Fashion in Los Angeles 2011 - Part One

Men's Fashion in Los Angeles

August 2, 2011

Some say there is no fashion in Los Angeles. I don't believe this is quite true. Certainly Los Angeles is not a fashion mecca like New York city, but we do have a sense of style and it is unique to Southern California where temperatures hover between 60° and 70° F most of the time. Winter is a slightly different proposition when the mercury dips to a chilly 50° F; Angelinos compensate though in interesting ways.

My take is there is no unique fashion in Los Angeles. We are typically behind by about a year or so with major trends. After all our best designers don't stay here long. Once they become acknowledged they tend to go elsewhere where there is more recognition and a better chance of making a good living with that fashion trend.

Though Los Angeles (from here on Angelinos) men do not typically have the latitude that women do in fashion, they still make a concerted effort to cultivate a specific look. The overriding factor in that look is cool/casual, but layered atop that projected ease are a number of styles popular for the male Angelino.

As it should be, these looks either tell you something about the man or what the man wants to project with just a glance. No conversation is necessary, not lengthy discussion, just a glance at his attire and you'll know something about him. Of course this is the entire point; that and looking good.

"It takes substantial care to look like you don't care." - Gendy Alimurung

Studied Cool / Casual

Angelinos have one unique aspect to fashion. That aspect is characterized by the words "cool" and "casual." In fact few places in the United States make such a concerted effort to affect the look of cool/causal as Angelinos in the L.A. basin.

Which, when you think about it, is a dichotomy in terms.

Los Angeles men's fashion is a case in point.

Duff McKagan as Rocker Vampire
Duff McKagan as Rocker Vampire | Source

Rocker Vampire

Black is the color.

Clothes are tight fitting and may consist of black jeans or black leather (or pleather) pants. Black leather vests are also worn. Tank tops, bomber jackets, T-shirts, high or banded color shirts and even an occasional splash of color. But any color (usually blood red) is minor in the scheme of things with black the predominant color for almost every stitch of clothing.

Accessories include boots (black of course), studded wide belts, studded dog collars or a necklace with a single chrome or silver ornament. The ornamentation may have a specific meaning that the vampire shares only with those closest to him. Men may also wear chains between belt loop and wallet. Black fingerless gloves are also an occasional accessory. Some men sport ear-rings on one or both sides; silver of course. Ear ring location does not seem to be significant.

None of these fellows visit a tanning booth. Many avoid being outside during daylight hours. No self-respecting vampire sports a tan.

Younger men may enhance the look of sunless living with makeup. Eye liner and light lip coloring will enhance the anemic white skin look so carefully cultivated. Of course the hair is often black too; usually straight, slightly long and carefully quaffed so that it looks like it wasn't styled at all. A mildly wild mop that is cut to casually hang just over the eyes is a common look. One cannot fling hair out of the face with a head-toss if it's too short. Black is the most popular color for hair, but it's not a requirement.

The entire carefully crafted look is designed to give the observer a slight taste of mystery, foreboding, and, yes, even fear.

Each rocker vampire look is carefully crafted so that it is different enough from every other rocker vampire in that it reflects an individual's style.

It's not Cheap
The look is not a cheap one to attain. Footware alone can run into the hundreds of dollars, especially if filigree silver toe caps are included. Specially styled pants and shirts are also expensive. The look is a carefully studied and that alone makes it costly.

For the men it is also a matter of collectables; boots, belts and chains may stay in the man's clothes collection for years and for this reason cost is not the primary consideration; it's the look that is paramount.

If specific t-shirts are chosen it is because of the brand and/or design emblazoned on them. These are expensive too with some t-shirts running into the hundreds of dollars each. The Vampire look is not cheap no matter how "thrown together" it may look.

My Take
This is not my look, but I can admire it just the same. Vampires have not held such a prominent place in our collective culture out of mere chance. There is something about the sinister that is attractive and captivating. The men who cultivate this look know this.

One of the reasons for looking a certain way is to attract others. To form a tight-knit social unit of like minded people, and yes, to even attract the physical interest of others.

In our movie culture, vampires only attempt to attract non-vampires if the effort will convert a "normal" into another vampire. This is often true of Los Angeles vampires as well.

In short I find it an interesting and intriguing look, but I could not pull off "vampire" with a Hollywood special effects team.

Nice People
Despite the very deliberate attempt to look sinister I've yet to meet a truly evil or nasty vampire rocker.

