I’ve asked my fellow Midwesterner and blogger, Cary Randolph to share a guest post on American style. This girl has got. it. down.
American style is self-made. It’s borrowed. From your boyfriend, your ancestors, your favorite movie star. It’s a wool peacoat from the Army-Navy and the slinkiest stiletto heel. American style is rooted in history: for every Norwegian sweater turned out by L.L. Bean there is another tale about how it got here and was adopted and adapted by generations before ours. Slip on a silk evening gown and wear it with nothing but salty hair and a tan. This is a look that evolved from sport: tennis whites, rugby stripes. It’s seasonal: tartan in winter and linen in spring; but it’s also season-less: Levi’s 501s witha great white button-down in rain, snow, or shine.
A true connoisseur of American style is conscious of where her clothes originated. I think this is a new phenomenon that has developed from the menswear movement to modernize heritage brands. Filson, Gitman, Pendleton, Woolrich, the list goes on, and they all have something in common: they were made here. In your town, your state, your backyard. Yes, you’ll still be hard-pressed to find great women’s brands made in the States, but that is soon to change. Did you know that you can drive to the Schott factory in Elizabeth, New Jersey, and stand by each jacket as it rolls down the assembly line? I think this quality makes clothing so much more special. I think it makes clothing important.
American style is healthy and active. It is defined by entrepreneurs striking out on their own and then coming back together. One thing you’ll notice about the current heritage revival is the prevalence of collaborations between brands global and local. A quick glance at J.Crew’s In Good Company sub-site can prove the success of this strategy. But small brands join with other small brands and the effect is even more poignant; these are not companies working in vacuums. Consider it a sartorial democratic republic.
American style is iconic, and a single name can conjure incredible images of a shared history. Ali McGraw in Love Story. Katharine Hepburn in pleated trousers. Ralph Lauren’s barefaced beauties have worn our national wardrobe for decades, and each season Lauren turns out a collection completely different from the one before it. Yesterday’s gypsy becomes today’s cowgirl becomes tomorrow’s flapper. But it all has that same American-ness. It’s mythic, legendary, larger than life.
Let’s talk brass tacks: how do you work more Americana into your own closet? Start with the fundamentals: great jeans made in L.A., a men’s oxford from Pennsylvania, boots and coats born in Maine. Keep a clean palette, and fill your shelves with natural, durable materials. Make investments. Buy vintage. Be thrifty. Ask yourself, “Can I run in these shoes? How fast?” Watch Bonnie and Clyde: Faye Dunaway never looked so chic, and she did so while taking violent turns in her getaway car. Dress for moments like that. Dress for the elements. Our country is defined by its terrain: ranges and oceans, coast and plain, but it is also defined by the creativity and beauty of its citizens. Translate that rugged freedom into your canvas and chambray and suede. Who said you can’t have your sequins and climb the Rockies too?