Pre-departure Thoughts 4

Things I want to back with me from Freiburg: Style

Ah, and we arrive at the final “S” in this little series of mine: style.  Hopefully, these blog posts and comparative observations of life in Germany (and Europe for that matter) and the United States will be a little more light hearted than the other two: sustainability and sexual health.  This theme is definitely going to take a lot of stereotypes into account though.

We’ve all heard the classic speech about how Europeans dress better than Americans.  How we don’t care what we look like in public, wear gym shoes too much, and how donning a pair of those and a t-shirt topped of with a baseball hat is a sure fire way to “out” you as an American while across the pond.

A part of me believes this.  I’ve heard these observations from multiple people on various occasions while discussing different levels of exposure to one European society or another.

When my dad travels to Europe (which he is lucky enough to do fairly regularly because of his work) not only does he not pack any gym shoes, he doesn’t pack jeans.

Another friend of mine, who lived in Portugal for a year during his undergraduate career once explained that for most Europeans it isn’t even about being à la mode, rather it is simply about looking put together and presenting yourself to the world in a reasonable way (the jeans are fine, but avoid tears and a t-shirt might not be the best way to finish the ensemble).  The idea that you never know who you’ll meet when seems to be a prevalent thought across the Continent regardless of what language you speak.

Considering that Germany has a population of over 80 million though it is hard to believe, just from second party insights, that the difference can be really that dramatic (I guess I’ll have to see though, right).

So, if it is a generally universal phenomenon that people in Germany dress better overall and are more stylish, what makes it universal?  Are the observations I mentioned before all that it takes, or is there more?

Are there limits to this though?  Does it depend on the city, or region you live in?  Yes, it would make sense that the Milanese, Parisians, and Londoners of the world would dress differently than a Freiburger.  It’s certainly the same here; a Chicagoan or New Yorker is going to dress differently from a Madisonian or Pittsburgher.

That is a key point though, I think.  How do people from large cosmopolitan cities like Berlin differ in dress from those who come from smaller cities like Freiburg or Basel.

The purpose of fashion has now gone far beyond being merely about covering ourselves and protecting our bodies from the elements.  Fashion is a tool which people use to compose their identity and is meant, in many ways, to act as a starting point for others to determine how they interact with us.  In many ways it is very everyday, but au contraire.

Perhaps more than how the Germans approach sustainability and sexual health, style and fashion will reveal what makes them tick(?)  Compare that to the American perspective and maybe I’ll learn something about how we differ—and relate.