Style isn’t about wearing exactly the right thing in just exactly the right way at just precisely the right time. If it were, Boris wouldn’t be the style icon he has seemingly (and to many – bizarrely) become.
It is confession time, my friends. Gotham Girl is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a fashionista. If I were, I’d be dismayed – even pained – by Boris’s perpetually rumpled state. As it is, I find it adorkable. Besides, I’m hardly in a position to throw sartorial stones. I’m lucky to get out the door in matching socks. Despite these sock issues and a preference for tousled rather than tidy blondes, I am not uninterested in fashion. I enjoy experimenting with different outfits, am thrilled by vintage clothing stores and love seeing how different people use their personal style to express themselves.
Luckily for me, both London and New York have rich and inspiring style scenes. Oh, I don’t mean the fashion establishment. Sure both cities host their own media frenzied fashion week and are home to the biggest names in the biz. I’m aware that as an industry, fashion contributes directly and indirectly to the bottom line in London as much as it does here. It’s just that I find that part of fashion rather dull at best and bizarre at worst. It’s all trends (that come and go so fast that you feel you might have imagined them) and wildly impractical designs (intended to be weird for weird sake rather than to be worn). As for fashion magazines – the only thing the giant annual fall issue of Vogue inspires me to do is use it as a door stop.
To me, the inspiration comes from the people rushing past on the street, lounging on museum steps, crowded onto buses or wandering the aisles of the flea markets. There’s something compelling and inspiring about people watching in London and New York. Both cities are teeming with people who have a strong sense of personal style, a will to wear it and the ability to wear it well.
Of course, it would be hard to beat London as the historical street style capital of the world. Even if we just look at the last 50 or 60 years, London is way out in front – giving rise to the Edwardian-inspired teddy boys, the mods and rockers, punk, glam rock, goth, the New Romantics, etc. London has produced the richest source of “trickle up” fashion in the world. New York is practically a style infant in comparison – and is less an incubator for youth culture than sort of style laboratory for trends born elsewhere. New York may have given rise to the Greasers of the 50s and the hip-hop styles of the 80s-90s but the beat generation and counter-culture movements, valley girls and grunge styles all came out of the west coast. New York youth culture certainly put their stamp on them and other styles through the years but we must give credit where credit is due.
Of course, fashion trends that begin or bloom on the streets of London and New York almost always end up adopted, refined and commercialized by the fashion establishment. They know a good thing when they see it. And so do I. So what’s happening on the streets of my two favorite cities right now?
Steampunk has been all the rage in the New York and London street style scenes for the past few years and the media’s caught up at last. The media is always a bit behind on these things so by the time they catch on, some trends are long gone but steampunk has demonstrated real staying power. Don’t know what I’m talking about? Well, think of the latest incarnation of the TARDIS console – all retro mechanics, a sort of amalgamation of Victorian aesthetics and modern technology.
Translating that idea to clothing means a lot of Victorian shapes and styles in fabrics and cuts that would have left Victorians shocked and suffering from a case of the vapors. Women are layering corsets over sheer blouses (and sheer blouses over corset-styled shirts). They are donning petticoats as skirts – even a bustle or two (I’ll pass, thanks. My bustle is robust enough without additional infrastructure). Men are not to be left out of the steampunk fun. They are demonstrating the benefits of well-cut vests, coats and military-inspired garments. The color palette isn’t exactly vivid but it’s not the mono-chromatic black of the also Victorian-inspired goth style. Shades of gray, browns (including burnt colors like umber and sienna), greens, purples and neutrals make a great base and then are jazzed up with pinstripes, contrasting piping, trims and finishes in bronzes and dark gold metallics. Accessories such as fob watches, goggles and parasols (and for summer what better way to shield your face from the sun?) help finish the look off.
Don’t feel like being quite so edgy or looking for something a bit lighter-weight for summer? You aren’t alone. Some feel that thin as some of those layers may be – it all sounds a bit heavy for the warmer temps we have in store. So – warmer weather looks from the city streets?
