There is nothing quite as appalling as when I walk into a coffee shop near Berklee School of Music or in Harvard Square and see the same sets of identical student-types wearing extremely bland, extremely expensive clothing.
In this unfair capitalist society that we live in I feel that the rich should do us regular people a favor and at least spend their money on something pleasant or interesting to look at. But instead, this city is overflowing with generic-looking $4,000 Louis Vuitton crossbody bags, and chunky sweaters which are practically identical to each other, indistinguishable between The Gap or Gucci until a logo peaks out from a tag.
Note that “minimalist” and “basic” are not the same thing, though I admit both could be called boring. I personally would never mind solid colors and good materials, the ethos of minimalism, but the combined plaid/tartan/pastel/stripes trends, inoffensive on their own, seem to converge on “this is what a designer Scottish baby blanket would look like, and for some reason we made it into a sweater”.
When you pay over $1,000 for almost any article of clothing (maybe with the exception of a leather-trimmed down overcoat or similar) what you are saying is, I did not buy this because the materials and craftsmanship are worth this much; I did not buy this because it is practical; I bought this because it is art–or, maybe, this is an item which communicates my status in society. I wish the wealthy would at least do both, but instead, hordes of people are content to all wear the same thing as long as it communicates status, no matter the fact that looking at drying paint is more interesting than their outfits, and the cost of this drying-paint-outfit could have purchased a used car or a family home in a rural area. The same goes for men dressed head-to-toe in Vineyard Vines, which I’m pretty sure is banned outright in 34 out of 54 African countries because most Ministers of Commerce have declared it “neocolonialism in clothing form”.
Whatever you have to say about the wealthy Asian international students, you cannot deny that they are fun to gawk at, which at least provides ordinary peasants like myself some amusement. True, there is some herd-behavior there too, with probably 15,000 pairs of those Gucci sneakers (you know the ones) spread out across Boston University dormitories, Fila Disruptors rapidly becoming much less white as they trek across Chinatown, Burberry trench coats so long they graze the Freedom Trail.
Occasionally there are even some truly interesting pieces–while at New Shanghai I saw a young man with a beautiful brocade bomber jacket, a tiger embroidered in golden thread, and our whole table stopped eating for a moment in appreciation. The only real gripe I have with this crowd is in the winter, when all the splendor suffocates underneath identical Canada Goose puffers.
I appreciate, too, some of the white girls who try, like the one who left my yoga studio in this amazing gold-foil running jacket that i couldn’t identify, or even the Patagonia-adorned Whole Foods shopper–their outfit says, “I’m basic but at least I care about sustainability somewhat”.
It’s the down-payment-for-a-condo bags and sweaters which remind me of early 2000′s office furniture that I can’t get over. I seethe quietly while waiting in line for coffee, until my order is taken by a barista who has a lovely punk-inspired ‘fit on that she cheerily tells me was thrifted and I am finally at peace.
Style cannot be bought.
“A Series of Complaints” is my attempt at a series of humor essays that I’ll be posting on my various blogs, but mostly Tumblr. I put this one here because it touched on topics relevant to this blog.