100 Years of Fashion at UBC

Yoga wear and rain boots may be ubiquitous around campus nowadays, but fashion standards weren’t always so lax at UBC.

In the photo gallery below, we take a look back at a century of style at UBC. From the mandatory jackets and ties, dresses and black academic gowns of the early 1900s, and the military uniforms during the war years, to the more fashion-forward “Oxford bags” worn by men, and the knee-high skirt hemlines for women in the late 1920s, fashion on campus is forever evolving.

Beauty contests and formal balls originated with Red Cross fundraisers during World War II, while standards relaxed during the 1944-1962 tenure of President Norman MacKenzie, who according to UBC historians Eric Damer and Herbert Rosengarten “had a penchant for roaming the campus dressed in shabby clothes,” and “wore a freshman beanie during his first year.” Under his influence, male faculty members and students “often wore t-shirts instead of jackets and ties, while some began sporting scraggly beards.”

In keeping with the zeitgeist, students in the sixties and seventies increasingly rejected their parents’ traditional values: men’s hair grew longer and women’s skirts shorter. Students often wore jeans, while women were “no longer in thrall to the criteria set by beauty pageants.” Things spiralled from then on, with acid-wash jeans and big perms in the 1980s to the grunge-inspired 1990s, and right through to the present day.

Photos courtesy: UBC Archives Photograph Collection, AMS Archives and the Artona Group Inc.

Information courtesy of UBC: The First 100 Years by Eric Damer and Herbert Rosengarten

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  1. I enjoyed looking at the UBC fashion statement over the last 100 years. However, with today’s technology one could go to our UBC annual, the Totem, and select a half dozen fashion photos for every year since the Totem was first published. I often browse my six Totems (Chemical Engineering – BASc58, MASc60) to do just that. Wish I could browse the whole Totem series.

  2. Anne Brewster says:

    Thanks for pointing that out. I’m on my way to the Totem archives.

  3. Judith Eöry Colby says:

    Yes, I like to look at our Totems, too. My husband’s from 1961 (Pharmacy) and mine from 1965 (Pharmacy).

  4. Dale Shuko Johnston says:

    My late spouse Howard Johnston started to wear jeans in the 50’s, because he could not afford anything else–other students noticed–and rather frowned upon it–but he did set a trend didn’t he ! Dale Shuko Johnston

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