When I first came to London 8 years ago, the street fashion excited me. Already the 80’s revival was making a quirky come-back, and the cyberdog candy-borg look was in full swing on the streets of Camden.
Now, London street fashion seems nowhere. Maybe I am just older and more jaded? Or perhaps we can blame it all on the demise of rave culture, or the banning of mushrooms as a harbinger of grim new times. Or blame sky-rocketing rents which drive out anyone who lives a life that allows them to express themselves. Who knows.
Just to make sure it wasn’t my own pessimism, I sought out some London Street Fashion blogs. First I found London Street Fashion, and it just confirmed my dismal conclusions. I understand how much work a project like this must be for the documenter, but that won’t stop me from being critical.
Most outfits featured on London Street Fashion are a combination of grey or brown or black or khaki. All oversized, ripped, drooping, hooded. Camo overload! Basically ugly as hell. The editors clearly have a bent against things femme or colorful. Depressingly, this does seem represent what a lot of people are wearing in London. I won’t use a screen capture because in the site’s words, “they don’t play.” But take a look at the grey-hoodie misery. From looking at this site alone, one might falsely assume that everyone dressed in London is under the age of 25 and thin. I’m assuming this is not an active site, because I believe the “Sloane Square Coming Soon” has been up for a year. The “neighborhood” format limits sightings to trendy, expensive neighborhoods and shopping districts, as if the site has also fallen prey to the post code snobbery so prevalent in the capital. I suppose they are going for a Fruits, Shibuya-style focus, but in London people don’t get dressed up to go shopping, so what’s the point?
However, I then found Style Scout, which reflects the London style I actually admire– the demure, the whimsical and subtly wacky. I recognized a shop girl from Carnaby Street featured there, in her signature pink lipstick and pearls.
And then I came across Savvy London and was rather gleeful. Clearly this (also American) blogger is excited by personal style, regardless of the subject’s age or body type. Risk is admired, and each entry carries a delightfully brief narrative.
But on the whole, London is not very inspiring, street-fashion-wise. I was more impressed with Glaswegian style– girls with Biba-black eyes and vintage tweeds, huge rhinestone brooches– men in fitted trousers and elaborate scarves. There are a few flashes of style I see on the street, mainly in the Sikh community here in Southhall– with the mixing of prints, textures and traditions. Or the art school girls mixing it up in Hackney, or a stray man on the tube wearing some Saville Row masterpiece– but on the whole people are stuck wearing the disposable crap from Primark, etc., and nobody’s trying anything new or different. Second hand shopping and even flea markets are, well, sorry-ass. In the words of Tricia Royal, it’s loathian thrifting here in London.
I’ve come to accept that most of London fashion is decidedly top down– Liberty’s anachronistic styling and new designers like Social Suicide Suits may get the blood going, but it’s out of reach of most Londoners. Let’s face it, by the time most of us have paid rent there’s little left for even modest indulgences, much less playful risks. On the whole, the city seems dispirited, and fashion is a barometer of this (One can trace the takeover of San Francisco by dot-commers, as well as the dot-bomb through street fashion, but I digress).
I am of course looking at it all from the bottom up. I live in W7, a nowheresville post code ghetto of immigrants and laborers, not trust fund art students and socialites. London’s working poor have a strong tradition of defiant style, but as I see it, the look on the street at present is nowhere.
Helsinki, with its playful absurdities, puts London to shame.