If you’re a regular Art of Style reader, you might recall the column about the prevalence of red coats in the city from a few posts ago. It’s true; they’re everywhere and I never get tired of them. Now that all the fluffy, pristine snow Nemo dumped on us has made the inevitable transformation into big piles of melting grey slush, it’s refreshing to see colorful-coated New Yorkers brightening up the dreariness of the February cityscape.
As my train pulled into the station I saw this lady standing on the platform. Even though my vision was filtered through the grime-encrusted subway window, I loved how the deep red-magenta of her coat and the electric blue of her skinny jeans contrasted against the more muted colors of the tiles in the station wall. The chestnut color of her shoes and the oatmeal of her hat were a nice complement, too. On the rare occasions I put on any article of clothing as bright as this coat or these pants, I usually default to wearing black for the rest of my ensemble, but the two browns she chose definitely added an extra layer of depth to her outfit. I only got a quick few seconds of mental note-taking before my train pulled away again, but I think I got the spirit of her outfit down on paper, if not the exact details.
The art of people-watching in New York City is a multi-faceted activity. It’s not just voyeurism-it’s anthropology, inspiration, and entertainment all in one creepy activity. Once one has been practicing the art for a while and has acclimated to the sheer amount of human-centered weirdness going on at all times, one begins to ponder the deeper mysteries of human existence and adaptability. For example, how do different fashion-centered subcultures deal with harsh weather conditions? For the style-conscious, it’s important to maintain a specific look no matter what temperature it is or what kind of horrible precipitation is dripping from the sky. Some seem to adapt better than others (Goths in Hot Weather, anyone?), but some must hibernate or migrate south in the winter because I’ve never seen a raver in a parka.
What happens to grungy punk dudes when it’s too chilly for ripped-up denim vests and threadbare Black Flag shirts? They put on fur hats and oversized military coats, that’s what. Punks are a practical breed-there are way more interesting methods of rebellion and self-destruction than giving yourself frostbite from inappropriate winterwear. Bundle up and rock out with some angry protest songs, dude. I bet he likes Gogol Bordello-Eugene HÃ¼tz would dig those studded winklepicker boots. Facial piercings are no fun in the winter, but if you’re the kind of person who likes listening to Wire you can probably handle a frozen septum in the name of nonconformity. Suffer for fashion, but not too much.
Red is different, though. Red is for rebellion and passion and quick tempers and blood and warmth and love. If black is the coals, red is the burning embers. I’m sure that most of the people who buy red outerwear don’t give their motivations much thought beyond the superficial aspects of the purchase, but there must be something inside of them that compels them to stand out a little. It’s completely innocuous. It’s also inflammatory.