Thursday, April 30, 2009

These Boots were made for Walkin’

Woman 4/30/09

First I thought: “Puss-in-Boots”. Then it was “Captain Morgan”, and finally I settled on “The Three Musketeers”. Those boots that she was wearing were nothing like I had ever seen. An 18th century throwback, a Pat Benatar 80’s video, and a hint of the boot revival of this new millennium. Defying description yet begging and clamoring to be immortalized on paper or at least in the blogsphere.

The boots were knee high. The color was a slate grey with dark shades of black. Imagine handling a piece of pristine white paper after you’ve read your morning paper. Crumple the paper with your ink stained hands. Treat it like you were trying to stain it black while ironing permanent lines onto it. That’s what the leather looked like. The boots also had a 2 inch plus fold at the top. That extra layer making it look like a Musketeers replica boot. The heels were short - about an inch high only. There were 7 shiny stainless steel buttons equally spaced vertically on the outside of each boot. Each button was about the size of a quarter. And the toe area of each boot was as pristine white as the rest was dirty black.

The rest of her was actually not like those boots at all.

Her hair was in a ponytail, no bangs, but the ponytail stretched all the way to her lower back. She’s been growing that brown hair for a long time, and at this point, there’s not much one can do with hair that length one suspects.

Her face? No makeup. Basic black framed rectangular glasses.

She was however wearing this short summer dress. It was green with a print of mini-wildflowers. From a distance, they looked like assorted small flowers like daffodils and daisies. The skirt reached to about mid-thigh, and was a very deep cut v-neck. However, in keeping with her modesty, she had on black tights, and a black scoop neck tee. So, really she’d layered what was a very short and revealing summer dress over a black tee and leggings. And if that wasn’t conservative enough, she also had on a black cotton hoodie – though that might have been on account of the cool morning weather.

Perhaps she’s one of those woman who are a closet extravert. About 6 drinks in, and she turns into this flirty and aggressive woman who wears those boots precisely because of the attitude they convey. Everyone has one of those friends. The drinking alter ego that emerges as the gregarious Hyde to their original meek Jekyll.

It is Thursday. Perhaps we’ll see Ms. Hyde out tonight.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Young Ones

Girl 4/22/09

Iron Fist. That was the name on the hoodie with the all-over print. That hoodie print was repeats of this cartoon-like alien head, all done in multiple colors and haphazardly arranged. The head reminded me of the old Area 51 Martians that we used to see in old comic books. All those pink, green, blue and yellow heads. The zipper pull was that same alien head in blue. The reverse side of the hood was black, as were the ribbed cuffs. The hoodie looked a slightly too large on her. A stark contrast to the jet black skinny jeans she was wearing.

That hoodie was easily the loudest piece of clothing on this young girl. But by no means the last. Her shoes were in the mold of canvas Chuck Taylors, but with a twist that matched her hoodie. From the front, the shoes were a standard black canvas high-top. The long tongue was flipped over to reveal a reverse that was a bright neon pink. The back and the near-rear sides of the shoes were decorated with a print that looked like someone threw up hot neon colored noodles and other assorted mostly digested food items.

Her black JanSport backpack had matte black stars printed all over. And the left shoulder strap had her name written in block letters running vertically from top to bottom. She also had her name on the front of the pack, right under the JanSport logo.

She was carrying her black down bomber. Short and white a hood that was trimmed in faux grey fur. There was a print on the jacket, but indistinguishable the way that the jacket was placed on her lap.

For all the color and attitude her clothing was saying to the world. The rest of her was really quite plain. Her hair was pulled back into a ponytail that was full of curls. The bangs barely covered her forehead. There was no trace of makeup, no earrings (though the holes were there), and no accessories of any kind. Heck, she didn’t even have an iPod. And she had on a pair of basic black rectangular framed glasses.

Halfway through the ride, she pulled out a day-planner, and proceeded to look her calendar over and made some entries with a pen.

Could this girl who dressed in a hoodie made by an obscure South African street brand be the same plain girl using an old fashioned day-planner?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Shape of Things

Woman 4/22/09

Honesty is the best policy. And to be completely honest, I noticed this woman because of the shape of her body. She walked past me, and from the rear she had this great silhouette. The shoulders were broad but just so, and totally in proportion to the rest of her lean physique.

Perhaps it was an optical illusion brought on by her long cardigan. She was wearing this heather grey full-length cardigan that stretched down to her hips. That cashmere-like fabric hugged her frame and gave the already lean 5’7” woman even more length. Add the jeans that showed off her slim legs and you could see why that shape caught the eye.

Curiously, she wasn’t much of a fashion statement with the clothes she had on. The v-neck cardigan covered up most of her inner layers, but you could just see the scoop-neck lace top she was wearing. The shoes were just basic Nike runners in white. It was really that one grey cardigan that made the outfit.

