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Reel Style?

Hey everyone – below is a conversation that was going on today in the blog comments between me and a reader from Australia named Karen. I thought she raised a really interesting point and wanted to bring it out of comments and post it on the top page. I would love to hear what you guys think about this. Karen’s comment is first in italics and then my response to her follows. (Quick note – the girl in question is a true fashion junkie and follows her heart style-wise. I am confident that she would dress exactly as she does whether her photo was taken or not. I don’t agree with Karen in this case – but generally speaking she’s on to something.)

Karen said – yeh yeh, I get that she looks beautiful and she is creative, but looking at this I just had a massive realisation that there is way too much contrivance and self-consciousness in terms of so-called street style in order to be seen and possibly photographed. Whatever happened to intrinsic style that is just “born” of the person?

My response – I love your point and have mentioned the exact same thing to several people recently. Street fashion photography has been around for decades but has seen an explosion in interest and outlets since say 2005 or so. I’ve definitely noticed people recently who are dressed as though for a casting – a street style casting. (You can nearly guarantee coverage if you are an off-duty model, are wearing massive and massively expensive chunky heels, or are repping a preppy-meets-edgy editor’s favorite like Band of Outsiders, Thom Browne, or A.P.C.) There is an awareness among fashion conscious people these days (when they go to certain neighborhoods or attend certain events like a runway show) that they have a high probability of having their photo taken if they work an appropriate look. I often try to avoid taking this “street style bait” and walk around the corner to find someone unique and less self-aware…though I’m certainly not immune to this temptation. No doubt about it – self-awareness does taint authenticity somewhat. I’m afraid this genie will never be put back in the bottle however.

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  • scott gibson

    LIFE IS A STAGE BABY DRESS TO EXPRESS NOT TO EMPRESS.

  • haha…umm…wow…it took me 200 words to say what he said in 10.

  • Michelle

    It really is an interesting point, but I must say that it’s really funny and weird for me that this is the context that the things were brought up. Look, if this was any other Balanciega addict chic, who definitely is aware of what she has put on her body/arm/feet etc., then I think it would have made much more sense for Karen to come up with the question. But we’re talking here about someone who clearly is a fashion person- as you, Eddie, also wisely mentioned – and a wonderful, unique blogger. The most important word here is unique: because unlike any other blah-blah-blah b.s. about “mixing the high-end with the low end” and stuff that every aforementioned Balanciega chic can talk about endlessly – the Glamourai is a special creature that holds tons of inspiration and guts. It has nothing to do with self awareness, it has to do – as the first meta-comment accurately expressed – with true fun. Which in these days, of so much fashion info+images running around, is just really RARE.

  • I had a friend who (whilst we would chuck on anything to pop to the store) wouldn’t leave until she was entirely made-up – make-up, false eyelashes everyday, planned outfit, the works.
    The thing is she always got so much attention for her style and I suppose perfection from those who didn’t know her much . But it meant that we all became a bit immune to it in that after a while we never noticed how well she was dressed, or on nights out there wasn’t much difference from the day time. It probably was more of a burden than anything because she wouldn’t come out of her room until she was perfecttly styled.

  • oooh… interesting debate! i have my own take:

    http://theglamourai.blogspot.com/2009/01/in-defense-of-dressing-up.html

  • I guess at this point in my life I cannot relate to that, there is barely anyone (or maybe even no one) taking street style pics in my city of Vancouver, Canada. I’m definitely guilty of dressing to be noticed though.

  • marta

    We all dress to get noticed (a few more than others) but that is the point, otherwise we will all be walking in pajamas or tracking suits ha-ha and who will take a look to someone dressed like that? Everything is mostly staged in this world, so I do not see anything wrong with getting dress to impress; this is a very visual world.

  • I can see the NY Times Sunday Styles headline now – “Which Came First – The Face Hunter Or The Face Hunted?” The gist of the article will be about how people like Weegee or Diane Arbus or Bill Cunningham used to be able to wander around NYC and shoot photos of real characters – are those days gone forever? Are people now “campaigning” to be shot by street photographers…and if so, do they choose their outfits with an eye towards winning this campaign?

