Sunday, October 09, 2011

Yes, yes, and yes... Vancouver voted 3rd worst dressed city in the world. They blame yoga pants. I myself believe it's a reflection of greater cultural ills. Vancouver is a glorified resort town centered around shopping and sports. On what street does one feel compelled to make a sartorial effort? We don't exactly have a street scene a la Europe, where folks sip coffee at outdoor cafés and meander in and out of bakeries and book stores. One is encouraged to be "chill" here. Hard bodies that take hours a week at the gym to sculpt, shrouded in Canucks jerseys and sagging below-the-knee cargo shorts. And it's not just on the street – special events and high end venues are not exempt from the just-rolled-off-the-couch look.

I don't claim to be a fashion plate, but pajamas and exercise clothes are for the bedroom and the gym and the Grouse Grind. Flip flops and sweat pants on a major urban street are just not on. I can't count the number of times when I've passed what turned out to be a regular guy, and tensed up thinking that he was some homeless crazy person about to ask me for change for a ticket to visit his sick friend in Yellow Knife. The minority of people here who make an effort, stick out like a stylish sore thumb, and are a respite for the weary eyed.

If I might turn this into a rant about clothing in general (thanks), another problem is simply the lack of clothing options. It seems that the most simple, basic, classic items are the hardest to find, and the most expensive (lack of demand, I get it). If you want face-draining colours, tacky logos emblazoned everywhere, bejeweled and bedazzled footwear that would make Caligula blush, and unflattering hipster potato sacks that look awful even on the 16 year old model, then you are in clover.

That said, things are improving style-wise, mainly in Gastown and south Main St., with the emergence of clothing boutiques selling local designs (I can't afford to shop in them, nor do I begrudge the prices), bakeries, cafés etc. There may be an element of contrived pretentiousness to some of these (Victorian themed dandy shops filled with fancy soaps and Edison light bulbs, Value Village worthy sweaters for $400 – fun to look, wonderfully curated). But the era of the earnest mom and pop establishment is over, replaced by the almighty Cactus Club on every corner. Thankfully, there have recently emerged places like Save On Meats, Acme Cafe, and Pronto Caffe. Sterilized versions of the past perhaps, but they are not the Cactus Club, and for that let us be truly thankful.

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