SubFusc, Puffers and Trashings… Oh My!

By Anne-Sophie Guernon


The University of Oxford is the English-speaking world’s oldest University with over 800 years for history. Accordingly, these multiple centuries of history means that Oxford has some amusing (and weird) traditions.


A student’s first real encounter with these quirky traditions is MATRICULATION. Matriculation is the ceremony in which students become officially enrolled as members of the University. It is a once in a lifetime experience because students can only matriculate once… even if they pursue many degrees at Oxford! Now, to get prepared for Matriculation, students must wear the “Oxford uniform” called ‘Sub Fusc’. This Latin phrase means dark brown, although the regalia is actually white and black/dark. At matriculation, students parade through the streets of Oxford, travelling from their College to the Sheldonian Theatre. There, a short 5 minute speech is given in Latin, and, magically, the students are now matriculated. Most interestingly though, during exam season, you won’t see students sporting grey sweatpants and dirty hoodies because Oxford students are traditionally required to wear the academic dress (a.k.a. sub fusc) instead!


Another tradition you quickly encounter is FORMAL dinners, balls and feasts. Sounds very regal and ‘boujee’…. well it kind of is! Colleges host formals every week where students, faculty, fellows, and guests dress to the nines, in black tie attire, to eat fancy three+ course meals and drink copious amounts of wine while sitting in a beautiful dining hall (and yes, some halls look like Hogwarts…).


Now, one of my favourite and the most mundane traditions is the PUFFER JACKETS. No tourist or Oxford-local is unaccustomed to seeing swarms of students, all sporting these same black puffer jackets. Indeed, it is an unofficial custom that students purchase College-crested puffer jackets upon arrival at the Uni. Not only do students all look the same at matriculation and at formals, thanks to the puffer jackets, students now look the same while in town, at Westgate or on their way to class. Albeit their practicality, these puffers do greatly contribute to the ‘cult-like’ appearance of Oxford University to all external observers.


Lastly, I really look forward to my TRASHING. Trashing is an Oxford tradition which happens when a student has completed the final examinations. Friends gather together and lovingly throw string foam, glitter, paint, powder, prosecco (or champagne, depending on the budget) and other various substances on the student who is getting ‘trashed’. Since it is customary that students undergo exams in their full academic dress, the student’s sub fusc gets ceremonially ruined during the Trashing. It is a very playful way to celebrate the end of the gruelling examination period, and the end of a well-deserved degree at Oxford.