The fratty phenomenon
According to many students, Washington University has a very distinct fraternity culture—in that it doesn’t really have a “fraternity culture” at all. But that hasn’t kept hundreds of Wash. U. students from signing up on Facebook to purchase jerseys featuring the word “Fratty.”
The purple and yellow reversible jerseys, made by the student business Off the Row, were intended to be a playful statement about Wash. U.’s distinct lack of a “fratty” culture. Junior and co-owner of Off the Row Michael Fink claimed that though the five co-owners of the business did not have an original message behind creating the jersey, “a lot of students can appreciate owning a ‘fratty’ jersey at Wash. U. [because it’s] a school that everyone can agree does not fit the typical definition of ‘fratty.’”
On its website, Off the Row describes itself as “the only all-in-one screen printing, monograms, and Greek goods store in Missouri.” The majority of its business is usually through special orders placed by student groups and Greek organizations on campus.
“We normally do not make apparel directly for sales to students,” Fink said, “But we agreed that if we had enough confidence in an idea, then we would go through with making them.”
The “Fratty.” jerseys were just such an idea. Marketing the jerseys via Facebook proved to be a profitable decision for the execs of Off the Row. “One of the things we discussed when we purchased the company was ways we could better use social media sites like Facebook to better market [the company],” Fink said.
Fink and his coworkers initially expected orders from between 20-50 students, which would have been enough to make the idea profitable for the business. After just under two weeks of Facebook attention, however, they have garnered more than 250 orders.
For sophomore and Pi Beta Phi member Vivien Goh, the appeal of the jersey is in its humor.
“I haven’t entirely decided on ordering one yet, but I probably will,” Goh said. “One of my things is to collect all the shirts I can from college, so I thought it would be a nice comical addition that really represents college life.”
Senior Rachel Metter does not plan to purchase a jersey—but not because she didn’t like the idea. Unlike Goh, Metter is trying to weed out one Wash. U. shirt from another.
“I have more Wash. U. t-shirts than I know what to do with, and it’s kind of just another one among many that I don’t need.”
Metter did, however, understand the appeal of the jerseys: “[I think] they are meant to be funny and satirical, which I appreciate,” she said.
“Perhaps our school holds our own definition of what constitutes ‘fratty’ altogether,” Fink suggested.
Maybe for Wash. U. students, having fun with friends and relaxing on the patios of frat row is “fratty.” Or maybe turning a Greek chapter meeting into a study session for tomorrow’s Anthropology midterm is “fratty.”
“‘Fratty’ has so many different definitions, both good and bad, and people want to express themselves through their clothing choices,” Fink said. These jerseys are just that, a means of self expression—and an incredibly popular one.