John Stuart Mill, an English philosopher well-known to local residents, would have looked with undisguised horror upon the clothing habits of the Harvard community. Mill, who lived sometime before the turn of the century, was a bug on personal liberty. So great an abhorrence did he have of the tyranny of the majority that he searched up and down the length of England looking for instances of it.
Men's fashions. Mill discovered, were a peachy example of what he meant by tryanny of the majority. "We have discarded the fixed costumes of our forefathers; everyone must still dress like other people, but the fashion may change once or twice a year. We thus take care that when there is change it shall be for change's sake, and not from any idea of beauty or convenience; for the same idea of beauty or convenience would not strike all of the world at the same time."
Gloomily Mill went on to urge individuality in all walks of life, warning that unless it were encouraged individual freedom would vanish. "Mankind," he warned, "speedily becomes unable to conceive diversity, when it has been for some time unaccustomed to see it."
Mill is required reading in many Harvard courses; hundreds of freshmen each year read him for Government and Social Science assignments. Yet despite all his pointed references to the evils of conformity, it's a safe bet that men's fashions at Harvard this spring will feature chino pants and light cord jackets; orange and white sport shirts will be seen but seldom. Carefully shutting his cars to the council of one of the world's great social thinkers, the Harvard undergraduate will go on conforming just as he always has.
The truth is that the pattern of conformity in men's spring fashions has always been pleasantly easy to follow for a Harvard man. Chino pants are cheap and tough. Wash and pressed they look as bright and tidy as a crew on the Charles. Dirty and ragged, they are acceptable at bi-sexual picnics, at softball games along the river, and in the chem lab.
Cord and seersucker jackets have the same overwhelming virtue of being remarkably inexpensive; one can shed them each fall like old toenails and feel no financial twinges.
White shoes are also a traditional spring-type form of attire. Those people who like to rationalize their wearing of the ivory bucks claim "They're a great time-saver because you don't have to clean them." This usually sounds convincing, but there has always been a school of somewhat indolent scholars who claim that you don't have to clean brown shoes either.