Windell: Adaptations like “Fratagonia” take group conformity too far

Bridgette Windell

UPDATE: Our audience has said that the points made in the original column lacked background research and evidence. However, the majority of prominent search results found surrounding the Fratagonia trend were omitted from the original column because the point was to discuss the trend, not to attack Greek culture in general, and the negative nature of the search results seemed to add insult to injury.

The top three headlines that appeared when “Fratagonia meaning” was Googled (a term that most people outside of Greek culture would use when trying to figure out what it is) included the urban dictionary definition, an article titled “Patagonia sues to shut down ‘Fratagonia’ line” and “Body shots, Sorostitutes and Fratagonia.” That last one is an academic journal, which states the definition of ‘Fratagonia’ as “If someone says they are wearing fratagonia, then they are referring to a term given to the clothing brand Patagonia due to its overwhelming use by members of fraternities.” Which is not only an incorrect definition, but the philanthropy isn’t mentioned at all. 

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The coverage available that actually pertains to Phi Delta Theta’s Fratagonia philanthropy effort is rather slim — and it isn’t easily accessible to the average internet user outside of Greek culture.  This means that, as far as the concern of conformity goes, there is an opportunity for essentially anyone to purchase Fratagonia merchandise without being aware of it’s meaning, so it’s reasonable to conclude that some people are wearing it simply because it’s a popular trend. 

The main problem is that retailers that don’t necessarily have a connection to the philanthropy are selling Fratagonia apparel, drinkware and home decor, meaning that people who don’t understand, appreciate or even know about the philanthropy efforts for ALS have the opportunity to sport them. That’s what I mean when I say the trend has gone too far. The widespread adaptation takes away from the philanthropy’s significance, as well as what Patagonia stands for and values — and they made it clear in their 2015 lawsuit that they aren’t fans of the connection and adaptations of their company’s intellectual property.

The lawsuit stated: “While Patagonia has never sought to popularize this term, other parties, in addition to Fratagonia, have tried to capitalize on Patagonia’s goodwill and this “nickname” by producing products under a Fratagonia designation, requiring Patagonia to protect its famous trademark and consumer goodwill by seeking agreements that sales of this type will stop.” 

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Original column:

Fratagonia”, “Patagucci,” croakies and Chacos, all have been adorned and adopted by Greek cultures on campuses across the United States, and CSU is no exception to the growing trend.

Since I arrived in college I’ve always noticed that Fraternity and Sorority Life, as a whole tends to adopt similar styles. My freshman year, white converse were trending; worn by both men and women and usually paired with an oversized Spirit Jersey with reference to the letters of whatever house they were in.

This school year of 2015-2016, has emerged the rising trend of outdoor apparel sported by Greek life on campus. This rising trend has become so big that new slang words have been developed like “Patagucci” or “Fratagonia” to the point where those terms are even printed on clothing. Your average fraternity/sorority member is most likely to be wearing some version of this: a Patagonia fleece or T-shirt with the logo of Patagonia but instead with the letters of their organization, most likely some very short shorts, a pair of Chacos, and topped off with croakies dangling around their neck.

Well you might think: “That’s exactly what the Warner College of Natural Resource majors are wearing!” And you’d be correct, however; look very closely at the two versions and you will quickly be able to tell which Chacos have been worn on a river and which Chacos have been stored in a closet next to their white converse. While I’m sure Patagonia or Chacos doesn’t mind the revenue received from the Greek life consumer, the purpose of their products were made for practical uses in the outdoors not as a status symbol of involvement in a fraternity. That’s exactly what these outdoor brands are serving as: status symbols, and Greek life helps to facilitate that.

As stated in Patagonia’s mission statement, “Alpinism remains at the heart of a worldwide business that still makes clothes for climbing – as well as for skiing, snowboarding, surfing, fly fishing, paddling and trail running. These are all silent sports. None require a motor; none deliver the cheers of a crowd.”

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Patagonia was specifically created with utility in mind, with deeper core values than “it’s what the rest of my sorority is wearing.” That Patagonia fleece, while it may be trendy, is very useful when you are freezing your face off backpacking in Utah in the middle of winter. Those Chacos are very useful when you are rafting. Those croakies are really useful in preventing you from losing your sunglasses every time you lean over to net your trout you just caught.

These outdoor items have a purpose and it is not to establish who is apart of your group and who is not. Students, specifically members of Greek communities, are taking group conformity too far. We should express our individuality, interests, and personalities based on us; not based on whatever group we have chosen to identify with.

I’m not interested in looking identical to someone else or wearing a certain style to fit in with my chosen group. I’m going to wear my Chacos because they’ve been used for their intended purpose and I would like to wear my croakies without looking like I’m in a frat.

Collegian Columnist Bridgette Windell can be reached at letters@collegian.com, or on Twitter @Bridgette_Rae.