“The closer to the crotch, the dearer to the heart”

By Rens Vogels - 22 May 2023

Sweden, or Scandinavia in general, is a place of unique and meaningful traditions. From Midsommar to fika’s and from fredagsmys to fettisdagen. Of course, there are some wonderful student traditions as well. Let me introduce you to the conspicuous tradition of student boilersuits.

When attending any big student event here in Stockholm, it is difficult to overlook the sea of students wearing colorful boilersuits with a myriad of patches on them. These boilersuits are a traditional uniform worn by students across Sweden (and Finland). Every department at my host university (KTH) has its own color, similar to the T-shirts worn during the introduction week in Eindhoven. The difference is that these boilersuits are worn all year round at every big student event. The boilersuits are covered with patches, each one representing an activity or event that the suit’s owner participated in during their studies. This makes every boilersuit unique – it tells the story of the student wearing it.

Intrigued by this tradition, I started collecting these patches. I got a patch for attending a Shrek-themed Gasque, which is another beautiful Scandinavian student tradition (photo 1), and a patch for joining a trip to Lapland (photo 2). I even got some patches for ordering certain shots at a bar (photo 3). 

There is space for around 600 patches on one boilersuit. Since most patches cost between 2 and 4 euros – no, nothing is free in this expensive country – a fully covered boilersuit has cost the owner roughly 1850 euros. Moreover, it takes around 20 minutes to sew on one patch. That’s 200 hours of sewing for a full boilersuit.

To make this boring task a bit more bearable, the chapters host mellow members' nights where sewing kits are provided. Students gather for a beer as they sew their newly acquired patches onto their boilersuits. I don’t own a boilersuit myself, though, since I would never be able to fully cover it with patches in half a year. Nevertheless, I still attended some of these gatherings just for the beers and the nice people. I asked someone whether they sew the patches on at random places on the boilersuit or whether they had some sort of system for it. He responded: “The closer to the crotch, the dearer to the heart” and I thought that was really beautiful.

Once I found out there was a committee responsible for designing these patches, I didn’t hesitate to join it. I wanted to leave a mark. How cool would it be to see my design on someone’s boilersuit? Preferably as close to the crotch as possible, of course. I wanted to end this article by showing off the patches that I designed, but unfortunately, none of my designs made it onto a patch. I have to admit that I stopped trying after one design. Sweden simply had so much more to offer than just these patches.





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