Beauty and Its Standards

girl staring in mirror in black and white

Photos taken by Maddingly Cotton

How beauty standards on UTK’s campus affect students.


This word alone has been the topic of heated conversation for decades. Its definition continues to fuel debates in every area, from pop culture to the personal lives of people everywhere.

Ablaze set its sights on seeing whether attending a large SEC school like the University of Tennessee, Knoxville has an impact on how students express their sense of style. 

To accomplish this, we surveyed some of UTK’s students and asked if they felt any pressure to look a certain way on campus. While this pool of answers by no means represents the entirety of our school’s study body, these answers offer important insight into how many people here feel about beauty standards.

While some students felt more comfortable staying anonymous, their responses provide valuable insight into UTKs culture in terms of beauty. 

When going to football games or other events on campus like parties, I do feel that there is pressure to look put together, to show a decent amount of skin, and honestly to look like you have a lot of money. The standards around having name brand items like purses or shoes is insane sometimes.”

26% of UTK students are a part of Greek Life at UTK. While this is not an overarching percentage of people on campus, the effects of Greek Life are felt by many students on campus in different ways. 

“We are on a campus that is big on Greek life and sports…Greek life provides a lot of money to charities and sports bring in a lot of revenue for our school, [but] they both unintentionally create almost a campus-wide beauty standard.”

Tess Durchin, a freshman studying Elementary Education, explained how… 

I never feel a certain pressure to look a certain way. However, I love to dress up every day. Getting ready for the day is something I love to do…Look good, feel good is kind of my motto,” Durchin said.

girl in mirror in black and white

For many students, dressing up for class is an integral part of their day. Fashion serves as a tool for self-expression and can impact a person’s mood.

Durchin is an out-of-state student, which impacts her style. 

“Coming from Illinois, our fashion standards are very different. Fashion [in Illinois] is very different from the south in the sense that we normally don’t wear super fun, bright and puffy outfits, but southern style has become something I love.”

With over 30,000 students from across the country and the world attending UTK, it is no surprise that there is a large range in how beauty is defined here. 

Some students relayed that dressing a certain way and choosing whether or not to wear makeup is a source of comfort for them in a way. 

“I don’t necessarily feel pressure [to wear makeup], I just feel more sure of myself when I do wear makeup and I feel more confident in classes and just walking around campus.”

With comments like these, we can get a glance into the range of feelings students have regarding beauty on UTK’s campus. 

One thing is for sure: At some point, everyone feels pressured to look a certain way…whether it be related to their clothing, their style or however else they present themselves.

All of us have different ideas about what beauty is. It’s not something we can strictly define or have only one example of. Trends come and go, standards change and beauty shouldn't be a goal to be achieved, but something we create and highlight within ourselves.