COLUMN: Let Me Go Home, Stockholm
Discovering Native Fashion Trends In A Foreign Land
Published: Wednesday, September 18, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, September 18, 2013 22:09
I’m going to talk briefly about being abroad now. If that offends you, this is your warning, and you are free to stop reading. I know you probably have friends on friends on friends who won’t shut up about why their city was the greatest and the food was the best and the booze was the cheapest and you’ll just never understand but I’ll keep talking about it even when your eyes glaze over, okay? But really, I swear I have a point.
Under the layers and heavy-duty coats meant to combat the brutal Swedish winters, Swedes have a very special style that is all their own. Some may call it drool-worthy, in fact, the way they layer, the ease with which they make bold choices, and their belief that you should dress presentably every single day. I was in fashion heaven with nary a yoga pant or t-shirt to be seen. Though the majority of the tall, blonde, lipsticked, intimidating, impeccably-dressed Swedish women made me feel like a short redheaded ugly stepsister, I was mostly impressed with the sartorial choices of the Swedish men.
Imagine you are in a Swedish student nightclub. Some foreign DJ is spinning Avicii and everyone is really tall. People stand at the coat check for long stretches of time, changing out of boots, and removing multiple layers of clothing, emerging from their cocoons in flawless fashion. You look across the club, scanning the crowd, neck arched painfully upward. You notice something different here. Something you really didn’t expect to see ... Pocket squares?
At this one particular student club, Stockholm Nation, the men prefer three piece suits, ties, pocket squares, dress shoes, and styled hair to flannels, jeans, and bedhead. And I can’t say that I was complaining. It was hard to believe that these were men just like the ones I had left at home. That they were the same age as the basketball jersey wearing ones I had left at Boston College. A little effort and some wonderful fashion choices had made all the difference.
The men were completely secure in their high fashion and loved to flaunt their personal styles. It was the norm here, not the rarity sometimes spotted on our own campus. Men talked about fashion, had personal style, and made discerning choices. It was like heaven. And all in a sweaty nightclub, in a college town.
This college town also had many amazing vintage stores. My favorite, Ruth & Raoul’s, was a short walk from where I was living, and a frequent destination of mine. A friend visiting from home pressured me into trying on a striped jumpsuit at this particular vintage shop one day. And though I balked at first, knowing that it was probably built for someone twice my height, it was just too cool, and too different to pass up.
I tried on the jumpsuit, with its blue and grey stripes, with a perfectly matched navy blue patent leather belt pulled from a basket. I was instantly in love. And though it was vintage, and not as sleek as some of the current Swedish fashions, it made me feel just a little bit like a real Swede. It was bold, and I loved it. They subscribe to a uniformed boldness that is hard to describe, but that is definitely their thing. So I forked over my Swedish kronor and brought the jumpsuit home, unsure as to when it would actually see the light of day.
A few weeks later, in the light of spring, the Swedes emerged, many still decked out in black leather jackets and boots, not trusting the weak spring sun to warm them still. I had an event at my personal student nation to attend and was of course trying to get dressed at the very last minute. I had picked out a black and cream blouse, skinny black pants, and great heels. It felt okay. And when I asked a friend’s opinion, I remembered the jumpsuit tucked away untouched, still in its green paper bag.
Out it came, and on it went, and it was decided that it was time for it to see some action. It was vintage Swedish after all, what better place to show it off than with a group of native Swedes? I was oddly nervous in my choice, which is not like me at all, as I walked the 20 minutes to the party. When I arrived and took off my coat, I was instantly greeted with compliments. All night everyone, men and women alike, stopped to ask me about it. They loved that it was Swedish, but still so different. That I was an American bringing my own touch, and not trying too hard. One Swedish man, whom I didn’t know, even commented that he wished all girls would wear jumpsuits.
I left the party not loving just the compliments, but that the Swedish men were so into fashion, that they had all noticed what each other was wearing and were willing to discuss the nuances of a great vintage jumpsuit. All while wearing their bow ties, jackets, and pocket squares.