What was interesting about her were the accessories she was carrying. Her handbag was this small duffle-style bag that was a faux-forest camouflage print. You’d find a similar print at Cabela’s or even Bass Pro Shops. Her small retractable umbrella was this faux-animal stripe print. Reminded me of a dress from DVF I once saw. And just when you think there was some ultra-trendy woman hiding under her J.Crew outfit, she was also carrying this cheap corner grocery store plastic shopping bag, which was holding what seemed to be plastic food containers. Threw everything for a loop.

She looked like she could be the younger sister of Cecilia Dean. Hair pulled back in a ponytail, no make-up, but a certain kind of aura about her.

A pair of black over-ear headphones sitting over her pulled back hair. A rounded rectangular shape that had a ring of silver inside, like a track around a stadium. It was a pleasant surprise when the small words, SONY, discreetly showed up on the frame. The black cord was attached to a small black remote control unit that she had clipped onto her cardigan.

My guess would be that this woman was either very active in terms of leisure physical activity – perhaps a regular swimmer, with a previous competitive background, or that she was in a profession that required her to stay in shape. Dancer? Trainer?

She pulled out a small Japanese book from her bag, swapping that with her umbrella. She never did the book though. A quick glance, and then she closed her eyes.

Last I saw, she had her right hand propping up her head, and her elbow on her knee. Must have been really tired.

Friday, April 17, 2009


Man 4/16

There is an old story about Beethoven that he always deliberately placed a wrong note in everything he composed, because nothing was ever supposed to be perfect. Not sure where I heard it told, but it rings true enough for me.

This man was perfectly attired. He looked like he could have been the younger brother of Michael Caine – circa The Ipcress Files. Anyone who knows men’s fashion knows that Michael Caine movie and its widespread influence.

Let’s start with the Burberry raincoat. After all, if you’re channeling Michael Caine and dressing like a closet British dandy, you have to start with the classics. Black raincoat with the telltale Burberry check lining for everyone to see.

Next up, the suit, shirt and tie. The suit was a charcoal grey window-pane check that was made up of the subtlest of blue lines. It was a standard issue two button and finished with cuffs on the pants. The shirt was light blue but betrayed a barely detectable check pattern upon a closer look. No French cuffs though – thank god. And his tie was the modern take on the GOP power tie. It was thin maroon and lavender stripes on a standard width but the fabric was a silk sheen. Immaculate knot, of course and everything buttoned-up.

So, where’s the closet dandy come from? Good question. His socks. I love interesting socks that make sense, not for the sake of being shocking, but just compliment the look. His were a grey with these dark block patterns – almost Mondrian inspired, except one of the blocks was this bold purple.

The shoes were a standard good black leather split-toe lace-ups. Well cared for, and expensive I’m sure.

The Michael Caine part? Oh yes. Well, picture Michael Caine from that movie. Now, crop the hair shorter and perhaps slightly receding. Color everything white, grey and a sprinkle of black. Add a well trimmed goatee. The glasses here would be modern and more architectural. Rectangular, a composite metal frame, and the arms have die-cut blocks to suggest a modernist influence.

So, what’s the immaculately dressed man carrying? Interestingly enough, a messenger bag from Porter. A black canvas messenger bag that has two large pockets in the front panel. A shoulder strap and two carrying handles. Well, we know he has good taste, and we know he has money to spend. Porter is a little left field. Maybe it’s his way of saying that he’s more hip that his attire lets on.

For the entire ride our man was reading from his Kindle 2. I’m not sure that the leather cover was the standard issue Amazon version. It just didn’t seem to be his style.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Observe without prejudice

Man 4/15/09

It could have been the magazine article I was reading about the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan. Or the Muslim man with the skull cap a few rows over in the train. But it occurred to me that sitting directly across from me was a man who could have easily worked on a Hollywood film as a clichéd American version of the secret sleeper cell terrorist. The one that blends in though not quite blending in because obviously he has something to hide.

He was actually sleeping. Not the usual homeless man huddled into the corner sleeping. His head was drooped down, occasionally bobbing, his shoulders were slumped over and his legs slightly more open that usual.

His head was crowned with a thick mane of hair. Wavy, not quite curly, but black and plentiful. It was long enough to appear unkempt and unstyled, much like the full beard on his face. His thick eyebrows and dark circles under the eyes did nothing for his perceived state of well-being. Add the few pockmarks on his cheeks and the occasional pimple dotting his forehead, and this picture of a tired young man with too many burdens starts to appear easily.

For a Hollywood movie cliché, he certainly dressed the part as well. The jacket was this olive green with military inspired touches. Though it was really more of a field or hunter’s jacket in origin. It was made from a thin corduroy fabric, and had two small snap-flap patch pockets on the chest, and two larger similar ones lower down. The shoulder epaulets weren’t functional and neither were the tabs near the cuffs, though those did have two small metal rivets on them. The brass zipper went all the up to the stand collar where there was a zipper that hid the stowaway hood.

Adding to the look. He had on a grey chunky wool sweater. It was actually a full-zip turtleneck, and since he had it zipped up most of the way, the large collar almost covered his entire neck and made the collar of his jacket seem small in comparison.

His thin brown corduroy pants matched the brown leather athletic-inspired sneakers he was wearing - my guess; Skechers.

