Fashion Forward: Dr. Martens, British fashion spans generations
Published: Tuesday, September 11, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, September 11, 2012 00:09
The London Underground is a culture shock on its own compared to the New York MTA—fabric seats, no air conditioning, an electronic ticketing system and its unrelenting sliding doors (when you hear “Doors closing” I suggest not to take any chances).
I was sitting in the London Tube on my morning commute this summer, trying to distinguish British from the American fashion style, when I realized the answer was right under my nose—literally.
I was staring at the floor when I noticed the passengers on both sides of me were wearing black Dr. Martens shoes. To my left was the quintessential old British man wearing a flat cap, a collared shirt under an evergreen sweater and a waxed over coat. He carried a long cane-like umbrella and a leather messenger bag—and if smoking were permitted in the Tube, I bet he’d whip out a wooden pipe. His tailored chinos hit right above his ankles, revealing his argyle socks and low-top black Dr. Martens shoes.
The man sitting to my right could not have been more of the opposite. He was young and trendy, sporting a James Dean hairstyle and a vintage button-up shirt cuffed at the forearms where a sleeve of tattoos peaked out his left arm. His dark denim trousers were rolled at his ankles, revealing the laces of his high-top black Dr. Martens boots.
I was sitting between about 45 years of age, and somehow they had something so significant in common—even past classic black leather Doc Martens with the yellow thread sewn around the sole, it was the epitome of how Brits wear things rather than what they’re wearing.
If there’s anything the Brits have nailed, it’s the fit. Whether it’s a casual pedestrian, a posh businessman or a student—the Brits have got tailoring on point. Trousers especially are never too tight nor too loose, sweats are rarely worn in public and length is perfect. Brits dress in a put-together manner—little details such as cuffs, tailored pieces or fastening up that top button by the collar make the difference, though nothing is ever too polished.
Practicality is inherent due to English weather: sturdy Doc Martens, Wellies, waxed jackets or girls in opaque tights under shorts and skirts. Brits carry a beautiful mix of posh style and an edge of utilitarian pieces. Americans are much more focused on classics and comfort—it’s less trend-focused and luckily we have the forecasts that permit tank tops, shorts and simple staples. The beauty of American style lies in simplicity and though we get a lot of flack for boring style, I think Americans can have impeccable taste especially in minimalism. America is envied for Hollywood glamour, the laid-back American girl next-door and the iconic classicism of American royalty thanks to the Kennedys.
The English practice practicality and trends while Americans dress casual and chic. In an interview with Women’s Wear Daily, British actress Emma Watson said, “It’s so funny because now that I’m in America, I’m more able to define it. Before I didn’t have an awareness of another style.” And that’s exactly how I felt until a morning commute to Northeast London.
Finally it was our stop on the Tube: Dalston, East London—the equivalent to New York City’s Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Dalston is the trendiest part of town where young artists reside in empty warehouses and vintage shops stretch out for blocks. The young man who sat to my right blended right in to the streets of trendy, young eccentrics. And the grandpa who sat to my left walked around to the corner newsstand and did in fact smoke a wooden pipe.
I made my way through the rain to work on a casual July morning, while my friends at home sported their Levi cutoffs, tank tops and red, white and blue for America’s 236th birthday.