Fashion Forward: The Fashion Forefathers
Published: Monday, November 12, 2012
Updated: Monday, November 12, 2012 19:11
Nearly 22 years ago I was born in Queens and I made sure no one would forget. It was my bragging anecdote I’d bring up regularly as a kid and my go-to conversation starter. It was not just because New York seemed like where the naturally-interesting came from, or that Queens sounded like some magical kingdom in my head, but because I was the first in my family to be born in America. Truthfully, I was raised in the suburbs of Philadelphia, but my American citizenship continued to be something I was proud of.
After falling in love with the lands in my history books and satisfying my wanderlust and observing other cultures, I’ve never appreciated the United States more. It’s been a week since one the most influential elections of the 21st century and many are suffering from post-election blues. There’s no denying the patriotic pride in the air, as America has a lot to be proud of, including her style.
When it comes to American fashion, it’s all about classic taste, great basics, staples with a heritage and a modern take. The aesthetic may be less dramatic but not necessarily drab. Our fashion forefathers, as listed below, are truly renowned for their style and have impacted everything from underwear to wedding gowns.
American fashion designer Calvin Klein transformed the meaning of sportswear back in the 1980s when underwear for men just meant grabbing plastic packs of three. Suddenly, basic briefs became a designer staple as Calvin Klein underwear suddenly hit billboards modeled by celebs like Mark “Marky Mark” Wahlberg. Klein transformed sportswear to look like something more than just loungewear. Cool, minimalistic basics and denim make the iconic Calvin Klein ad. Throw on basic white tee or gray tank with some jeans and you’ve got a cool, effortless look. Layer on silver jewelry or a leather jacket for edgy accents.
Fashion designer Ralph Lauren started making neckties in the 1970s under the name “Polo”—the brand that would soon become the epitome of American fashion. He created the iconic “preppy” appeal and established an American lifestyle image. Well-made button downs, chinos and sweaters—the Ralph Lauren look embodies the modern Gatsby. Whether your style is preppy or not, the classic polo shirt is a staple in every person’s closet. It’s easy, neat, chic and stylish.
And over the recent decades, our country has produced some of the best designers in the world: Donna Karen, Betsey Johnson, Marc Jacobs and Oscar de la Renta to name a few. Vera Wang is renowned for her gorgeous wedding gowns, that combine modern sophistication and traditional elegance. Newer designers like Jason Wu, Naeem Khan and Thakoon are pushing boundaries and creating fresh, innovative designs but keeping the American contemporary aesthetic, and one happy client is known for displaying their work in effortless grace—First Lady Michelle Obama.
The most influential style icon in politics, let alone in the fashion world, is probably Michelle Obama. President Barack Obama sold his platform as president of the people, and his positive qualities can be traced back to his relation to us—and Michelle Obama does the same, with clothes. Michelle Obama picks her pieces wisely and selects clothing accessible to people, thereby identifying herself as one of us. She’s not ashamed to show off her arms, meet the Queen of England in a cardigan or mix her wardrobe with affordable brands like J. Crew, Target or Gap. When she does wear designer duds, she opts for up-and-coming designers over the established elite. Not only does the First Lady’s style embody elegance and modern sophistication, but she uses the power of fashion to make statements, inspire change and relate to the people.
With every country, clothes represent a lifestyle—we’re known for laidback BBQs, trips to the beach, Hollywood glamour and New England’s preppy Americana gentry. Our history is undoubtedly a part of our national aesthetic, but we share an attitude of moving forward, inspiring change and making a statement that conveys modernity in our style. Our style is simple yet refined, classic yet contemporary and a stylish reflection of America the beautiful.