Clothing Judgments of
Members of Greek
University of Kentucky
The purpose of this research paper is to examine the clothing trends among members of Greek
organizations and non-members on The University of Kentucky’s campus. I also want to look at the
differences in these two groups between males and females, and Caucasians and non-Caucasians. After
reviewing the common fashion trends between these two groups, I will look at the judgments made of
each group based on their clothing preferences. At the end of the paper I will discuss whether there is a
correlation between Greek students wearing their letters to class and the judgments made by non-
The objectives of this research paper are:
1. To examine and discuss the clothing trends found among students that are members of Greek
organizations and those students that are not.
2. To uncover if there are judgments made about clothing choices between students that are
members of Greek organizations and those students that are not.
3. To observe if there is a correlation between Greek students wearing their letters to class and the
judgments made by non-Greek students.
There are many fashion trends that exist on a college campus. There are also many fashion trends
that exist within members of Greek organizations and non-members of Greek organizations. It has been
noticed by fellow students of mine that there are existing stereotypes among non-members of Greek
organizations made of members of Greek organizations, particularly made about their clothing choices.
I have chosen to examine these fashion trends, the judgments made by each group of the other group,
and whether these judgments affect the choice of members of Greek organizations to wear their letters
to the first day of classes.
REVIEW OF LITERATURE
One of the articles that I chose to read for my research is Clothing Symbolism in African
American Greek Letter Organizations, by Lillian O. Holloman. I found this article in the text book Dress
and Identity. Holloman states that traditionally, African American Greek Letter organizations have been
quite visible on college campuses because of their conspicuous, even flamboyant display of apparel and
other items symbolizing group membership (Holloman). This statement supports the existing theory
that there is a noticeable fashion trend among Greek organizations on campus, more specifically African
American Greek organizations.
Holloman continues to explain the unique symbols that communicate group membership to
non-members within African American Greek organizations. She describes that crests, mascots and
letters are typically worn on hats, t-shirts, jackets, and other items of ornamentation. Whereas this
trend is found on UK’s campus among African American Greek organizations, it can also be found among
all Greek organizations.
The article, Decoding the Runner’s Wardrobe, by Jeffrey E. Nash, also found in Dress and
Identity, discusses how members of the running community can decipher how serious a runner is by
what he or she is wearing. Nash describes the articles of clothing typically worn by runners and how
judgments are made of them based on what they are wearing. While this research paper isn’t about a
runner’s wardrobe, the theory that Nash introduces about how people can “decode” who is a runner
and who is not simply by their clothing is very similar to the theories that are being raised in this paper.
Students are decoding who is a member of a Greek organization and who is not simply by what they are
wearing, and are making judgments based on their clothing, similar to the people discussed in Nash’s
Before one can examine the clothing trends among college campuses, one must look at how
previous students dressed. In “A Style All Her Own”: Fashion, Clothing Practices, and Female
Community at Smith College, 1920-1929”, the author, Kendra Van Cleave, described that college women
that attended all female schools during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries wore very
sensible styles for informal campus events. These styles included cotton dresses, walking skirts, and
boots. What I found during my research is that these past trends have seemed to trickle down into the
clothing trends among women involved in Greek organizations. The main point that ties this article to
my findings is that it was very common for sororities to be present on all female college campuses.
Jane E. Workman explains in Use of the Need for Uniqueness Scale to Characterize Fashion
Consumer Groups, that individuals with a high need for uniqueness express interest in more new
products, have a greater desire for unique consumer products, and display more innovative consumer
behavior than individuals with a low need for uniqueness (Workman, 2000). This concept directly
supports the research I discovered that more non-Greek females tend to follow current fashion trends
than Greek students. Many non-Greek students describe Greek students and conformists, which is why
I predict many stereotypes are raised based on Greeks clothing.
The theory that because appearance management is a highly visible behavior, it seems
reasonable that personality influences appearance management in a manner that is constant and
regular (Johnson, 2007), supports the research found for this paper. This theory is raised in the article
Appearance Management Behavior and the Five Factor Model of Personality. Members of Greek
organizations are naturally going to have similar personalities, they all have a similar drive to expand and
succeed, which is why they became a member of such organizations. According to this article, because
they have similar personalities, their appearance management is going to be constant and regular. This
is where fashion trends are going to be prevalent among Greek students, and even non-Greek students,
which have similar personalities.
In the article Fashion Leaders’ and Followers’ Attitudes Toward Buying Domestic and Imported
Apparel, the author explains the idea that college students prefer domestic clothing rather than
imported clothing. This explains the findings in my research that the most common brand worn among
Caucasian Greek students is Vineyard Vines. It also supports non-Greek student’s responses that Greek
females tend to wear brand-name clothes, all of which mentioned were domestic.