He did have a simple gold wedding band on his ring finger, but nothing else really.

Given that it was rush-hour on the subway. The man was sleeping, disheveled and traveling without a messenger bag or backpack, I could see the NYPD doing some racial profiling and keeping a closer eye on him. That would be sad but true. Though if they did watch him, they’d know that he was a little too stylized to be a real threat to anyone.

After all, if you’re wearing a jacket that looks like it could have been a knock-off of a Ralph Lauren or Belstaff jacket, you probably are just a cliché and nothing more.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Sha La La La La!

Woman 3/24

Parents generally dress their young children in bright colors and all sorts of cute clothing. So, it’s not really interesting to document toddlers or kids since in their own colorful way they all dress the same.

In NYC, the strollers are either McClaren, Bugaboo or for the even more discerning Phil & Teds. Every so often, you get a Baby Bjorn. If you wander or pass the more Chinese areas, you get the grandmas who use makeshift wraps to bundle the baby to their backs. What you don’t see very often is a baby in a sling.

It was a fleece sling. Red fleece strapped from the left shoulder and around her right waist. You could just make out a small head resting on her left breast and her right hand was gentling patting the baby’s butt. You could also see that the baby was wrapped in a banana yellow waffle blanket. On the baby’s head was a white cotton beanie with an illustrated animals print.

Given the size of the sling and the small size of the head. The baby couldn’t have been more than 8 – 12 weeks old, if at that.

The mom herself was wearing in a green knit hat. Chunky wool with a short visor. Her winter coat was a long black down jacket with a purple lining and a detachable hood. With the baby across her body, and the jacket zipped up, there wasn’t much else to observe of her upper half.

Underneath her winter clothing, she was dressed for comfort. Light grey sweat pants that featured a two-colored triple stripe of navy and white running down the side. A bleach spot on the bottom of the outside of her left leg cuff was also quite prominent. The shoes were Asics sneakers. Blue and gold logo stripes. Basic, functional and comfortable.

She had with her this large blue tote bag. The logo on the bag? NCURA which stands for National Council of University Research Administrators. The seal said “50th Anniversary Meeting. Celebrating the Science. Supporting the Scientist.”

In that tote bag, she pulled out a green polka-dot purse, apparently to reach the banana wedged underneath inside the tote. And with the purse safely back in the tote, she proceed to peel and eat the banana.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

New Yorker State of Mind

Woman 4/2/09

It seems to be impossible for a true New Yorker not be aware of fashion. It doesn’t matter if you’re a fashionista, a hipster, a b-boy, a homeboy, punk, a rocker, suit or construction worker. Everyone has that unique style marker that places them as New Yorkers.

Whenever I see someone wearing something patently mid-western or suburban, the automatic assumption is that they are tourists or visiting from out of town. New Yorkers might wear sweatpants, but they don’t rock Fruit of the Loom discount specials.

She couldn’t have been a New Yorker. I still don’t believe it. But when you’re reading a tattered paperback copy of The Blair Reader in the subway, you’re a New Yorker. Hate to say it, but show me another city where this college writing handbook is leisure reading for a mass transit rider who is in her mid to late forties. Yes, it has to be in mass transit, not a college campus.

So, you know she was wearing sweats. All 200 plus pounds of her jammed into these off-white pants made out of cotton. With all the unsightly bulges and human flesh pressing against that fabric, even I felt suffocated. There was a stain on the left knee area, and possibly more elsewhere.

Her black Crocs matched her black athletic socks. People are already shuddering and it’s only halfway through this description.

Continuing on this journey, she was wearing a lavender jacket. Nothing fancy, a plain LL Bean jacket that had a fleece lining and two side pockets. LL Bean calls it their Warm-up jacket, and the logo is on the zipper-pull. Underneath she had a wool cardigan, possibly a vest, but either way in an oatmeal color and unbuttoned. And her base-layer was a ribbed mock turtleneck in red.

Besides the book, it slowly dawned on me that she must be a New Yorker because her accessories were too gauche to be anything but. A silver necklace hung around her nexk, with a pendant that looked to be the size of a Metrocard. That pendant looked like a small amber colored stained glass window hanging on her neck. On her right hand, was a big silver bangle. Her engagement ring finger had another big chunky silver ring. Her watch on the left hand was a large ladies model – silver with white face.

The hair on her looked like William Katt from my favorite TV series (of all time), The Greatest American Hero. And somehow she had done her own version of the smoky-eyes look. There was a slight trace of hair on her upper lip, and a prominent flesh-colored mole on the right side of her chin. She also had on black framed glasses.

The handbag, at first glance, looked worn, but in fact was a brown with gold rubbings that made it appear faded. The faux crocodile skin pattern made it somewhat interesting. And the fact that her companion bag was this Sierra Club logo-ed black gym bag just added to the confusion.

So what do we have here? A New Yorker? Has to be. Too many clues for her not to be. She’s one fashion challenged New Yorker though. Guess rules are meant to be broken, just like the mould.