion set it's a normcore melting pot like no other.

Miscellaneous Black Sack Dress

Think those shapeless, sleeveless, knee-length black pinafores often worn with a plain white t-shirt that you see everywhere. 

Baggy bottoms

It seems that skinny jeans are completely out: leaving us with looser jeans, baggy rolled up trousers, statement frays and sharp ankle crops. Pleats Please, skirts or pants, make an appearance.

Adidas Shell-Toes, Stan Smiths

If I had a dollar for every time I saw Adidas Shell-Toes or Stan Smith sneakers at RMIT, my HECS would be well and truly paid off.

An Assortment of Crumpler and Witu bags

Finding a bag that screams "me!" can be difficult, so it's no surprise you see a lot of the same at RMIT. For backpacks, it's Crumpler's paint-print offering; for everything else go with Witu's neoprene bags. 

University of Tasmania, Hobart

Zia Sikora, an Arts/Law student at the University of Tasmania, explains to me, "we are limited by a pretty cold climate so the trendiest thing you can do is look toasty, warm and not freezing cold when you are sitting outside with a shit coffee thinking about your amounting HECS debt!" This means sharp layering and statement winter pieces almost all year round.

Cosy sweaters and Turtlenecks

"People have really nice jumpers in Tasmania - got to get that 100 percent merino, cashmere or lambswool! Also lots and lots of turtlenecks."

Dungarees and relaxed denim

"Dungarees are big! Especially those long ones. A-Line Denim skirts as well as boyfriend shorts too, relaxed fitted denim."

Boots and Birkenstocks

"Birkenstocks are everywhere but you can't wear them much apart from summer because you get cold feet. Most important thing to own here is a beautiful pair of boots, they have to be classic style and good quality."

Horse Watches, Beanies and Fedoras

"Everyone has one of those Horse watches! You also can't get by without a nice plain beanie. Fedoras too! Nice hard brimmed felt ones."

University of Technology, Sydney

"Boho is over", Alix Higgins who graduated from Fashion and Textiles at UTS last year explained to me. "Sydney is becoming quite eclectic and a bit tired of black and white casual, and jeans are kind of over. Everyone's being very magpie with everything". Students at UTS are reportedly mixing it up a bit more with colours and fun key pieces. "DIY-Vetements", Alix later evaluates.

Slogan Club Tees

"Think a plain white t-shirt or a fun kind of Raf slogan t-shirt. Pelvis is big too and that kind of slogan-y club tee core. Like a long sleeve, printed t-shirt. Music is still a big thing and a big scene here."

Retro Pants

"There are a lot of vintage suit pants."

Dior Earrings, Greenfield Bags

"The vibe at UTS is often a $10 outfit with $500 earrings. A few Dior earrings flying around. There are also a lot of bags from Greenfield, this fabric store in Sydney."

Dior Fusions, Nike Rift Sneakers

"There are a few random really, really wealthy girls with those Dior fusion sneakers in first and second year. Also there's a lot of people wearing Nike Rifts, those really fun and slightly ugly ones. I think they're fun, but I couldn't wear them."

University of Adelaide, Adelaide

Australia's third oldest university, UOA's stunning setting of grand period buildings serves as a backdrop to the city's fixation with alternative sensibilities. Media student Gemma Jordine describes UOA as having a "strong indie vibe". Continuing she explains, "very Tumblr conscious with an engagement in feminism and cats".

Denim Jacket, Band T-Shirts

"Indie band t-shirts layered with denim jackets is a common look and basically indicates an engagement in alternative subculture."

American Apparel Tennis Skirt

"Lots of AA Tennis Skirts, matched with knee high socks providing an element of Lolita kink."

Tattoo Choker

"Tattoo chokers direct from Tumblr dashboards are super trendy while being about as goth as UOA gets."

New Balance

"Adelaide hasn't really cracked normcore, but New Balances are huge."

Kanken Backpack

"They're small and not particularly practical for uni - I had one but they felt like they were going to break! Everyone's got one though."

Australian National University, Canberra

An ANU student who asked not to be named explained, "the look is very young liberal." In perhaps the most pronounced departure from the other state's, Canberra kids seem to be treating uni as a dress rehearsal for a life in public service. But considering it's Australia's most politically focused university, stylistic conservatism may not be much of a surprise.

The Suit

"Most common look is an MJ Bale suit with a pinstripe light blue and white shirt with a plain white collar and wide-set dark blue tie."

ANU Couture

"Most popular top-wear is a college sweater."

Practical Footwear

"Just runners, usually."

Curtin University, Perth

Over in lovely sunny Perth it's not surprising that students at Curtin Uni are keeping things chill. Elena Nguyen, a commerce student, tells i-D, "Care free attire is the general hype among uni students in Western Australia". With a climate like Perth's who can blame them?

Stripy Tops

"Horizontal t-shirts are generally spotted, tying in with the care free thing."

Boyfriend Jeans and Slacks

"Boyfriend jeans seem to be essential. The loose fitted straight slacks are evidently worn with a simple coloured tee."

Adidas Superstars and Y-3 Sneakers

"Adidas Superstars are a hit. As is a lot of high fashion stuff like Y-3."

Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane

"Queensland is a difficult state for a number of reasons", Sally Edwards, who teaches fashion at QUT, outlines, "the main reason being that it's difficult to pull off anything more than a t-shirt and some booty shorts, which applies to all genders, without melting into an Alex Mac like puddle of sweat". Subsequently, Sally explains, "dressing up for university is problematic because usually by the time you get there it looks as if someone has been spraying you with a hose for 15 minutes". 

Coloured Hair

"Every fifth person on campus has multi-coloured hair (myself included), I put this down to the heat making it difficult to be bothered to get dressed every morning. It's like getting dressed up without even getting dressed."


"Brisbanites love a pair of short-eralls—sometimes a dress version—but never actual overalls, due to the heat."

Bucket Bags

"Everyone loves a good bucket bag and Brisbane is no exception. The Mansur Gavriel bucket bag has inspired a plethora of rip offs in varying degrees of believability."

Adidas Shell Toes

"Like Melbourne - always, everywhere, all the time."


Text Sasha Geyer

pleats please