“I’m wearing real clothes today!” I scream to my roommate.
For the first time this week, I swap my ratty leggings for jeans and my dirty running shoes for boots. I feel truly stylish. Coincidentally, today is the day UMichFits sits on the Diag. I imagine him skulking around in search of an eye-catching student to boost to Instagram fame. “I’m gonna get scouted!” I laugh.
However, for the man behind the UMichFits Instagram, Kinesiology sophomore Jacob Melamed, it’s not that deep (and he probably won’t scout me in my plain blue jeans and Doc Martens).
UMichFits is a street-style photography account that captures student fashion on the University of Michigan Diag. Since starting the account on Aug. 31, Melamed has amassed over two thousand followers, recognition on campus and satirization on meme accounts UMichAffirmations and UMich Fits You Missed.
Melamed shoots on the Diag for a few hours a day, two to three days a week as a hobby. As he sat on a Diag bench for an interview with The Michigan Daily, he told me that when other people get excited about his work, it still surprises him and gives him a “warm fuzzy feeling.”
Melamed is trendy in a not-trying-to-be-trendy way. He wears a glass earring, a baseball cap (which he tells me will help me spot him for our interview), a white t-shirt and high tops I’m sure sneakerheads would kill for. His demeanor is casual and friendly. It was his extroversion that initially drove him to create the account.
“I thought some people dressed really nice and I was kind of bored and didn’t have a lot of friends here yet,” Melamed said. “I was like, ‘Hey, may as well go out and do something fun, maybe make some friends out of it.’”
As he looked out on the Diag, he said the words I’ve been thinking since the first day of classes: “I wish I could sit here all day and just people-watch.”
What sets him apart from your average Diag-skulker is his initiative, his street photography skills and his courage to say, “Hey, I love your outfit, would you mind if I take a photo?”
When he meets with models, many instantly recognize his account, and some say they’d been waiting for him to notice them.
After over a month of shooting on the Diag, Melamed has no plans to shoot elsewhere. Nevertheless, his account isn’t monotonous. He searches for outfits that are “out of the norm,” “fashion-forward” and, primarily, outfits that “suit (the wearer) really well.” These guidelines allow him to scout out a few lucky subjects from the thousands that circle the Block M every day. Every post celebrates the individuality of University students captured in a single candid moment.
“I want the photo to be about the person. I want a little insight into who they are,” Melamed said. “How they pose speaks to that (individuality) a little bit. And the way they dress,” he said.
He mimics some model-esque subjects, popping out his hip and posing his hand behind his head, but notes that other subjects take their time and seek out posing advice.
College students have always used peers as a reliable source for what’s trending: from student-run music journalism and early teen fashion magazines to current “What are you listening to?” TikTokers interviewing earbud-clad students and campus-street fashion Instagrams like Melamed’s.
“It was definitely not an original idea on my part,” Melamed said, citing inspiration from accounts like USCFits.
Original or not, at a school the size of the University of Michigan, the variety of outfits and personalities allows this account to stand out. Thousands of people walk the Diag every day, each one sporting a distinct outfit reflecting their individuality.
Scrolling through UMichFits is like virtual people-watching. There are the skater boys (dressed slightly like Melamed) flipping off the camera like rockstars, relaxed tote-bag wearers laughing on the Hatcher steps, people shining in the sun with hair dye of every color and girls walking a dark and rainy Diag in black monochrome. Every post contains various slides and infinite stories.
Melamed, who calls himself “just a guy with a camera,” admits that some pressures come with the rising popularity of the account, which he calls a “fashion inspiration board.” He worries the Diag scene may become boring to his followers and works to keep it interesting.
He scouts models with friends to avoid picking people with his similar “trendy-without-trying” look (my words, not his). He changes angles and perspectives in his seemingly effortless shoots, using the library steps, railings and concrete people-watching benches as props in impromptu fashion shoots.
We love UMichFits because it allows us to stare at an attractive, interesting or cool-seeming peer for longer than a passing moment on the busiest drag of campus. We can attempt to look up where they got their shirt using just a vague description or rummage through the account’s comments to find their name and do a quick stalk. We can take the time to make up a story about who they are and where they are going.
Melamed appreciates and celebrates the average U-M student, yet, through his work, followers find that U-M students are anything but average. UMichFits provides followers not only fashion inspiration but a new appreciation for our peers and the university we call home.
Daily Arts Writer Kaya Ginsky can be reached at email@example.com.