An interesting idea was brought up in the article Attitudes and Perceptions about Sorority
Women. The author mentions that during their research they found out that Greek students have a
more positive attitude than non-Greek students. This would explain why I found through my research
that non-Greeks tend to be more judgmental than Greeks when it comes to clothing. Non-Greek males
in particularly seemed to be more judgmental. This judgmental attitude could be related to a negative
In an article found on the internet (Hollywood Portrays false Greek tragedy) the author explains
how Hollywood portrays members of Greek organizations as stereotypical characters. Most female
Greek characters found on television and in movies always tend to dress better than non-Greek female
characters, while male characters tend to wear sweaters and their letters. If what the author explains is
true, that these characters are “stereotypical”, than my research should have shown that Greek
students do not dress up more than non-Greek students. What I found during my research was the
According to UK’s Student Affairs website, Greek students are more likely to have a higher
G.P.A. than non-Greek students. Theoretically, this should mean that regardless of Greeks clothing or
the perceptions made of Greek by non-Greeks, a student’s clothing should not be a factor when
choosing to participate with a Greek or non-Greek student on a group class project. One of the
stereotypes I encountered during my research is that non-Greeks view Greeks negatively because of
their clothing. They feel they conform to fit a certain standard. Because of non-Greeks negative views
towards Greeks based on their clothing, I sought to find out if they are translating this negative view to
their schoolwork. This is why one of the objectives of this paper is to see if there is a correlation
between students wearing their Greek letters on the first day of class and non-Greeks student’s
perception of them.
The article Dress and the Social Construction of Gender in Two Sororities provides a possible
reason why non-Greeks tend to have a negative perception of Greeks when it comes to their clothing
choices. Linda B. Arthur states in the article that, in a sorority, achieving the appropriate look becomes a
gender role obligation; it is expected of members (Arthur, 1999). Typically non-Greeks have an anti-
conforming view, so the fact that this author is explaining that sororities enforce an “appropriate look”
supports the reasons why non-Greeks have such a negative image of Greeks clothing choices.
Various research methods were conducted for this project. The main source of field research I
conducted was a survey given to random University of Kentucky students. A copy of the survey can be
found in Appendix 1. I also did observational research on UK’s campus examining trends between males
and females. The purpose of this observation was to see if people were able to be identified as being a
part of a Greek organization based on their selected clothing attire. After observing different
individuals, I simply asked them if they were a member of a Greek organization on campus or not. I
recorded their answers along with my notes about what trends I saw in their fashion.
I surveyed twenty individuals. All of the participants who took the survey are full-time
University of Kentucky students. The sample consists of various members of Greek organizations and
students who are not members of a Greek organization. Three of the Caucasian females surveyed are
not members of a Greek organization while two other Caucasian females are members. One Hispanic
female that is a member of a Greek organization also completed the survey. One African American
female that is not a member of a Greek organization completed the survey while another African
American female that is a member of a Greek organization completed it as well. There was also One
Hispanic female that is not a member of a Greek organization that was surveyed. Of the male
participants, seven of the non-members of Greek organizations are Caucasian while only one is African
American. There was also one Caucasian male participant that is a member of a Greek organization and
two African American males there are members of a Greek organization. All of the participants are in
various stages of their under-graduate and graduate studies. The participants also originally lived in a
mixture of cities around the country before attending UK. All of the participants are between the ages
of 19- 23.
Figure 1, Generalizations Made due to Clothing, below illustrates the percent of participants
surveyed that said they do or do not make generalizations of people based on their clothing. As one can
see, the majority of people answered that they do make generalizations of people based on their
Figure 1. Generalizations Made
due to Clothing
Of the 70% of people who answered yes to this question on the survey, six are members of a
Greek organization and eight are not. Seven of the eight male non-members of Greek Organizations
answered yes, that they do make judgments of people based on their clothing. Five of the people who
answered no to this question on the survey are females, and are all not members of Greek
organizations. Based on the percentage outcome of this question, one can notice that the majority of
people do make generalizations of other people due to their clothing. Because 100% of the members of
Greek organizations who were asked to take the survey answered yes to this question, it shows that
people in Greek organizations are more likely to judge fellow students based on their clothing selection.
This finding also portrays males to be more judgmental than females when it comes to clothing. Both of
the Hispanic females answered no to this question, while only one of the African American females
answered yes and the other answered no. Seven of the Caucasian males answered yes while only one
answered no. Caucasian females were split, with only three answering yes and two answering no. Of
the African American males, all of them answered yes. The above finding shows that Caucasians are
more judgmental based on clothing than non-Caucasians.