    We live in a self-aware time…a time when buildings and art work and perhaps even people can exist more as a concept than as the genuine article. Is that a real hunting lodge – or a hunting lodge restaurant concept?

    The truth is – if you walk around Soho or Brick Lane, Sodermalm or Harajuku – if you go to shows and parties during New York or Paris Fashion Weeks – there are a certain amount of people who keep a sharp eye out for street style photogs and who are somewhat campaigning to have their photo taken. I actually love the “campaigners” and I love the true originals – the originals who are dressing just for themselves and for the love of fashion and to brighten their day and the day of those around them. I don’t profess to always be able to tell the difference between a campaigner and an original…in this self-aware age you can be a mixture of both…you put on an outfit you really love and feel excited about AND you are also hoping to get your picture taken. “Campaigners” are ultimately the core of my or any other street style photographer’s audience – the ones who know who we are, who can discuss details of photos that we might have posted 6 months ago, who email friends and call parents when we shoot and post their photos. It’s cute and there’s nothing wrong with it.

    To the street style photo campaigners and true fashion originals, the style junkies and young designers, the fashion students and editors and styling assistants, the band members and artists and bedsitters and DJs and interns and people who will buy expensive shoes even if they have to go hungry…to everyone who is trying in their own little way to do something, anything with their lives to break out of the boring little box that many in society would love to place you in, to all of you, I would like to say RESPECT and LOVE and “Hi, excuse me would you mind if I take your photo?”

    xxxxx eddie

  • Anastasia

    Eddie took a photo of me the other day, (I was wearing a headscarf and a kimono). I’ve never went to this website before I met Eddie on the street nor do I “follow” fashion. All of my clothes come from eBay, thrift stores, and other people’s discarded things. I never shop in retail stores, I don’t look at fashion magazines, I refuse to spend more than $40 on any article of clothing because I try to save money.

    Yet, I like to wear nice and beautiful things merely because I prize them. I believe people should fill their lives with love, and love everything they own, especially clothing, which is a way to create a beauty of the self even if you weren’t born beautiful. I especially believe in wearing used/vintage/old clothing as a way of “recycling” and learning to give life to something someone else no longer wanted. Fashion is a form of self-expression, but also a form of devotion, a devotion to make our daily lives beautiful. My favorite philosopher, John Ruskin, once wrote in a series of dialogues:

    “DORA. Then, we are all to learn dress-making, are we?

    OLD LECTURER. Yes; and always to dress yourselves beautifully—not finely, unless on occasion, but then very finely and beautifully too. Also you are to dress as many other people as you can; and to teach them how to dress if they don’t know; and to consider every ill-dressed woman or child whom you see anywhere, as a personal disgrace; and to get at them, somehow, until everybody is as beautifully dressed as birds. “

  • Oh my god, this is so exciting – debates on fashion are where I live. Some people seem to be missing the point on this issue though. It is not about denying self-expression or creativity, are you kidding, I live for that – fashion is my air. It is a very contradictory issue in a way, as I am obviously a devotee of street style sites – first stop every morning with a coffee and I eat up all the looks these people conjure up, hey, they have almost usurped the catwalk shows as our major fashion inspirations and I think this is a thrilling reversal! I also understand we live in a “psuedo star” society now with Facebook, Myspace and blogging and in some ways this is a good thing – hey, I get to see you (Glamourai, would I ever have known you existed without it – no) … I guess the issue really lies with the fact that photography does not lie: the wannabes and the try hards are obvious and people seem to be REALLY trying and wanting to be captured. It all seems so hyper-vain. The issue is about authentically dressing for self … end of story. You can’t tell me that Emmanuelle Alt doesn’t do a second check before she leaves the house with Bill or Sart in mind. Hell, she even knows how to pose properly with one leg out to the side and turned in. P.S. Anastasia, I am a major thrifter too and P.S.S. Eddie, love the way you write!

