Sunday, July 3, 2011

Fashioning a Post

For some reason I've been thinking a lot about fashion on this trip. If you know me at all you'll understand how weird this is. I'm not what you'd call a "fashionable guy", or a "snappy dresser", or even a "person who doesn't buy the same shoes three times in a row."*

The funny thing is, I'm actually able to break down the mechanics of fashion pretty well at a rudimentary level. Erika will say something like "Should I wear a necklace with this dress?" and I can muster a response along the lines of "I don't think so because the shape of your collar is meant to draw attention to your neck and shoulders, so the triangle of the necklace would go in the other direction and ruin the effect." Then I'll put on my black pants and brown shoes and leave the house.**

See, the problem is that I have no ability to look at the whole picture when it comes to fashion. I can get into the core principles but I can't look at a closet and pick out an outfit that doesn't look like something a drunken lumberjack would wear into town to get groceries. It's basically the opposite of food. I can tell you in a heartbeat if something is damn tasty, but if I have to tell you why the flavours work together I'm at a complete loss.***

Which is why me thinking about fashion is a bit odd. But I've been in London for a few days and have thus been exposed to some cutting-edge fashion as it were. It's tough not to notice the differences to the rest of the world after you've been here for a while, and above all else the thing that stands out is just how many different styles there are. I'm used to living in a place where that variety just doesn't exist. Every girl in Vancouver or Seattle seems to decide at once what's fashionable this year and then either go with it or put on some gore-tex because it's raining again (I worked in a bar so I've at least got a decent sample-size to work with. I'm also a guy, so looking at girls isn't exactly an unrefined skill of mine). In London however, women are way more likely to dress in a style appropriate for their body type and shape. Makes sense though right? They've got a bunch of options to pick from! Sadly, this means that looking fashionable in a place like Vancouver requires you to either
   a) Be lucky and have the body type that's in style this year
   b) Move, or
   c) Look bad

Here's an example: I have seen a number of very fashionable women here sporting a haircut that can only be called "The Lisbeth Salander". If you've read The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo or seen the movie you'll know what I mean, but here's a photo from the movie (the version around here is more sexy, less harsh though):

The haircut itself is basically very rockerish, with short sides and a fair bit of the 80's in there. On the right girl it can look smoking hot (minus the nose-ring, I'm not a fan), and I say "on the right girl" because on 99.98% of the population it would make you look like Ronald McDonald with an undercut. But what's a girl to do if this becomes the style that leaks out into the general population this year? My sister went through this in high school: To this day she can't look at photos of herself with that haircut and not tear up (at gunpoint I would not include a picture of it in this blog. We'd probably never speak again and we have a good relationship).

I'm not sure if I have a thesis that I'm getting at here. It's more just an expunging of thoughts. But if I did have one, it would be that our perception of the average woman in a city like London as being more fashionable than elsewhere is wrong. They're just exposed to more options.****

*I wish I was joking about this but I'm not. I went shopping with Erika once and she helped me pick shoes. The next two times she let me go on my own under the mistaken belief that I now had the fundamental skills required to pick shoes for myself. Instead I just bought identical new ones under the belief that I could wear the same style of shoes for 5 years and nobody would notice. After the third pair I was informed that this is not the case. Who knew?

**Actually no, I wouldn't do that. Erika told me not to.

***Game design is a different beast, if you don't understand what's going on at both a macro and a micro level you're DOA. At my core I would say that I'm a pretty mechanistic thinker when it comes to design, but if you can't experience the final product in your brain and say whether it's fun or not well, you're going to make some pretty crappy games in your career.

****Yes, a woman could be as fashionable anywhere on the planet. The difference? In Vancouver you have to read magazines and then order clothes from Milan. In London you see it on your daily commute and then try it on in the store. A bit less of a hurdle.

NOTE 1: I recognize that you can replace Milan, Paris, New York, Tokyo, etc. in this post wherever I've said "London". Please do so as you wish.

NOTE 2: I realize I don't spend any time talking about men's fashion here so let me summarize the differences I did notice:
  a) some guys wore cufflinks


  1. Although not entirely accurate, I kinda like the description I once read about Vancouver fashion .. that 'everyone dresses like they just stepped out of a kayak'..

  2. Remember the stories in family lore of your dad taking young teen Paul out to shop for jeans? I think you would rather have eaten cod liver oil while watching tv evangelists ..
    Your blog makes me want to hop a flight to London just to fashion watch, it sounds so vibrant!