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On Trend: Camp Trends Over the Years
By ISJL Education Fellow Carrie Bohn
You might not think of camp as fashion-forward, but really—each camp fosters their own clothing culture.
Campers at one camp might coordinate matching outfits to breakfast, while campers elsewhere might walk out of the cabin without looking in the mirror. Whether the culture is attentive to fashion trends or enacts an unwritten rule for no-makeup all summer long, what campers wear plays an integral role in the camp experience. Year after year, campers and staff members choose summer trends that seem to be timeless, yet are ever evolving.
What makes camp trends so beloved? Is there a camaraderie in choosing the perfect end-of-camp-dance outfit? Is there a sense of togetherness when your bunkmates unanimously decide on a matching talent show outfit? In retrospect, camp fashion really has not changed much in the past few decades.
If you add an iPhone or two into the Polaroid picture of campers from the 1970s, one could easily be fooled into thinking the capture date was 2019. Two of the most integral camp trends have stood the test of time.
The first of these camp trends is the strappy sandal, and it is both a reminder of the past and a bridge to the future.
Whereas water socks seem to be a passing fad, Chaco®, Birkenstock®, and Teva footwear seem to find their way to every generation’s camp experience. Need a comfortable shoe for a hike? “Make sure they have backs!” your counselor would call out to the bunk. Need an option to take with you on a kayak ride? With all the fun activity and still requiring a back-strap, there’s only a small space in the center of that Venn diagram. The strappy sandal fits right in.
While the strappy sandals serves as functional fashion, there’s another timeless trend that is simply for flash: tie dye.
With its swirls and stripes, colors of the rainbow never looked as good as they do when strategically placed on a cotton fabric. By the end of the summer, articles of clothing such as socks, underwear, and bandanas are notorious for being accentuated with a little bit of color. Creativity blossomed as campers and their counselors bonded over which rubber band placement to use next. Plus, it had the added ability to resuscitate white shirts that you really liked the design of, but maybe wore them enough that they became “off-white.”
The evolution of the shoe leads to longer Shabbat walks, and tie dye leads to vibrant color war apparel. Whether you are or were a camp person, I’m sure we can all agree that the clothes we wore influenced the types of experiences we had at our special summer places.