When I first told my friends that I was going to buy a UofT engineering jacket, they asked a lot of pointed questions. One of them was wondering why I waited four years to buy one instead of buying it after first year, like most people. Others wondered why I decided to squander $500 on a jacket. I even questioned the purchase myself, and asked myself why I was buying a jacket at all, since my friends and I were clearly not the types of people to wear one.
Compared to many other schools, the cost of a jacket is very high. Students at UBC pay only $100 for their bright red jacket and many other schools in English Canada pay much less than UofT for their engineering jacket. The cost factor definitely weighed on me, and it didn’t seem worth it to pay $500 for a glorified piece of memorabilia, when the same money could have bought me a new pair of glasses or a new phone. For something that was supposed to tie every engineering student from every engineering school together, the cost was a huge deterrent to myself, and probably multiple other engineering students at UofT. With each passing year, it became less and less worth it, as there wouldn’t be much opportunity to wear the jacket after graduation.
Beyond the cost factor, I didn’t feel like a part of the group of people who should wear a jacket. All of my friends, even those who are heavily involved in student life activities, don’t own a jacket, and we all joke about the type of people who bought a jacket. To me, and to many people, the stereotypical group of people who wear a jacket are those that go to SUDS every Friday, are heavily involved in the Engineering Society, and hang around the Pit every day and hour, and students who believe “C’s get degrees”. As someone who almost never drinks (out of respect to my closest friends at UofT), someone who isn’t involved in discipline clubs or EngSoc, and someone who spent most Friday nights this semester working on an undergraduate thesis (which may have been a mistake in the first place, but that’s another article entirely), I definitely feel like I didn’t belong to the group of people who would buy an engineering jacket.
When the time came to buy a jacket in second year, all these factors ultimately made me decide not to buy one. Despite the fact that the jacket is viewed as a symbol of the collective engineering culture, not everyone had one at UofT. For me and my friends, it was too expensive, and it carried a connotation that didn’t represent us.
It wasn’t until my first competition as part of Concrete Canoe where that began to change. Laval University was the first opportunity I had to meet engineers from across Canada, and explore what it meant to be an engineering student. On race day, each team put on their brightest and most eye catching displays of spirit. Sherbrook had their bandanas, and green and yellow face paint. Queen’s had every member of their team slamming their jackets on the ground. While our team all generally wore our club T-shirts, it never reached the same level as Queen’s, Sherbrooke, or Laval. That was the first time I really wished I had an engineering jacket. Only 3 people on our team of 25 bought one, and we sort of looked out of place among the sea of teams that all wore their school’s engineering jackets, with each school’s jacket designed by and carrying symbols of their student culture.
At that point, and especially at the more recent Concrete Canoe competitions in Waterloo and Montreal, I changed how I viewed the jacket. With the ability to customize the lettering and most importantly, add patches, the jacket became more of a representation of me, and my involvement in UofT engineering. For me, it wasn’t a $500 piece of memorabilia to how much time I spent at SUDS or the Pit, but more as two $250 pieces to the 2 clubs I put all my blood, sweat and tears in.
Sometime during PEY, I made the decision to buy a jacket as soon as The Cannon released its new patch. The old patch of The Cannon was from the mid-2000s, and didn’t represent the paper that I put so much of my time in. The new patch, using the 2017 logo, holds a special place in my heart, since re-designing the logo was one of the first things I did as an exec, and it makes me proud to see stickers using the new logo slowly spread throughout campus.
While I wish I could completely customize my jacket to make it even more personal to me, and less reflective about the parts of engineering I didn’t experience, and wish the jacket didn’t cost so much, I’m glad to say I bought one. I have patches from The Cannon and Concrete Canoe adorning both my sleeves. One sleeve has “CIV1T9” on it, while the other has “YYC YYZ” on it, reflecting my history, love for aviation, and more broadly, love for transportation.
So I encourage all of you to rethink the jacket and what it means. At the end of the day, it is a reflection of you and your time at UofT. Whatever you choose to do with this period, you should display it with pride; pride in what you have accomplished, pride in what you have gotten involved in, pride in what you have experienced and learnt along the way. Pride in being a UofT Engineer.