April 1, 2009
East Coast vs West Coast Street Fashion: The No-Longer-Sub Culture of the Hipster
Is there a difference in street fashion from one side of North America to the other these days? Or have we all become fashion clones, letting the ads tell us what to wear? Along the shrouded remains of the buildings formerly known as the World Trait Centre, New Yorkers rush past what did or didn’t happen in their city daily, a blank spot in their city’s identity.
So how is this affecting the city’s fashion identity?
The dominant street style in New York has become that of the hipster, a style which Adbusters recently described as “the dead end of Western civilization”, depicting hipsters as extremely aesthetically conscious, but essentially self-obsessed, hypocritical, and apathetic.
What do these supposed fashion zombies dress like? The male hipster might be seen wearing a peck-baring v-neck T, a busboy vest, a fedora, and some scraggly facial hair, while the female hipster might wear an ironic t-shirt with a logo such as “I Listen to Bands That Don’t Even Exist Yet”, fringed boots, and a few pin-on buttons (think “I’m Rockin’ On Your Dime” not “Save the Seals”).
Most hipsters also enjoy the all-pervasive skinny jean, the American Apparel hoodie, neon Rayban shades (lenses optional), and the staple keffiyeh scarf (though hipster mecca, Urban Outfitters, stopped selling keffiyehs in 2008, purportedly because of the Arabic garment’s terrorist symbolism).
Other New York favourites are the dress-length plaid shirt and the once dorky patterned rubber boot.
Hipster style is often considered a modern twist on Bohemian style, as it’s supposed to be effortless, but effortless in hipster terms means straying just far enough from the pack to still be considered hipster (any use of the term in self-description rendering all efforts null and void), because while hipsters reject “mainstream” fashion, they also submit to conformity within their own style.
Bohemian culture may have thrived in neighbourhoods such as Greenwich Village before it thrived elsewhere, but hipster culture is just as rampant in other North American cities, its quirky stylistic components scavenged mainly from corporate establishments.
The keffiyeh scarf is especially popular in L.A., given the city’s hot-sun-cool-breeze climate. Hipster style swarms Los Angeles areas such as Los Feliz, Venice, and Melrose, but L.A. also ranks high in the fashion freak show category, with its bursts of dirty glam – fur coats in grocery stores (the big nasty ones), bare chests under suit jackets, and puppy-type-animals in purses.
The Los Angeles climate also attracts its share of urban Grecian princesses, with side braids, floor draping maxi dresses, and gladiator sandals, as well as android men equipped with fast-track-to-fame Bluetooth ear pieces – (and no, they are not talking to you even when they’re looking right at you).
L.A. fashion is not always as it appears on the glossy magazine pages. Though the Three’s Company high-waisted wide-leg jean currently graces ad campaigns and tabloids, the skinny jean still rules the streets of L.A..
And on the opposite end of hipster style, unabashed in its flaunting of excess bling and loud branding, the Christian Audigier tattoo-on-clothing look has gonge forth and procreated from L.A. this year, recently knocked off by none other than Gucci in its “Tattoo Heart” collection.
Merging the caring-a-lot Audigier culture with the not-caring-too-much hipster culture in Los Angeles is the Jackie O look – three-quarter length sleeved jackets with mod bibbed collars, large buttons, and flared waistlines, perpetuating the fertile-sexy look of 2007. The coat, sported by both the flashy and the irreverent in L.A., is often found in houndstooth and plaid patterns, and given names such as “The Royal Family Secret Jacket”.
Vancouver, sometimes referred to as the L.A. of the North, has an inner-city density following only that of New York and San Francisco, creating a metropolitan lifestyle in which people’s clothing becomes their vehicle.
Vancouver hipsters embrace high top runners, leg warmers, patterned tights, and, more than any other metropolitan city I’ve been to – the Dorothy bicycle-with-basket, but Vancouver’s downtown shopping districts are also marred with predictable corporate storefronts, giving the city a somewhat homogenous street fashion flavour.
Vancouver’s main winter look consists of bright peacoats and slouchy, pointy-toed, mid-calf height boots. The most universally frequented store among Vancouver female shoppers is Aritzia, the store’s “TNA” triple loop found so commonly on stretchy pants and hoodies that you sometimes forget that Talula National Athletic also stands for Tits N’ Ass.
Though Aritzia is mainstream in its prevalence, it also appeals to the hipster scene through affiliations with Vice magazine.
Beyond hipsterism, a minority of Vancouverites are making a switch to Green Fashion, meaning buying and wearing clothing that is produced with organic materials, using no animal products, and not made in sweathshops. Several small clothing manufacturers assmebled last month at The Spring Living Fair on Main Street to showcase their designs; the only drawback – cha-ching!
Perhaps the only new street fashion subcultures reaching past the whatev hipster realms (though the city is home to hipster haven, Haight Street) can be found in San Francisco.
Take the circus style, derived from the 50,000 attended Burning Man festival, which consists of black, white, and red clothing with Beetlejuice-esque stripes, layered under long gothic coats.
Alternately, at a small dive bar in the Mission District called Amnesia, you can find – swing dancing to Balkan music from the roaring 20s – guys in suspenders, newsboy caps, and baggy knee-length golf pants, and girls in pin curls and flapper potato sack dresses. How refreshing.
So with the current coast to coast omnipresence of hipsterism, does the Western world have to get over hipster style in order for underground fashion to be reborn? Maybe the lull in the corporate economy will spark the creation of “post-hipster” street style. Possibly, we can look forward to seeing the Western world’s translation of recession-chic on the street in the near future, which will hopefully include at least some lines drawn up the backs of calves and homemade masterpieces, or at least some Value Village clothing collages.
- Disclaimer: These classy individuals featured above (including Roco) were all super fantastic to shoot and are not being classified as hipsters (not that there’s anything wrong with that : D ), they were just some colourful, friendly street examples.