What Not to Wear (in Vancouver)

Mec Spectre Jacket

This is what to wear…

Pam has become a real fan of the Learn­ing Chan­nel pro­gram ‘What Not to Wear’. It’s a show in the mold of ‘Queer Eye for the Straight Guy’, only this time it’s Fash­ion-Eye for the Clue­less Girl. Sta­cy Lon­don and Clin­ton Kel­ly take some woman who has no fash­ion sense and maybe a lot of poten­tial, give them a $5,000 cred­it card shop­ping spree in NYC, and throw away all of their old clothes (while tak­ing them to task in all man­ner of zingers as they do so). After a new hair­do and make­up ses­sion, the trans­formed vic­tim arrives to cheers of friends, cowork­ers and fam­i­ly (this part is the most staged and feels very much like the show is a rip-off of Queer Eye). Unlike the oth­er show, it does not seem to me to have quite as much of a ‘good heart’, but Pam feels she is learn­ing lots of good tips and rules of thumb along the way.
Fast for­ward to dress­ing here. All of the rules are back­wards. In the world of fash­ion, Van­cou­ver is Bizarro World (for the non-Super­man or Sein­feld-savvy, Biz­zaro world is the inven­tion of the afore­men­tioned comics, a place where up is down, good-bye is hel­lo, and wrong is right. You get the idea.

Dress­ing up in Van­cou­ver is wear­ing some­thing that isn’t falling apart. As a friend of Mat­t’s exclaimed dur­ing a recent vis­it, “Every­one looks like they’re about an hour away from snow­board­ing.” (Which tech­ni­cal­ly we are, if you fac­tor in the dri­ve to Grouse and line for lift tick­ets). When I go into work, which is in Gas­town (a slight­ly seedy and touristy area that has many pan­han­dlers) and hap­pened to be dressed a lit­tle nicer, I stand out, in a way that’s prob­a­bly not so good (i.e. , I’m approached by more pan­han­dlers, who assume I’m a rich tourist). We’re talk­ing kha­ki pants, but­ton down shirt and leather jack­et here; that’s overdressed.

In prac­ti­cal terms, a leather jack­et is fair­ly use­less around here, any­way. When it’s dry and the leather jack­et would be safe to wear, it’s too warm. When it’s cold enough for the leather jack­et, it’s usu­al­ly too wet.

The stan­dard jack­et here is a wind­break­er or alpine jack­et, , made of GORE-TEX. usu­al­ly with a hood, (see above pic­ture) obtained at a Moun­taineer­ing or Sports store (The MEC is renowned here.) As for pants, it’s den­im, or per­haps car­go pants. The shirt? Long-sleeved or short-sleeved T, sweat­shirt (prefer­ably also hood­ed). To top it all off, if it’s cold out­side, fin­ish the whole ensem­ble with a Toque (the Cana­di­an term for knit­ted cap, often, but now always with a lit­tle pom-pom at the top). Colours can match, but don’t have to. Shoes are Doc Martens, jog­ging shoes, or those bowl­ing shoes that went in style a few years ago (which I wish I could wear, but can nev­er get in a width that is nar­row enough).

So my dif­fi­cul­ty here is that much of my Boston­ian-cen­tric wardrobe, includ­ing half a dozen white but­ton-down shirts, some fan­cy wool trousers and assort­ed cardi­gans and cash­mere sweaters is what the fish out of water is wear­ing here. Today I went out in some old jeans, a grey t‑shirt topped with a choco­late brown shirt that has no col­lar, and wore a hood­ed fleece sweat­shirt. Walk­ing back from the local caf�, I said to Pam “Today, I final­ly feel like I look like the every­one else.”

2 Replies to “What Not to Wear (in Vancouver)”

  1. Im real­ly sur­prised you feel that way about Van­cou­ver. I will admit that there is quite a wide vari­ety of style, but defi­nate­ly not what you are describ­ing as the norm. If you are down­town any­where, there is plen­ty of eclec­tic and high­end style and in no way would khak­i’s and a but­ton up shirt stand out. I’m not sure what Boston was like, but I dont think Van­cou­ver can be stereo­typed like you convey…It just does­n’t seem right to me. Thanks

  2. Hi Chantelle -
    I’m glad to hear that my wardrobe does­n’t need to be thrown (or stored) away.

    It may be the part of town that I’m work­ing in (Gas­town), which has a lot of, shall we say ‘less fash­ion con­cious’ types. Work­ing for a small soft­ware com­pa­ny does­n’t help either (pro­gram­mers are noto­ri­ous for their dress­ing habits). When I was work­ing in Boston for tha past year or so, it was in the heart of the Finan­cial dis­trict, and there, when you walked down the street, you’d see peo­ple dressed a lot more for­mal­ly than here.

    I have to admit that when I have seen some­one dressed well here, they’ve stood out. I’ve cer­tain­ly seen some nice cloth­ing stores, but I rarely ever seem to see those out­fits on peo­ple and have men­tioned this to oth­ers as I pass the stores.

    Maybe it’s just me, maybe it’s East coast ver­sus West coast (and Boston real­ly is about the most stuffy off East coast loca­tions). Per­cep­tion, par­tic­u­lar­ly of cloth­ing and oth­er cus­toms, is real­ly hard to do accu­rate­ly. Anoth­er case of the metaphor of the blind men and the ele­phant, I guess.

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