Tres Not So Chic: How Euro Style Trumps American

16 Jul

It was hot and humid on my first day at Columbia.  After traveling all day, I put on my Crocs, a plain white JCrew top, and a denim knee length skirt.

They were standing in the endless check-in line, facing me, although I didn’t notice the group of them until I got a little further. Around one of their necks was a wrinkled floral scarf, topping a cobalt blazer over skinny gray pants. Another wore a distressed straw fedora, v-neck and black leather jacket decked in a few silver zippers. The third sported a dark wash denim jacket and light wash denim pants- a look I had only seen on the pages of Vogue and on the runways.

Double denim at D&G’s spring/summer 2010

Teen vogue’s take

They all had distinct looks yet there was some common thread of panache that connected them like a boy band.

The Jonas “Brothers”

Waiting, I felt a group of eyes on me.  I looked (and yes) they were staring at me.  I looked away quickly, but then made myself look back.  In fact, they all were indeed still staring at me.  However, they not really staring.  No, they were “regarding” me, and their dark eyes scanned me with unmistakable judgment: negative.  I had seen “the look” before (usually I am on the initiating end) enough to grant it a title case.  It was, I was quite sure, related to my outfit, of course, which is to say: Not Stylish.

For the remaining half hour that I was suffering while standing in line, I thought to myself “Why do some of these people look so much better than I do, and some just as atrocious?”

After the first meal I realized there was something the “fashionable” students all had in common- they all were non-American.

While the American students are usually throwing on daisy dukes and school related t-shirts, the European, Asian, and Far Eastern teens obviously spend much more time perfecting their presentation to the world: Monochromatic color schemes, Neatness, Confidence, higher quality tailoring. A social safety net. The clear result of a different relationship to time.

Iceberg, John Rocha, John Varvatos

“They look so gay” girls tell me every time I bring up the style of the French guys at the summer program.  It seems so sad that in America, if a man is stylish the question following is simply “gay or European?”

A French man in action on the streets of Paris

Staying true to their mysterious nature, the French students refused to let me take a picture of them in action. “I don’t even have a facebook,” one justified to me.

The attention to detail and combination of pieces that Americans choose simply does not compare to the precision of the foreigners, even if said Americans are not sporting the ubiquitous flip-flops & sweatshirt uniform.  Overall Americans are more practical in wardrobe choices and frequently pick function over fashion.  They remain more concerned with what they are wearing rather than how they are wearing it.

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