Dress to (not) impress: wealth and fashion at Urban


Illustration credit: Reese Bassuk.

Despite the very wealthy demographic of the student body, it is unusual to see Urban students flaunting new high-end brands in the outfits they wear to school. Many thrift shops are conveniently located in the Haight-Ashbury and provide a plethora of used and vintage clothing for students to buy. This trend of second-hand clothing creates a level of uniformity that does not allow students’ socioeconomic status to become apparent in what they wear. It causes students to wonder if their classmates are using their fashion style to try to cover their socioeconomic status.

“Rich is seen as a bad word at Urban,” said co-leader of the Financial Aid and Socioeconomic Status (FASES) affinity space, Anna Priya Gupte ‘23. “I think there’s a lot of guilt with being wealthy and people don’t want to admit that, so they’ll dress a certain way so they don’t have to confront that,” she said. 

Isaiah Moliga-Puletasi ‘24 similarly said, “At Urban, there’s such discomfort talking about your financial status and where you are financially.” He added that students are cautious about flaunting their clothing brands. “People don’t dress to outwardly come off as [if] they have a lot of material wealth,” he said. “I don’t see a lot of students going out and buying Gucci or Louis [Vuitton] and wearing it to school.” 

Grayson Hoe ‘25, a frequent thrifter, said, “I feel like I’ll be judged for wearing something expensive because [Urban students] will be like, ‘Oh, she’s showing off.’”

Thrifting, a very popular culture at Urban, has provided easy access to affordable second-hand clothing. “I’ve been thrifting all my life. I love fashion and so it’s a really nice way to be able to purchase more clothing and find more unique pieces for the budget that I have,” said Gupte. However, both Moliga-Puletasi and Gupte have noticed a ‘different’ type of thrifting at Urban. “Students will shop on Depop which targets really high prices. So technically they’re thrifting and their clothes do appear thrifted, but they might be spending hundreds of dollars on one dress or one pair of jeans,” said Gupte.

Moliga-Puletasi agreed with Gupte. “Students will spend around $50 to $80 on a shirt that looks a little rustic, or even some really basic pieces of clothing but no one would know because it’s not a name brand.”

Ellis Monty ‘24 has observed that some students incorporate expensive statement pieces into their outfits. “People will wear secondhand clothes because that’s their style, but then they’ll throw in a North Face puffer or an Aviator Nation jacket and it definitely stands out,” Monty said. 

Despite the drastic price range for different types of clothing that students may thrift and wear, Moliga-Puletasi believes that difference is inevitable. “Urban is a really wealthy private school and as long as Urban charges more than $50,000 a year, I think that there will always be some public problems surrounding wealth and expressing wealth,” said Moliga-Puletasi. “This trend will likely be a lasting issue, as it is perpetuated by underclassmen looking up to older students.” Moliga-Puletasi said, “I think a lot of the freshmen and sophomores ask the questions, ‘what are the seniors and juniors wearing? How can I fit in?’” ◼