Benjamin Davis is mellow in yellow
Outside of Graham Residence Hall on a weekend afternoon, Benjamin Davis answers a question — the same one that he’s faced countless times. “Why do you do it?"
Davis, known by close friends as Benji and by strangers as "The Yellow Guy" or a synonymous identifier, handles these encounters regularly. A self-described intellectual with an affection for mathematics and efficiency, Davis is by most standards a normal college student — just not when it comes to his sense of fashion.
“It’s my favorite color. It wakes me up in the morning,” Davis said. “It makes me feel energetic. It really just gives me something to look forward to.”
Davis said he associates the color with happiness and started wearing yellow shirts as a senior in high school. This summer, as Davis prepared to enter his first year at UNC, he decided to fully commit, combining his obsessive passion for the color with his fixation on individualism and productivity.
Since his first day on campus, Davis has sported suede-yellow Vans, tall yellow socks, soft-neon shorts, a faded yellow belt and a solid colored t-shirt or polo. On most days he wears his UNC ball cap, also yellow.
The origin of Davis’s repetitive wardrobe — his dorm room closet houses several duplicates of each item — is associated in part with his fascination with a philosophy attributed to visionaries like Einstein and Steve Jobs: wearing the same thing every day declutters one’s life.
A close friend of Davis, Erica Chen, said people are always looking for a deeper meaning behind Davis’ repetitive outfit choice.
“I don’t know why people don't believe that,” Chen said. “A lot of people see him as an attraction, not a person.”
She wasn’t surprised by his decision to ditch his senior year ensemble — khakis and a yellow shirt —once he started his first year at college.
“If he was going to start over in college, he was going to go all out,” said another one of Davis’ long time friends, Shreya Madasu. “I don’t think he’s ever wanted to be normal or fit in.”
After a week of enjoying his new college persona, Benjamin shows no signs of plateauing.
“You can’t do something like this and be shy about it,” he said.
Additionally, social pressure is feeding into the snowball effect. Davis said that when people approach him, they sometimes ask how far the preoccupation with the color goes, wondering if he has "this or that" in yellow.
“People remind you of the things you are missing,” he said.
He said those questions influence his outlook, and he’s expanded his yellow arsenal because of a desire to satisfy his dedicated, habitual personality, under pressure from both internal and external sources.
Davis shares a room split vertically down the middle. The division is obvious because his side is bordered by a stark yellow rug.
The bed is the most striking feature, but many other yellow items are scattered around Davis’ side: a yellow alarm clock, backpack, fan, Starbucks tumbler and more. In the closet, identical shirts and shorts are held up by yellow hangers.
Most students that come up to Davis with the intention of asking "why?" are dissatisfied with the simple response he gives, assuming there must be more to Davis’ decision than an interconnection between a color and an efficiency-oriented mind.
“I’m not terribly introspective,” Davis said. “I do what I do. I don’t think about why I’m doing it, it just kind of comes.”
When he was younger, Davis said he was relatively anti-social. Embracing his new routine has inadvertently helped ease him out of that mindset. He relishes the small conversations he has with his fellow Tar Heels, day after day, regardless of the fact that most of them don't dip beneath the surface.
"When I started doing this, I became a person who wants to meet and talk to people," he said.
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