Nautical is a summer staple and easy to pull off. Dark blue and white striped scoop neck tops with crisp white skirts or shorts. I’m also seeing it with white cargo pants – and though I’m all for slouchy and comfy, I’m not sure about pairing slouchy with stripes. Nautical is one of those perpetual styles that never quite go out of fashion but something new appears to be the rise of gray as the new summer “black.” Now, don’t roll your eyes and declare gray boring. It’s not. Subtle it may be but it can have subtle tints of almost any shade and look great in a wide variety of textures (I love gray in crinkled gauze). And few neutrals make summer pastels pop quite so well. Think light gray, slouchy shorts, skirts or pants with soft greens, pink or blues floaty tops. Layering in summer isn’t as insane as it sounds. Try open waist-coats over long tanks or one belt a sheer long sleeve blouse over a less translucent piece. As for pattern – florals (in faded colors) are quite popular.
Men, I haven’t forgotten you. Nor am I going to suggest you don a sailor’s hat or bedeck yourself in faded floral sheer blouses (though obviously there would be nothing wrong in that and frankly you’d be shocked at how some color and pattern would flatter you) but cast your eyes around and see if there’s not an alternative to blue jeans and t-shirts, yeah? Gray is a great color for denim. Go on, it won’t hurt. It’ll go with everything you already own and give your look a bit more life. What about colored belts? I saw that. Don’t roll your eyes at me. How do you know you won’t like it if you won’t even try?
Finally, I’m seeing lots more guys in hats. This makes me very happy. I love hats and I love hats on men. Newsboy caps are everywhere and with good reason. They can make a perfectly straightforward outfit – even just a t-shirt and jeans -into something retro and just a bit special.
Oh and men? Please – embrace the flat-fronted khaki. Pleats make you look frumpy, dumpy or just plain unkempt. Boris – are you listening? Come to think of it – have I ever seen Boris in khakis – pleated or otherwise? I shall have to go and check.
So, don’t despair if you look in your wardrobe and can’t find anything to wear. We used to have to go out ONTO the street to see what was happening in the street style scene – and we still can. But thanks to the Internet, we can check out the styling prowess of both New York and London (not to mention Milan, Copenhagen, Paris and many other cities) via the street fashion blogs that are multiplying everyday.
Here are some sites you might want to check out:
The Satorialist: a pioneer of the fashion blog format. One of the first and still one of the best street fashion sites out there. Begun in New York six or seven years ago, the scope of the blog has expanded with time, it’s still an amazing peek into who’s wearing what to go about their day in some of the most exciting cities in the world. I also love popping over to check out Mr. Newton, another great source for peeping at New York style. And no discussion of street style coverage in New York would be complete without mentioning Bill Cunningham. ‘On the Street’ with Bill Cunningham is not a blog but Mr. Cunningham, a photojournalist at the New York Times, has been focusing on the street scene for decades. See what I did there – it’s a photography pun. Nice, right? Oh never mind. Anyway, ‘One the Street’ has been a Sunday feature at the paper since the late 70s and Bill shows no sign of slowing down. You can check out his weekly video/photos on Bill’s YouTube channel or on the paper’s website. Beware, he’s got some very catchy theme music and it may stick with you for days.
If anyone is the London equivalent of the Satorialist, it’s Face Hunter. Like the Satorialist, the pictures come from all over but because he is based in London, the city does get significant play. Want more windows into London street style? Style Scout also roams the streets of London as does Savvy London. There are tons of others – all easily found by punching “street style” or “street fashion” into your favorite search engine. But of course the best way to find out what’s happening on the street is to get out there yourself.
And remember – style isn’t about wearing exactly the right thing in just exactly the right way at just precisely the right time. If it were, Boris wouldn’t be the style icon he has seemingly (and to many – bizarrely) become.