You’ve probably heard a thousand times that New York City is a new Babylon, a huge melting pot where you can meet all races, all peoples, languages, religions, and traditions. And out of all of them, this city makes one colorful jam. This maxim is banal to the extent that it is even somewhat inconvenient to voice it. Everyone knows that.
But everyone also knows, for example, that the Dniester flows into the Black Sea. This is also a banal fact. However, if you, like me, grew up in the place where the Dniester produces this focus, it would not be just a dry paragraph from the geography textbook. Every time you would have seen the yellowish gray, muddy, fresh water of the Dniester estuary meet the grayish blue salty sea waves. Although there is no physical boundary between them, they are constantly different. On one side of the bridge, there is one element, and the other element is on the other side of the bridge, they cannot be confused. And if you see this natural phenomenon almost daily, it is not a miracle for you, it becomes habitual, ordinary.
The same way, for New Yorkers the diversity of people around, and multinational, multilingual cocktail on the streets is not just a line from the city guide, but an ordinary picture of their world. If you do not see it with your own eyes, it is difficult to imagine the scale of the phenomenon. In New York City, you can really see anyone, any face, eye shape, skin color and, most interestingly – all at the same time. The human crowd is moving towards you and each person is radically different. A Chinese is followed by a Mexican, then goes an Indian in a turban, an Orthodox Jew in a black hat, a Catholic nun in a gray dress, a red-bearded man in an office suite, black-skinned schoolgirls, Japanese ladies of respectable age, a blue-eyed blond mom with a chocolate baby. All these people go just one by one, the eye is lost in this kaleidoscope, but over time you get used to it.
Just as to the fact that women in New York City can be anything. There are all shades of skin here – from almost black bitter chocolate to dazzling white porcelain. All types of shapes – from the asthenic thinness to the rich plumpiness. All colors and hair types. All types of faces – the Mediterranean, Slavic, Anglo-Saxon, Asian, Middle-Eastern, Indian. Any types that even exist in nature.
Moreover, here you will see a bunch of types which cannot exist in nature. Black women with straight platinum hair. Asian women with Italian curls. Scandinavian blondes with huge African lips. And a lot of other artificial hybrids. Apparently, when you see every day a lot of other types of beauty, other natural features around that are not peculiar to you, it is difficult to resist and not to at least try on something unusual. And the beauty industry is always on the alert – ready to repaint a mouse into a cat, whatever you wish.
Well, this is another feature of New York City. Any degree of interference with your own appearance, any whims of adorning and improving yourself are acceptable here. Incredible “grooming” on the edge, and often beyond the edge of common sense is not shocking to anyone here. Dense, multi-layered, almost stage makeup in the middle of the street in broad daylight. Long artificial nails of ten different colors at the same time, with drawings, stickers, and rhinestones. False eyelashes, painted eyebrows, “perfect” breasts and elegant noses of surgical origin. Tattoos and piercings of any complexity. Bleached skin of Asian women, the tan of blondes. Not to mention the high heels, dizzying necklines and any level of openness, transparency and fit. Women dressed as if they work as Barbie doll models or sex shop mannequins are a dime a dozen in New York City.
And at the same time, a minimalistic, purely functional approach to self-care is also quite acceptable and very common. A clean face without any hints of makeup, short natural nails without nail polish, natural hair hastily collected in a disheveled bun. There are also a lot of such women on the streets of New York City. They seem to be at the other extreme of the “grooming” scale, and they also feel great. Because it is also acceptable here. A woman who has clearly spent a total of 15 minutes in front of a mirror in the past week is as not shocking to anyone as a woman who has deliberately gathered for an hour and a half in the morning. They often sit side by side in the subway car: intricately dyed curls and unkempt hair with threads of gray hair; a face contoured a la Kardashian and a face with mere chapstick on the lips; thin high heels and broken old sneakers; short unbuttoned jackets and baggy sleeping-bag-shaped puffy jackets.
Speaking of jackets. Another sign of New York City is the clothes of all seasons at the same time. People walk down the street, and one of them is dressed for the winter, another one as in deep autumn, and the third as for the beach. And sometimes one person is dressed for all seasons at the same time: a puffy jacket on the shoulders and flip-flops on feet. Or warm bots on feet and a t-shirt on the shoulders.
It’s not eccentricity or the desire to be original. This is a consequence of the capricious weather, in which spring can change into the hot summer, and it can change into the autumn drizzle, and it all can happen during one day. The temperature difference can reach 15 degrees or even more per day. You hurry to work in the morning – it’s +8. You run out of the office for lunch – it is +25 in the sun. You are coming after work for a party – it’s +12 outside and raining. Under such conditions, New Yorkers are simply forced to dress like cabbage, to take something off during the day, and then put it on again, wear a fur coat, umbrella, raincoat, sunglasses and Panama hat at the same time and often combine the incompatible. Well, all these images, which seem absurd to us on the photos: fur coats with sandals, light dresses with high boots – they often have a deep practical meaning. And your eyes become quickly accustomed to all of this because you learn the hard way why it is so.
What style of clothing prevails on the streets of New York City? They are also many, but, oddly enough, almost all of them are variations on the theme of classical basic things. During the lunch break, a bunch of women rushes to lunch in little-heeled pumps on Sixth Avenue. Normally they have a slight makeup, simple hairstyle, and they are dressed mostly decent, very office-style and pretty boring.
In the fashionable neighborhoods that border with Central Park, or in Battery Park you can meet women with insanely expensive bags and perfect skin. But when they are in a hurry of everyday affairs, they have modest ballet flats or slippers, though of very famous brands on their feet. And they are dressed very simply, though very expensive. Nothing flashy. Nothing avant-garde. Nothing “just-out-of-the-catwalk”.
On Friday night, a bunch of girls rushes to parties, bars, and shows. Here you can already find more creativity, more fashion trends, and timely accessories. But the vast majority here also tends to the traditional outfit, without unnecessary experiments. If you walk through the American stores of the mass segment, 90% of the proposed clothes there are very conservative, basic things that are independent from the fleeting fashion trends.
So, where are all these incredible New York City fashionistas, which we have seen in so many movies, and read in so many fashion blogs? Do they exist at all? Of course, they do. They can also be seen on the streets. And it is so easy to even run into the process of a fashion photo shooting or shooting of a film, they are at every step here. But… Have you heard the expression, “What happened in Las Vegas stays in Las Vegas”? So, what is shot in fashion blogs, remains in fashion blogs.
Advanced fashionistas come up with incredible, bold and harmonious images, but few are ready to reproduce them in real life. Even in New York City. Although, it might seem, where else, if not here? Here there are all the conditions, all the opportunities.
Opportunities – yes. But no obligations! And this is the most important thing. You can dress incredibly gracefully, create a complex, multi-layered image – and it will be OK. You can dress very simply and corny – and it will also be OK. You can choose eccentric boho, brutal punk, sporty chic, romantic flowers, business classics or flashy avant-garde – and all this will also be OK. You can follow the fashion as a maniac, or to pay zero attention to it. You can express any message with your clothes. You can be anything you want. Anyone.
And that means you can be yourself! Whatever you are. Whoever you are. Wherever you were born, in whatever language you think. You can be yourself – is there greater freedom anywhere in the world?
By Maya Tulchynska