Thomas Unger is fancy. The fresh-faced sophomore, dressed in a tan sports jacket, paisley tie, and French-cuffed dress shirt, holds a wine glass filled with cranberry juice (a ’73 vintage, he says) as he greets diners at the entrance to Shelton Hall’s dining hall.
“There’s fancy people here, fancy people there,” says Unger (CAS’14), gesturing for newcomers. “Start a new table wherever you want.”
Welcome to Fancy Friday, a weekly dining extravaganza Unger started last fall as a freshman. Every Friday at 7 p.m., students come dressed in their fanciest—bow ties, suit jackets, high heels, and party gowns—to dine, chat, and give speeches about the nature of fanciness. The first event garnered a handful of Unger’s roommates and friends; a recent event (also Unger’s 20th birthday) saw a record-breaking 70-some diners.
It all started when Unger peered into his dorm closet and saw a pair of suits, a couple of sets of cuff links, and a collection of dress shirts he hadn’t worn yet. “Does someone need to die for me to be fancy?” he remembers asking himself. Happily, the answer was no.
On Unger’s birthday Friday, a steady stream of finely feathered students arrives at Shelton’s dining hall, the “fanciest of dining halls.” Patrick Hermann (MET’14), wearing a tie and a finger splint, hands Unger two bottles of sparkling juice.
“My good man, happy birthday,” Hermann says.
“That’s a good vintage,” Unger replies, after a quick look at the labels. He should know: his business card (right) identifies him as Fancy Friday’s official viceroy of victuals and double checker of the exchequer.
Shortly after 7 p.m., most diners have selected their distinctly unfancy meals—pizza and salad here, a grilled cheese and chips there—and are sitting down at tables draped in white. Unger stands, taps a fork against his wine glass, and greets his “Fancy People.”
“Tonight, I’d like to continue our adventure, an exploration of the true nature of fanciness,” he says. He reminds his guests of their previous discussions on personal fanciness and fancy language. Then he delves into an illustrative story of Saparmurat Niyazov, Turkmenistan’s first (and possibly fanciest and most despotic) president, who renamed schools, airports, and even a meteorite after himself. Finishing his speech by raising his wine glass, he bids them: “Stay fancy. Always fancy.”
Jon Sweet (CAS’14), one of Unger’s roommates, remembers Fancy Friday’s early days. He never questioned the idea; he only asked how they could make it bigger. (The movement has a Facebook page and a Twitter account.) The two keep track of their progress on a “Projections and Goals” wall of their dorm room, where they post sticky notes recording attendance, “fancy graphs,” and aspirations, including a harpist, a visit from Dean of Students Kenneth Elmore (SED’87), and a story in BU Today (check!).
Most of the people sitting with Blair Lineham (SMG’14) are regulars, including Feodor Skira (CAS’14), resplendent in a silk vest, a pink tie, and a pocket watch. He occasionally brings along a pipe, for looks of course. Shelton is a nonsmoking fine-dining establishment.
“Everybody here sees each other or are neighbors,” says Lineham, in a yellow-and-blue striped tie and a button-down shirt. “We’ve become friends because of this.”
All fancy heads swivel as resident assistant Fernando Limbo (SAR’12), who’s wearing a yellow bow tie and gray sports jacket, stands to toast Unger and remind the crowd that today is the viceroy of victuals’ birthday.
“Here, here to our fearless leader, Tommy Unger,” Limbo announces, raising his soda glass. Limbo is impressed by the sense of community Fancy Friday has generated. “What really made my experience great at BU is things like this,” he says.
“I never thought it would become anything,” Unger says. “It always was a bit of a joke.”
But then attendance grew exponentially and he heard strangers refer to him as Mr. Fancy. Random people started approaching him. “Somebody passed me in the hall and said, ‘I’ve had a bad week,’” Unger recalls, ‘“and I’m just looking forward to Fancy Friday.’”
As the group sings a raucous “Happy Birthday,” even some not-so-fancy people join in.
“May your birthday be happy,” toasts Taylor Chumas (SMG’14), wearing a bow tie and a jacket with leather elbow pads, “and your Friday be fancy.”
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