Figure 2, Stereotypes Made of Greek Organization Members Based on Clothing, shows the
percentage breakdown of participants that believed that members of Greek organizations are
stereotyped due to their clothing. This means that people are creating an image of members of Greek
organizations, much like stereotyping racial groups.
Figure 2. Stereotypes Made of Greek
There are many similarities between Figure 2 and Figure 1. Four out of five of the 25% of
participants that answered no to the question asking if they thought there are stereotypes made of
Greek organization members are non-Caucasian. This again shows that Caucasians are more judgmental
than non-Caucasians. Overall, there isn’t much of a difference between genders for the answer to this
question on the survey. Three of the nine female participants answered no, and two of the eleven male
participants answered no. Ten of the thirteen non-Greek organization members answered yes to this
question. Of the seven Greek members, five of them answered yes to this question. The research from
this question portrays that there is a trend among college students of stereotyping Greek organization
Along with the question asked from Figure 2, the survey also asked participants if they felt they
automatically made a perception of Greek organization members who wore their letters. Eight of the
thirteen non-Greek organization members that took the survey answered yes.
The survey also asked participants an assortment of open ended questions. One question I
focused in on particularly was what students are wearing to class. Most of the non-Greek females said
they typically wear jeans and some sort of a casual shirt that could be a t-shirt or sweater. The two non-
Greek and non-Caucasian females added that they usually add some sort of an accessory to dress-up
their look. The females that are a part of a Greek organization stated that they felt they wore more
casual clothes. Some of them also mentioned that they felt that Greek members tend to dress up more
than non-Greek members. Greek females all described the dress of Greek females to be trendier with
designer labels and that they tend to dress up more than non-Greek members. Non-Greek males
described that they wear t-shirt and sweat pants more often to class than Greeks. Greek males
described their clothing to be casual but usually include their organization’s letters somewhere.
During my observation of students on campus I encountered similar results of those found on
the survey. Members of Greek organizations do typically wear designer brands and their letters. I also
found that Greek male’s attire usually consisted of Vineyard Vines brand and boat shoes. I came across
little to no non-Greek members wearing such brands. I did however notice that non-Greek females
followed current fashion trends more so than Greek females, although Greek females did wear more
name-brand clothing. It was very prevalent that females and males that are a part of a Greek
organization seemed to take a little more pride in their appearance for class. They dressed up a little
more than most of their fellow Caucasian students.
DISCUSSION OF DATA
After reviewing all of the research collected, one can make many conclusions. Overall, males
tended to be more judgmental than females. More specifically, non-Greek males were judgmental of
Greek males. This included making assumptions of Greeks based on their clothing. Some of the
participants even answered yes to a question on the survey that asked if they thought they could
identify someone as Greek or non-Greek even without knowing if they are or are not. When asked to
explain why they felt that way, the most common answer focused around the clothing that is worn by
Greeks and non-Greeks.
A common trend among members of Greek organizations that was revealed through the surveys
and observation is that Greeks tend to wear more name brand clothing. This even included sweat pants
and jackets. Greek females leaned to either a very casual look that included sweat pants, flip-flops, and
a t-shirt or a more dressed up look that included pearls, button-down shirts and designer jeans. There
wasn’t too much of an in-between look. While non-Greek females didn’t differ too much from Greek
females in the context of clothing worn, they did however have a more in-between look than Greek
females. As mentioned earlier, non-Greek females did however dress with the current fashion trends if
they did choose to dress up more than jeans and a t-shirt.
There was a more distinct difference between non-Greek males and Greek males when it came
to clothing for class. Both groups even described typical male Greek clothing very similarly. A common
brand that seemed to be prevalent among Caucasian Greek males is Vineyard Vines. They usually wore
khaki pants, a hat, or a polo shirt from this brand. Most non-Greek males, Caucasian and non-Caucasian,
seemed to have a very “laid-back” style. Greek males even described this group of males to wear t-
shirts and sweat pants more often to class. African- American males also had a distinctive trend in their
clothing. Most of them wore some article of clothing that included their Greek organization’s letters.
They did not however, follow the same noticeable fashion trend found among Caucasian Greek males.
Another question that was asked on the survey was whether or not a student being a member
of a Greek organization or not affected students choices to participate with them in group class
activities. Regardless of the precious research observed, most participants answered no, that a
student’s affiliation with a Greek organization did not play a factor in whether or not they chose to
participate on group class activities with that particular student.
