The way clothes should be.
To say that New England, and specifically Maine, an area I have spent quite a bit of time in, isn’t known for their fashion would be…entirely true. In fact Portland, one of the State’s largest cities is routinely voted one of the top five worst dressed cities. Why is this you might ask? We’re not talking about some backwater place with no televisions or fashion magazines. Surely Mainers have their finger on the pulse of fashion as much as the next American? Sadly, no. You won’t find any H&Ms, Topshops, or Urban Outfitters anywhere near the state of Maine.
So what will you find?
In my travels around New England I have carefully observed and documented many a fashion faux-pas. However, three particularly bad offenders resurfaced so many times I’m beginning to think there’s a state uniform nobody ever told me about.
1. Birkensocks. No, this isn’t a typo. Birkensocks is the very specific combination of Birkenstocks and socks. This style is worn by many all through the winter to keep the feet warm during snow season. Why they don’t just invest in a pair of closed-toe shoes, a boot for example, I do not know. N.B. The socks are usually wool and the more eccentric may splash out and wear a highly patterned pair.
2. If lost please return to…New Englanders LOVE their hometown branded sweatshirts. I’m not sure if this indicates a deep seeded fear of getting lost or perhaps just a great pride for one’s home town. Either way it’s not actually the branded hoodie that I’m calling fashion police on, in fact the ‘school leavers hoodie’ has been on the rise in the UK in recent years, so pot and kettles and all that. However, the ill-fitting nature of the American hoodie is the real issue. For most bigger is better and sadly this often means a jumper down to your knees. N.B. I will admit to owning a Maine hood. It doesn’t touch my knees though.
3. Flannel. I’m not talking about a facecloth. No I’m talking about a shirt. A checked shirt. But not one of those ones you can buy in Topshop, no this is a proper lumberjack shirt purchased from an outdoorsy type shop. It’s cozy and warm and usually red. Not the most attractive but a bit like UGG boots once you’ve tried it out and realised how delightfully comfortable and cosy it is you’ll never go back. Probably best never to try it then! N.B. I have tried it and in the winter months have to fight a daily battle not to succumb to the call of the flannel.
What’s going on underneath?
Now obviously these three trends are a slight stereotype. Not everyone in the north east wears sandals and socks, just a lot. But as they saying goes it’s more important what going on underneath that counts. And I’m not talking about underwear. Some of my very best friends rock flannels with the best of them and would know the difference between Marc Jacobs and Philip Lim if they slapped them in the face and honestly every time I see them I always come away wishing that I cared a little less. After all who really cares if my jumper’s down to my knees and I wear a North Face everywhere I go? Living in the city it’s almost impossible not to be drawn in to the highstreet’s idea of fashion but for a few blissful weeks each year I cast off any labels, stick on some shorts, flip-flops and a t-shirt and never give it a second thought. They say that Maine is the way life should be. I can’t say I disagree.