Grad students spend a lot of time talking about binaries, which, if you think about it, is sort of fitting. Being in grad school is a kind of middle ground, and binaries are everywhere! Think about it: you’re not quite a student, but certainly not a professor; you want to be friendly to undergrads while cultivating an aura of endless and foreign mystery; you spend all your time at school, but probably don’t live here.

For many graduate students, this difficult, liminal existence extends to the realm of footwear: the dress sneaker. You know, those bizarre leather-and-rubber hybrids stuck in limbo. What dress sneakers want to say: “Hey! I’m formal and stylish! I know that I’m a professional, but I like to be able to run around if I have to!” What dress sneakers actually say: “I couldn’t decide which shoes to wear. I spent so much on textbooks that I couldn’t afford sneakers and loafers. Yes, I know that you’re probably not going to give me your number.”

The dress-sneakered grad student spends a lot of time smoking hand-rolled cigarettes outside Avery (curiously, he doesn’t spend much time inside the library), and is often seen with any of the following: black windbreaker, messenger bag, loud scarf, copy of Of Grammatology.

We don’t mean to pass any sort of personal judgment—it’s easier to think of the dress sneaker as the logical extension of the grad student’s highly theoretical existence. Grad school is definitely a tightrope, and all structures are highly contingent and hegemonic, or something. But that doesn’t give you an excuse to wear dumb shoes; some binaries, it seems, just aren’t meant to be collapsed. Take that, post-structuralism!

Text by Sam Schube, illustration by Hannah Kloepfer