Amherst Follows T-shirts are a subtle and wry comment on athletic culture at Amherst that also suggest how empty slogans are. You could go as far as to say it’s satirical pop art. Deemed offensive by some athletes and sported by others, you could say they’ve trumped the “Spring Carnival” shirts and started a miniature movement — making students from all walks of life reflect, with humor, on the contradictions of programs here at Amherst. This week, A&L is talking to the creators of Amherst Follows, Aditi Krishnamurthy ’18 and Megan Do ’18.
If you’re a first-year or someone like me — so mired in your non-athlete bubble that you don’t recognize the reference — Amherst LEADS is a leadership development program for student athletes. As described on the website, student-athletes are, in particular, leaders on campus.
“Student-athletes are leaders, whether they recognize it or not; the decisions they make reflect on themselves, their teams and the College,” reads the website description, “Amherst LEADS instills an awareness of that leadership role, establishing a higher level of accountability for every student-athlete. We ask our student-athletes to be exemplary Amherst College citizens no matter the setting: in the classroom, on the playing field, or in the community.”
Q: Where did this idea come from?
AK: It didn’t come from any particular place outside of spoofing Amherst LEADS — such a striking, ubiquitous presence on campus. Since freshman year, I’ve joked about making Amherst Follows for non-athletes.
Then Megan and I were having dinner over interterm, and she told me she would help me actually make this dream come to life. Then, when the athletic report came out we thought it would be particularly relevant.
MD: Because athletics were already on everyone’s mind, we thought: this is so ripe to parodize.
Q: How did you make the shirts?
MD: Aditi sent me the LEADS logo, and I tried to recreate it so it would be an effective parody. We built the design using Adobe Illustrator in Frost. I tried to make variations of logos from what I remembered.
AK: Actually, the main difference is that LEADS is a horizontal logo whereas ours is stacked! LEADS actually looks stretched on apparel, but we wanted Follows to stay proportional.
MD: And that covers copyright reasons.
AK: We lost sleep over this.
MD: We thought — authenticity versus aesthetic value? What’s more important?
Q: How did other activities you’re involved in on campus inform this project?
AK: In the athletic report, I was frustrated by how they characterized the Association of Amherst Student’’s involvement in athletics. They didn’t do any research and made it seem like we created unnecessary bureaucracy.
MD: It wasn’t from a place of anger, it was more a comment on how obvious the report results were and how under-researched it was.
AK: I think many athletes recognize that it’s ridiculous that only they have access to speakers who talk about leadership. I’m not someone who hates athletes or doesn’t talk to athletes at all. They see the problems with it.
MD: People talk about it, but no one’s done anything to actually comment on it.
Q: What has been the most surprising response?
AK: I think we’re so surprised how popular these were.
MD: We sold 75 shirts in the Val atrium in under two hours.
AK: One of the baseball coaches came up to us, and we explained to them what it meant. Who are we going to lead when there’s no one to follow? He said, “That’s so clever.”
MD: That’s kind of the point of this whole thing — to help people talk and laugh over a commonplace feature of our campus.
AK: When am I ever going to talk to the baseball coach? I don’t play baseball.
Q: Have you received negative feedback?
AK: Worst response was also from a member of a dominant team on campus who was hurt by the project.
MD: Again, the goal is to make everyone laugh together by highlighting this thing on campus that many people recognize but aren’t necessarily conscious of. I was so nervous before we made them. I think some people thought we were claiming we were superior to them. It’s even hard to tell when people’s responses were sarcastic or not because of the product itself.
Q: How (if so) have members of the administration responded?
AK: We haven’t heard anything from the administration, which is likely a reflection of the fact that this is all just meant to be humorous.
Q: Do you know of any other instances of students just creating clothes for all of campus?
AK: We were so surprised this hadn’t been done before.
MD: It’s such an obvious joke on some level.
Q: Do you hope to set trends? Any other ideas for clothes?
MD: We were thinking of starting a lifestyle brand, but we don’t have many more ideas at the moment. If anyone has any suggestions, we definitely will collaborate with them. We also were going to start an online order form.
Q: Are you a mathlete?
AK: I warm the bench. I wish I was more of a mathlete because I am a chem major, but I’m good at Excel.
MD: I’m an Environmental Studies and Architectural Studies major, so no. But I wish I were because then I could be an investment banker.