Father and Son Surfing
Father and Son Surfing | Source
Owen Wilson's Surfer Hair
Owen Wilson's Surfer Hair | Source

Surfer/Athlete

Surfer
This is another look common in Southern California. It is a studied look to project the possibility that the wearer just got off a surfboard and headed inland to eat or interact.

It typically consists of board shorts and a t-shirt or tank top. Footware is as simple as flip-flops or old Converse tennis-shoes; no socks.

There are few if any accessories, usually limited to a simple necklace with one pendant. Shark's teeth are still popular ornaments. The hair is typically very carefully cut to look like a it is about two months too old. Owen Wilson's long lived hairstyle is a perfect example of this. Additionally a surfer male may sport facial hair, but if worn, the beards and sideburns are closely trimmed affairs or simply the "I haven't shaved in three days" look.

Nothing says "causal" quite like a three day beard and a long overdue haircut.

Weather does play a role in attire. Real surfers do not wear just board-shorts and t-shirts during the fall and winter months. But you can be pretty certain those items are worn under the skin-tight wet suit. The wet suit (see photo) can be a one peice affair that covers torso and legs or it can be a half-suit that covers the area from the waist to the ankles.

Athlete
Another common look, one shared by both men and women, is the athletic look. It consists of shorts or gym slacks, a "boyfriend" beater over a short or long sleeved t-shirt and expensive running shoes. Socks are optional, but if present they are the short variety coming just to the ankle. It does not matter if the socks are white or black so long as they are the variety that are thick and coarsely woven.

The athlete look is a studied one as it is desirable to wear expensive, name-brand, athletic wear that has seen at least ten wash cycles so it looks well worn and used. Accessories, if any, are typically limited to an iPod worn on the upper arm with the required headphones.

It is the shoes that are the really expensive item with every brand name imaginable being worn. The shoes are also expensive because this is the one item of attire that is most likely the newest. Shoe designs change yearly (if not more often) and those people projecting an athletic air are very likely to buy and wear the latest designs and not just for the style.

Though I'm referring to this particular fashion statement as a "look," many of those wearing it are very serious about being fit.

Pulling it Off
A state of good health is absolutely vital for either of the two looks above. Most people, men or women, who affect the athletic or surfer look are lean and muscular.

Yes, that are some exceptions to this rule, but those are are not in the best of shape are out there running or jogging in order to attain the look of glowing health as soon as humanly possible.

Cyclists
Cyclists | Source
London Cyclist
London Cyclist | Source

The Cyclist

This look typically consists of clothing specifically designed for bicycling. The shirt and pants are specifically designed to be streamlined and are usually synthetic fabrics. They are universally skin-tight and are sometimes emblazoned with logos.

Both the tops and bottoms are specifically designed to reduce wind resistance. The pants often have padded seats to help the rider prevent saddle sores.

Shoes are either very light-weight tennis shoes or those specifically designed to clip onto the peddles of the bicycle.

No self respecting cyclist would be seen without a streamlined light-weight helmet either.

Though it is rare to see someone dressed this way walking into an office it does happen. As with other athletic endeavors in Los Angeles cyclists are pretty serious about their sport. This means the "cyclist fashion statement" is equally serious.

Scarecrow
Scarecrow | Source

The Scarecrow

This is not what I would call this particular fashion statement. I would refer to it as "Farmer John," but the moniker "scarecrow" has stuck in the fashion industry here so I'll keep it.

The look typically consists of well worn jeans or overalls, old tennis shoes or forestry boots, a belt, and a plaid or old embroidered cowboy shirt. If overalls are worn the belt is certainly optional. A hat is optional, but if worn, it will be old, beat up and may even be made of straw.

The look on women is entirely different, but this article is about men so I'll cover the scarecrow look for women in part three.

This is one of the cheapest looks to attain, but don't be fooled by the simplicity. Some of those shirts are quite expensive as are the high top boots.

Elvis Presley pioneered this look
Elvis Presley pioneered this look | Source

Morissey Rockabilly

The Morissey Rockabilly look typically consists of tight fitting slim line jeans with a dark wash, open necked long sleeved shirts, and black leather belt. The look also might include a western cut sport jacket.

Footware might include pointed cowboy boots, blue-suede shoes, ankle high pointed boots, or dark or black tennis shoes with suede uppers.

