Saturday, January 19, 2008

The Asphalt Carpet

With the dearth of award shows this season, I’ve heard a good deal of cries bemoaning the lack of red-carpet fashion. Good riddance, I say.

Award-show fashion has become nothing but an advertisement for the designers. When a starlet walks the red carpet, the first question she’s asked is “who are you wearing?” And she spouts out the name, cheerily in her first red-carpet sashays, but a little more bitterly as she attends more of these functions. After all, isn’t the focus supposed to be on her work? And indeed, she hasn’t even truly “dressed” herself; a starlet’s “signature” style comes from her celebrity stylist.

Instead of fretting about losing Oscar night, I look forward to the weekly arrival of my New York Magazine. I turn right to the “Look Book” pages, which highlight a photograph and an interview of a stylish person (or persons) on the streets of the city. These true portraits of seen-on-the-street style are more exhilarating and inspiring than anything that glides down the red carpet.

Indeed they range from ghastly to fabulous, but that’s what I appreciate: they’re individual. To paraphrase Diana Vreeland, “having no style is worse than having bad style.” (Now you can purchase a “Look Book” book that collects many of the “best” images.)

I think that magazines need more photographs of this asphalt carpet and less of its colorful cousin. (The Sartorialist’s vast audience proves the public’s hunger for true personal style.)

Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper, the northern equivalent of the New York Times, conducted a bold contest last year to determine the Most Stylish Canadian. (Ha! Some of you scoff. Canadians wear lumberjack jackets; there’s nothing stylish about them!) But from what I can tell, this contest was a success, with its two winners being a female graduate student and a male schoolteacher. And clearly, they were chosen for their style.

Could such a contest be possible in the United States? I think not at the moment; we’re too glutted here with manufactured celebrity style. But maybe we’re seeing a turn in the tide; the individual shows signs of surfacing as the red carpet takes a welcome plunge.

1 comment:

Maryam in Marrakesh said...

That's my favorite part of New York Magazine, too:-)