“Who are you wearing?” This question is often heard being yelled at celebrities – movie stars, singers, or people who are famous simply for being famous – when they attend awards ceremonies, movie premieres, or other gala festivities for the famous. The celebrities will dutifully reveal the names of the designers: Ralph Lauren, Vera Wang, Andre Kim, Donna Karan. The celebrities dutifully reveal the names because the designers usually give their creations to them freely, not only for advertising, but because the designers know that we common people want to dress like uncommon people do.
So, who are you wearing? If you are a university student, you are also something of a fashion celebrity. You are being watched; you are either helping to create a trend, or helping to keep one alive. The social tribes and class clans that populate every campus are fashion-sensitive. It may not be a particular designer (I don’t think I’ve seen any student wearing Andre Kim’s flamboyant creations to class), but other students, and the younger people, pay attention to brands and styles that you wear, whether it’s FUBU or Beanpole, long-sleeve t-shirts with broad, black-and-white horizontal stripes (last year’s craze), or the ubiquitous blue jeans and sports shoes. Of course, university students don’t get these fashions for free; to the contrary, you often pay expensive prices to advertise the design companies, or even products such as Coca-Cola, Converse, or even the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Who are you wearing? I don’t know for sure, but I am willing to bet I know who you are not wearing. If you are a Keimyung University student, I’m pretty sure you are not wearing a shirt, sweater, or baseball cap with “Keimyung University” on it. And, if you are wearing something that advertises Keimyung, I’ll have to guess that you are either staying home where no one can see you, or you are an international student.
Keimyung students are particularly shy about advertising Keimyung University.
That came as a surprise to me. I’ve been teaching at Keimyung since 2001, but it was only last year that I realized that. To be completely honest, I didn’t even realize it myself; it was told to me directly by a Keimyung graduate student. I was trying to order a new set of gifts to give away at Keimyung’s famous “English Café” meetings. In the past, we have given away T-shirts, sweatshirts, and recently, really nice baseball caps, at the English Café events, and they always say “English Café Keimyung University.” I was telling this student that I didn’t understand why I never, ever see any student wearing any of the products; they always seem happy to receive them, but I never see them being worn in class or on campus. The graduate student said, “Oh, professor, they like the gifts . . . but they’re embarrassed to wear them, because Keimyung is not a famous university, like SKY universities.”
Wow. I was really surprised. I knew that Keimyung was not a “SKY” university, but I didn’t know that Keimyung students were so, um, er, not-proud of their school. It was, I guess, a culture-shock moment for me. I guess now is a good time to tell you that I’m sitting here in my dark blue sweatshirt with huge, yellow letters spelling out MURRAY STATE. I’m from the state of Kentucky in the USA. My family name is Parker.
Murray State University is a decent university, but it’s certainly not famous. Murray State is far, far from the Ivy League. Murray State isn’t even the largest or the most-famous university in Kentucky. I’m proud of Murray State, however; I went to school there. By the way, Kentucky is certainly not the most famous state in the United States. It’s not the biggest, nor the richest. Most Americans who know where Kentucky is do so because they drive through Kentucky on their way to somewhere else. I’m proud of Kentucky, however; I’m from the Parker family that lives there. The Parker family, by the way, is not a famous family. We’re a good family; most of us are honest, decent, hard-working types, but none of us are celebrities. I’m proud to be a Parker, however.
Most people, in the USA, in Korea, and throughout the world, are properly proud of their family names. Keimyung students have never refused to tell me their family names. Likewise, most people are also proud of the place they call home. I could go so far to say that Korean students are prouder of Korea than American students are proud of the USA (thanks, George W. Bush!). But if you go to any campus in the USA, you’ll see many, many people buying and wearing clothes with their school name, whether it’s Harvard, Princeton, Stanford, Murray State, or Slippery Rock.
Keimyung is a good university. It’s not famous, yet, but we know we’re gaining on the other Korean universities. If students start appearing in public with “Keimyung” on their shirts or caps, other people may wonder, “Why is that young person proud to be from Keimyung?” Then, perhaps, they’ll think, “Maybe Keimyung is becoming famous!” Maybe other Keimyung students, or even graduates, will see people with “Keimyung” sweaters and will realize they, too, can be proud of their school. Last semester, one of my students came to class wearing a beautiful hooded sweatshirt. It was powder-blue, with large, yellow script letters spelling out “Keimyung Univ.” He was, of course, a Chinese student, and he said he got the sweatshirt from the International Center.
That’s a start. When more Korean students begin to realize they can be proud of their family, proud of their country, and proud of their university, perhaps I will see more of these sweatshirts in classrooms, on campus, on subways and on the streets downtown. Other people will see them too, older people and younger people, and eventually, the idea will spread: it’s okay to be proud of Keimyung.