SUMMARY OF RESULTS
After reviewing my research and literature, I have found that there are obvious trends that exist
among Greek students and non-Greek students. Caucasian Greek females tend to either dress up, or
extremely casual. Either way, this group of individuals tends to wear designer clothes. Females that are
members of African American Greek organizations tend to be very dressy with their clothing and
typically wear their letters. This trend of wearing Greek letters also exists among males that are
members of African American Greek Organizations. Caucasian and non-Caucasian females that are not a
part of a Greek organization tend to wear casual clothes that consist of jeans and a t-shirt. Some of
these females are more apt to follow current fashion trends. Caucasian males that are not members of
Greek organizations are more likely to dress extremely casual. Their typical attire includes sweat pants
and t-shirts. This trend also existed among non-Caucasian males that are not members of Greek
organizations. Caucasian males that are a part of Greek organizations had the most obvious trends.
Their usual outfit consisted of either a t-shirt with some Greek affiliation or a polo-shirt, khakis or nice
denim, and boat shoes. The most prevalent brand among this group that I saw is Vineyard Vines.
Caucasian males that are not members of Greek organizations were quite obviously the most
judgmental among all of the participants of the survey. Overall, Caucasians in general were found to be
more judgmental than non-Caucasians. While there was a stereotype that existed among non-Greeks
about Greeks clothing choices, it did not seem to interfere with their choices to select Greeks as their
partners in group class assignments.
In conclusion, I do not feel that there is a correlation between Greeks wearing their letters to
the first day of class and judgments made about them. Whereas there are obvious results that non-
Greeks do make judgments about Greeks based on their clothing, it does not seem to affect their
interaction with Greeks. Due to the fact that their judgments made about Greeks clothing isn’t affecting
interactions made between the two groups, is how I came to my conclusion. Whether Greeks wear their
letters or not, most students are able to identify those students who are Greek, but the fact that a
student is Greek or not is not affecting any interaction between the two groups.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR FURTHER STUDY
A problem I seemed to have run into during my research was a lack of participants to take the
survey. For future studies in the fashion trends among Greeks and non-Greeks on a college campus
more students should be polled in a survey. I also felt that the survey that was put together had very
vague questions. I did not feel this way until after I already began reading the results. Another survey
with more descriptive and in-depth questions would be a good recommendation for further study into
I also feel that a more in-depth observational study could have been conducted. Whereas I
simply observed those students that I was in class with, it may be more beneficial to observe students in
particular areas of campus. On UK’s campus, observing students that frequent Greek organization
events would help the research, along with observing students that attend events that are not typically
frequented by members of Greek organizations.
There was also a lack of literature on the topic. On average, I came across articles that
described college student’s attire in general, and not necessarily Greek students. I also found it difficult
to find articles that discussed any judgments made of clothing among Greek and non-Greek students.
For future studies on this topic, I suggest finding refining the search for articles that do mention
judgments made between these two groups of students. I also found it difficult to find trends among
Greek students that are Caucasian as opposed to those Greek students that are not Caucasian.
It would also be beneficial to look at trends between Greek students and non-Greek students on
other college campuses and not just The University of Kentucky. I recommend researching fashion
trends among Greek students in southern schools rather than northern schools due to the fact that
Greek life is a bigger part of southern college campuses.
Arthur, l (1999).Dress and the Social Construction of Gender in Two Sororities. Clothing and Textiles
Research Journal. 17, 84-93.
Ayre, T Attitudes and Perceptions About Sorority Women. Retrieved November 18, 2008, Web site:
Beaudoin, P (2000).Fashion Leaders' and Followers' Attitudes Toward Buying Domestic and Imported
Apparel. Clothing and Textiles Research Journal. 18, 56-64.
Holloman, L Clothing Symbolism in African American Greek Letter Organizations. Dress and Identity. 236-
Johnson, t (2007).Appearance Management Behavior and the Five Factor Model of Personality. Clothing
and Textiles Research Journal. 25, 230-243.
Nash, J Decoding the Runner's Wardrobe. Dress and Identity. 86-96.
Parents Guide to Sororities and Fraternities at the University of Kentucky. Retrieved November 18, 2008,
Web site: http://www.uky.edu/StudentAffairs/Greek/q-a.pdf
Roup, R (2008, Sept. 16). Hollywood Portrays false Greek tragedy. Retrieved November 18, 2008, from
The Oracle Web site: http://www.usforacle.com/hollywood_portrays_false_greek_tragedy
Van Cleave, K (2005).quot;A Style All Her Ownquot;: Fashion, Clothing Practices, and Female Community at Smith
College, 1920-1929. DRESS. 32, 56-65.
Workman, J (2000).Use of the Need for Uniqueness Scale to Characterize Fashion Consumer Group.
Clothing and Textiles Research Journal. 18, 227-236.