It's the Hair
The most notable feature of this look is the hair, the sides may be close-cropped but the top of the hairline is long and held in place with pomade or other hair dressing forming a pompadour. Long side-burns are also in vogue, but they are typically short-haired and very carefully trimmed.

Facial hair is not typically part of this look so "flavor savers" or "van dykes" will not be seen.

According to Los Angeles Weekly this is a look favored by young men of Hispanic origin. Though the look was most often associated with Elvis Presley, Morissey re-popularized it.

The Suit with Bowler
The Suit with Bowler | Source

The Suit

This is both the attire and the type of fashionista wearing it.

For years the only people you might see wearing a suit would be lawyers or someone having to appear in court. This is no joke.

But the look is starting to find favor here in Los Angeles with younger men between twenty and thirty years of age. The look is exactly what you would expect with a two or three piece dark suit, a dress shirt, tie, and matching leather belt and shoes. Socks are not optional.

Though this appears to be an expensive look it is actually one of the cheapest. Suits are a hard sell in Los Angeles and a decent well cut suit can be easily had for very little money.

As with other styles the most expensive item is often the shoes.

Inspired by fashion advertizing
Inspired by fashion advertizing | Source

The Boxer

This is a look I've seen from time to time. I'm not sure what it would actually be called in the fashion industry so I'm calling it the boxer. The reason is the man who affects this style really can't pull it off unless he is in excellent physical condition. The reason is that the look is a state of partial undress; the man does not wear a shirt.

The look typically consists of embroidered pocket jeans and cowboy boots or other leather footware. An elaborate belt is not required, but may be present. The jeans themselves are hip riders; the idea is also to feature the very top of the underwear so the observer can make out the brand.

Unlike the skate-board punk look that was so popular only recently, the jeans do not hang well past the wearers behind, but they do hang just below the waste of the underwear.

I'm convinced this particular look was inspired by advertizing campaigns for blue-jeans.

The biggest problem with this look is the requirement to be in top-notch physical shape. I've seen a number of men, not too many, affecting this look and every one of them could have been a model for the ancient Greek or Roman sculptors. Every last one of them had a well defined muscular build that can only come about with anaerobic weight training and lots and lots of exercise.

Elvis Presley
Elvis Presley | Source

The Beachcoming Retiree

This is the last of the looks I'll cover in this article. It is normally affected by older men who wish to project an air of comfortable retirement with a causal attitude.

Though the pants can be everything from Bermuda shorts to blue jeans to Dockers, the shirt is almost universally the tropical variety. No belt is visible as the skirt of the shirt hides the waist area. Tropical shirts are short sleeved with a skirt that comes well below the waist. Colors and patterns can vary wildly from a solid color to a printed pattern. There are even some shirts that have an Jacquard pattern woven in. The buttons on these shirts are also particular to the item; they are often crafted to look like coconut shell.

Footware is typically flip-flops or river sandals.

Hats are optional, but common. Sunglasses are almost universal.

The shirt is the most distinctive feature of this look. The shirts are referred to as guayabera, aloha, tropical, or Hawaiian. Interestingly this is another look popularized by Elvis Presley in the movie Blue Hawaii.

In almost every case the shirt and pants must be carefully ironed. The wearer is casual, but neat. A wrinkled shirt says "beach bum," an ironed one says "comfortable retiree."

Wrapping Up

According to fashionistas, Los Angeles does not have a particular style it can call its own. What we have here is often a year or two behind the fashion centers elsewhere.

We don't have fashion events any larger than those in Los Vegas and most of the trendsetters eventually move on to more money and more recognition. So the "infrastructure" required of a great fashion center just isn't there. But we do have a thriving clothing manufacturing base. Perhaps it is only a matter of time before Los Angeles becomes a fashion center in it's own right.

It will only take the will of a few fashion designers who stay put and merchants that support the effort to make it happen. So by all accounts Los Angeles is not a fashion center at all, but it could be.

I think this is only partially true. Yes, most of the fashion we have here comes from somewhere else, but every last bit of it has a carefully crafted casualness to it that you won't find anywhere else.

In fact, I think Los Angeles fashion wearers go to great lengths to look as casual as humanly possible, which takes a great deal more effort than the look hints at.

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Comments 2 comments

ian contacts profile image

ian contacts 5 years ago from Christchurch, New Zealand

Good reading! You are right...when it comes to fashion...there is no location!


luisj305 profile image

luisj305 5 years ago from Florida

Great article. And yes there are a variety of styles in L.A. you described most of them very well.

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