It’s too blizzardy in New York for fashion right now. Luckily, I was in Stockholm last week eating a bunch of fried herring and observing a whole lot of cool street style and am here to tell you about it and relieve your snowy boredom.
Though the sun : darkness ratio isn’t as extreme in mid-January as it is around the solstice, the hours of daylight in Swedish winter are still precious. Therefore, we spent a lot of time during the day wandering around the streets of Söder, land of a thousand coffee shops and little art galleries and vintage stores.
An integral part of Stockholm life is fika, a word you may recognize as the name of a chain of coffee shops scattered around Manhattan. As you might have guessed, it means to have a coffee break, and I felt that the best way to truly immerse myself in Swedish culture was to fika several times a day. Happily enough, the practice of fika meshes excellently with the practice of people-watching.
Of the many coffee shops we visited, Gildas Rum was the prettiest. Opulent velvet-upholstered armchairs and couches provided seating, chandelier lamps hung from the ceiling, and candles flickered on every table. Coffee and tea was served in giant but delicate-looking cups with saucers. We didn’t stay for very long due to the business and the lack of WiFi (it’s hard and stressful to go a whole day without checking your email and posting your travel photos on Instagram!), but it was enough to scope the place out and mentally mark a few people to immortalize on paper later. I thought this guy fit in with the decor of the place really well—the dapper practicality of a double-breasted coat with fur trim on top of… was he even wearing a shirt underneath? Oh, Sweden.
In contrast to our own clanking underground behemoth of a subway, the experience I had with the Stockholm T-bana was delightfully silent and efficient. I sort of love the bouquet of offensive sounds that make up the New York subway system, but the T-bana could almost arrive and then quietly depart again without you noticing if you were deep in conversation with someone. Though the trains arrived fairly regularly, there was still enough time to observe Stockholm citizens on their daily commutes, making note of many beards and voluminous coats.
Stockholm is comprised of a collection of islands, sort of like New York, so it stands to reason that they would also have a ferry network. The only unfortunate thing about the ferry is that you had to stand outside to wait for it, hence the giant nest-like scarf and heat-conserving posture of this fellow. His friend seemed less concerned with the temperature, content instead to pose against the railing like a Viking waiting for the first sight of land.
To end with the favorite cliche of travel writers, the worst part of this trip was how short it was. (Well, also jet lag. And I got a blister on my foot.) I don’t think I saw nearly enough of what the city had to offer, which would probably be impossible even if I were a native resident. Can you ever really know everything about a city, and is your experience of it ever exactly the same as someone else’s? Probably not. Cities are mysterious living things, like people in a way, constantly shifting and evolving and affected by everyone who comes in contact with them. I wonder how different Stockholm will be when I go back.