You have seen it. Perhaps you have mocked it. Maybe you even do it. The cuff, the roll, that extra two or so inches of ankle that many Kenyonites expose by rolling up their jeans, khakis, corduroys and chinos, showing off their shoes, socks or skin. Cuffing pants is not unique to Kenyon, but the “Kenyon Roll,” as my roommate called it, may best be defined as embracing the cuff during one’s stint as a Kenyon student.
Style and fashion are often framed in terms of sartorial choice, of expressing individuality. The Kenyon Roll, then, is significant in its ubiquity and ambiguous origins. It occupies a space in campus style that toes the line, for certain students, between choice and conformity, free expression and fitting in.
For Nate Gordon ’20, the Kenyon Roll is something he took note of and actively resisted.
“It’s something that I noticed a lot of people do around campus, and you definitely have got to respect the style, but I think it’s one of the ways I’ve decided to not conform,” he said. “I let my pants go all the way down to my shoe.” In other words, Gordon—who opts for the classic regular-fit denim and chinos—is a “stacker.”
Other students, though, have chosen to adopt the style because of its functionality or simply because they like the way it looks.
In a joint statement from Julia Hintz ’20 and Isa Mojares ’20, they wrote that women under 5 feet 6 inches who wear women’s pants often have to end up cuffing them to make them fit, which is a cheaper option than getting them tailored. Despite being functional in origin, Hintz and Mojares wrote that they now like the way it looks.
Teddy Hannah-Drullard ’20 commented in the Kenyon College Class of 2020 Facebook group that they adopted the style because it “looks mad cute,” though they also wrote that the trend started as a signifier of wealth. More expensive pants have even inner seams, which cuffing can reveal. Similarly, cuffing one’s pants can also show off expensive socks or shoes.
“Either way, it’s a wealth flex,” they wrote. Hannah-Drullard was introduced to this idea by a 2016 article on the fashion blog “The Subtle Things,” which pointed out that cuffed pants reveal high-end seams, shoes and socks.
Miles Shebar ’20 was struck by the apparent association with status.
“Apparently it’s some sort of ivory-tower, elitist move, which definitely puts me more at odds with it than I had previously known I should be,” he said.
For Shebar, an avid roller, the decision to cuff his pants was not a choice. Rather, the Kenyon Roll was imposed on him during his junior year.
“I am a pretty inactive, un-opinionated person about my own fashion and the Kenyon Roll was fully introduced to me, and I was talked into it by a former lover, essentially, who re-outfitted my entire wardrobe,” he said. According to Shebar, this lover told him that he did not dress enough like a Kenyon boy. To address this, he bought some cuffable chinos from the GAP. He has not looked back since, calling the cuffed pants part of his current “uniform.”
Now a senior, Shebar’s rolled pants have become a part of his low-effort approach to fashion.
“The pants never unroll,” he said. “They go into the washing machine and the washing machine reinforces their ivory-tower elitist status.”
As for where the trend goes in the future, Gordon, who has sought to resist the roll, sees it continuing to permeate campus life.
“I think that the Kenyon Roll will definitely continue to proliferate but I think it might move to other articles of clothing,” he said. “You might see a lot of people rolling up their arm sleeves, or you might see them rolling up, I don’t know, their socks. Their socks might start getting higher or getting lower, and you get people lowering their socks down.”
Shebar, meanwhile, is unsure whether or not he will continue the Kenyon Roll in his postgraduate life.
“I do need to seriously take a look at my fashion choice as I enter the professional world, and the rolls may find themselves lost,” he said. “The legacy of my former lover may find itself lost in time [as well.]”