Does authentic street style exist anymore? I’ve been thinking about this since Amy Odell first pitched her theory about getting street style photographed as “fashion week basic.” (That is, does getting your picture taken at fashion week make you cool, or does it subject you to ridicule by your peers?)
When street style first started to become popular, many of the new guard women attending shows stopped dressing like reflections of themselves and started thinking more acutely and carefully about the cameras that would circumscribe (and ultimately take attention off) the shows. With the escalating popularity of the trade, what started to happen is that ambitiously-dressed loiterers (those often uninvited to shows) would spend time outside the fashion week venues in anticipation that they might get photographed.
With this movement came a ton of backlash.
The fur hats and jackets that looked like dead birds, sunglasses the size of dinner plates and ridiculous, architecturally confusing color combinations were all so loud that they could no longer be considered fashion statements — and not because each and every one of us isn’t entitled to an opinion that could be physically melded into an outfit — we are! But rather, because the outfits weren’t really indicative of those opinions.
Not honestly, at least.
They felt more like cries for attention, inauthentic nods to vanity. This is a point that I think was largely missed in the various degrees of criticism garnered by the outlandish dressing of fashion weeks past. Because if you’d wear it to the supermarket too, who gives a shit if you’re wearing a globe-shaped porcelain fixture above your head? Power to you! It’s the questionable cues heralded by phoniness — which is always detectable — that have been reprimanded.
But here’s the thing: those cues are relics of fashion weeks past.
As runway clothes became more streamlined and normcore exploded onto our streets and the cultural shift demanded comfort as the new luxury, the outfits of fashion week changed. The colors dimmed, the accessories learned to whisper. With insiders poking fun at the street style ballyhoo, they themselves shunned it. Maybe we all did. But the problem remained the same: we were still largely extolling inauthenticity — just in the opposite direction.
I know that as of the past few seasons, there have been instances where I looked at myself in the mirror and asked: do I look like a clown? I know that often, when I’m stopped for photos, I feel a little self-conscious about what the people around me are thinking. I’ve been seated at shows and watched as jeans upon loafers upon t-shirts walked passed me and said nothing. Maybe it’s because we became afraid to get stopped for photos, or to look like we wanted to get stopped for photos. (The photographers are just doing their jobs! Give them the damn photo!) However, I know that plenty of those clothes saying nothing were cloaking women who want to say something.
But being in London reminded me how much fun fashion can be. There is such a genuine conviviality there and so little pretension. People wear what they wear because they want to wear it; it’s as simple as that. No judgement, no confusion, no over-intellectualizing or scoffing. It’s refreshing. It’s a pick-me-up of the mic that New York dropped in retaliation to the circus just a few seasons ago.
In London, clothes have conversations. They may be saying different things at different volumes, but they’re polite: everyone gets a chance to speak. And because the noise of inauthenticity is reduced, everyone — whether in loud hats or quiet loafers — is heard.