Fashion police

I went shopping today, and ended up getting a pair of shoes in the sort of tan euro leather sneakery style I’ve been looking for in a while. I had hoped to pick up a bunch of spring stuff as well, but it just didn’t happen, because I’ve no clue what to wear in this place.

“This place” is Ottawa, and “this place” is e-smith, where I work.

Explaining why this is frustrating requires some background. The family business is a chain of men’s clothing stores in Ontario, carrying upmarket stuff from business casual through suits. So I’ve grown up with an awareness of style that’s probably a little more sensitive than your average man’s. I’ve also lived for the past seven years in Montreal, which I would put forth as the best-dressed city in North America.

As I put it to a friend the other day, in Montreal, shopping for clothes is frustrating because you know you can’t keep up. In Ottawa, it’s frustrating because there’s no incentive to try. Excluding the people that have to wear business dress — suits and the like — Ottawa residents really don’t invest much time in appearance. It’s just not a priority here like it is in Montreal. And the selection in the stores reflects that.

In Montreal, whenever I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with clothes or hair, I’d keep an eye out on the street and every now and again go “Hrm, I like that” or “Hm, that looks good on him”. I tried that here, and it just doesn’t happen.

And e-smith does not help at all. Sales dresses like you would expect sales to dress — Banana Republic and up, essentially — but it comes across as a uniform. A couple of programmers have sort of a student-urban-hip thing down pat, Rebecca has a great eclectic secondhand-and-leopard style, and Joe, one of the founders, has a great sense of personal style, but it’s a lot of cheap jeans and logo T-shirts, which is far from inspiring. So day-to-day there really isn’t anyone to dress for, although moving out to the main Kanata campus might help that a bit.

To top this all off, I’ve gained about 15 lbs and two inches since I got here. The gym in Kanata’s going to help that, too, but not overnight.

In any case, I’ve fallen into a style vacuum. I just can’t seem to nail a personal style that doesn’t seem like overdressing for work that’s practical to find around here. I know how to dress sharply, but I can’t quite dress it down enough; but if I try to stick with my Montreal style, I end up overdressing compared to the people I work under, and wondering why I need to wake up earlier to make sure everything’s ironed and just so when everyone else is dressed for a day of cleaning out the garage, and when I’m going to be spending the day sitting at my desk facing a computer.

So I could say “Damn them all!” and maintain the level that I tried to keep up in Montreal, which is pretty much overdressed for the office; or I could head away from America-style stuff towards Gap-style stuff, and feel like I’m dressing for a dot-com. Which I suppose I am, it’s just that on the surface that bugs me a bit.

And my favorite jeans are getting baggy knees.


(I think I’m going to channel my frustration into getting back in shape, so it’s not entirely a bad thing. Getting a bit into the queer scene here might help a bit too. But blergh.)

9 responses to “Fashion police”

  1. Hrm, interesting… here, Gap is considered to be sort of standard for little cut-out mid-late twentiesers who don’t want to rave but don’t know what else to do. I don’t really know what banana republic is.

    Vancouver’s style revolve around the Neverending Hippie look, the Tilley Baby Boomers, the Expensive Sweats Soccer Moms, the Suits, the Well Groomed Gentlemen (gay or not), the Well Groomed Women in Flannel (gay or not) and of course, the people who are just allll over the place. I think I fall into that category myself. =) I just don’t know what to wear anymore. Part of that revolves around the weather here though — -15C in the morning, +20 in the afternoon. No idea what to do in the meantime, unless you dress like an Urban Hiker and do the ridiculous layers of exercise stuff. Which is pretty dumbass, since I’m not an exercise fiend. Sigh.

    Could be worse, could be limited to buying baseball shirts & levi’s 501s, sir. ;)

  2. I am so hip I can’t see over my pelvis.

    Well. Sort of.

    I do button up my shirts these days. But I like to keep things simple. Tshirt. Jeans. Maybe a shirt over that. Aside from the spike and chains and dangly bits.

    Doc Martens : Words cannot describe how much I fucking love these shoes. Once you work them in, the last forever. I’ve been wearing my pair for three years now. They’re great.

    JNCO Jeans : One word. big pockets. I can carry just about anything in them. I have huge hands and they’re hard to fit in any normal pockets. Not a problem. And secretly, I don’t wear these because I’m trying to be hip and stylish with giant legged jeans, I just have huge legs. Really. Giant low back pockets as well so I don’t actually sit on anything in them.

    I also have this bad habit of wearing totally ungoth things like hawaiian shirts and whatnot. As long as it’s black or mostly black, I’ll probably wear it. Honestly, I buy most of my button up shirts from target. The walmart with style. I need to go back there and get this silver studded belt I saw.

  3. Banana Republic is, in the true sense of irony, another one of The Gap, Inc.’s retail lines.

    I’ve never been able to figure out the difference, personally. Some people apparently can. They both look incredibly trendy to me.

  4. No wonder I didn’t know much about it. My usual clothing purchases involve finding one pair of pants that I like, and buying 3 pair. 6 for shirts, 6 for underwear, 6 for socks, 3 for bras. I guess I’m sort of predictable clothingwise, but it only takes me five minutes to get ready to go out. =)

  5. Yeah, I have the same sort of shopping plan. Usually it’s blue jeans, a t-shirt, an unbuttoned button down, and some shoes. Typically the jeans are Levi’s 501s, the tshirt is of the random geek shirt variety (usually free; the price is right), the button down shirts tend to be “find one that’s made well, buy several in different colors or patterns”, the shoes are either Doc Martins or Converse All-Stars. Sometimes I wear my white Red Hat hat.

    Simplicity rules :)