  • Hey Karen – I got your point and I appreciate everything you’ve said here. There’s a lot of truth in what you’ve said. I’m sure there are some people these days doing a second check of the outfit with a big cartoon thought bubble with the Sartorialist’s face dangling above their heads!
    Thanks so much for sparking all the interesting commentary. xx

  • there’s truth in both of what you say. i found myself wearing more on-trend outfits when i attended shows at the tents during fashion week. but i did that because i knew people at those places would appreciate the fashion more than my coworkers would during a regular office day. i never thought of it as, will this get my photo taken? but i do think street style blogs have come to glamorize people who used to remain behind-the-scenes like fashion editors and stylists, and a lot of people in new york especially think being photographed will one day help them ease into the industry. this is why i think street style photogs shouldn’t photograph ppl in the biz or near certain events — they should be seeking more of the style of regular folks (which sart used to do when he went to harlem, etc., instead of just standing by bergdorf or somewhere in meatpacking) because if they’re really hoping to seek an accurate representation of the city style they’re documenting, then pictures of editors who borrow designer clothes or buy them at huge discounts aren’t fair.

    what i love most are times when sart posts photos of children on the street, because you know they dressed themselves without much forethought, or blogs like advanced style where the elderly don’t give a damn about being “in style”!

  • Absolutely one reason for photographing older people is that their style choices are pure. Many of them came of age in an era when dressing up was more the norm. (If you take a flight today for example it often looks like a pajama party. In photos from the ’50’s you would think fliers were heading for a cocktail party – hats, jackets, ties, jewelry, dresses, make-up. The difference is not just down to security regulations. We live in a time of casual comfort dressers.) Not only are older people more likely to dress up a bit before leaving the house but they’ve moved beyond the self-conscious, peer pressure years. They often don’t give a damn what people think – you are right. Finally, many of them don’t keep up with the latest blogs and media trends – and therefore they are not tainted by what they might see or read there. I would not say that they don’t keep up with fashion because I know that some of them do. They shop, they are inquisitive, maybe they still check out Vogue. Few of them however seem to start the day with the latest updates from their favorite blogs and a recap of last night’s episode of The City. I love stylish old-schoolers who don’t give a damn and wish more people would follow their example.

  • I love, absolutely *love* that your blog header features the fantastic Glamourai, especially being that this post is in reference to her picture. Her blog is an a divine favorite of mine, she absolutely has true style. Styled for herself, not the photogs.

  • Ok the above comment is mine, I didn’t mean to be “anonymous”

  • I love The Glamourai and her sense of style…and I love the way she looks on my header. Her swagger game is wound tight!

    What I really love though is her point of view and her take on things. If you read her blog then you know what I mean.

  • A little late on this, but i think personal fashion is purely self expression (or it should be). its taking whats out there and using it to your own unique way, EVERY DAY. its something that makes me feel good for me, and not for anyone else thats looking.
    And another thought… a true fashion muse doesnt “put their outfit together.” I think it comes together naturally, in less than 7 minutes! (I have yet to get there)

  • I agree with Eyeliah that if you don’t live in NYC, people do have more sense of personal style, just for the hell of it. I’m in Seattle and fashion isn’t exactly in the collective lexicon, but on Capitol Hill, you see the most random and interesting characters out and about. They do it just for the shear pleasure, or, yes, they just inherently ARE that way. It’s refreshing. It must be difficult to be original in NYC when you’re in the eye of the storm so to speak.
    There is this one guy who’s been around the neighborhood forever… every day he goes out, he wears all one color-one day purple, so- purple hat, jacket, pants, maybe hair, shoes, accesories. Other days it will be all yellow, or all bright green. And I’m talking every piece is the exact same tonal value of that color. I’ve wanted to photograph him at some point, but he’s kind of elusive. Anyway, people like this illustrate my point: in cities where everyone isn’t trying to be recognized for their “unique” street style, you have characters who are, well, unique characters. And I wouldn’t trade that for anything. They make me smile!
    I spotted another girl one day who was totally sportin’ a crinoline cage under her lacy, ruffly skirt. Wish I had had my camera!
    Great comments and discussion, by the way! There’s my two cents!

  • I am and always have been deeply intrigued by fashion and the art of fashion. To me the most impressive aspect is when an individual is able to make something out of nothing. That is when I witness true style.

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