02 February 2007

Inarticulate Inspiration

Last Summer, when I started I Hate Generic on a reactionary whim, I was very interested in beating people over the head with individualism. I was on the verge of plummeting into the depths of the fashion doldrums. My city is decidedly unfashionable. Although it can be quite pleasant and attractive, offering vast panoramic views of the Puget Sound and Mt. Rainier, its denizens leave something to be desired in the realm of style. As I struggle to avoid elitism, the only explanation for my tawdry-clad fellow citizens is that they lack a certain, eh, je ne sais quoi... air of intelligence? Can that be said without elitism? Probably not. I suppose I'm volunteering myself for social crucifixion, but I do think I'm on to something.

I've recently returned from traveling in Europe where I visited many cities, including London, Paris, Rome and Zurich. Sprinkled between those major hubs were tiny, ancient villages and middle class suburbs. Since returning home, I've been struggling to define what it is that I love about Europe. I love it, there's no doubt. It would be easy for me to say that I love it because of all the things it isn't, namely American. I do love that about it.

But here are some other partially-formulated thoughts: Europe commands respect, it doesn't demand it. It is old and sturdy, without being austere. Without being patronizing, it is like an elderly war veteran for whom I have utmost respect. America's the over-privileged punk on the playground, and Europe is the decorated veteran. When I travel in the States, as I have, in no place have I involuntarily become quiet out of respect. Not in New York, not in Washington, D.C., and certainly not in Seattle or Los Angeles. The U.S. demands respect without commanding it. And that can be taken politically, ethnoarchaeologically, architecturally or however. All of the above.

There are things that are so exclusively European that they're nearly impossible to pinpoint. They don't exist elsewhere and they aren't conspicuous or overt.

When I am at home for too long, I can begin to feel like a tire with a slow leak. I can walk around Seattle and enjoy it to some extent, but it does nothing to prevent me from totally deflating. Walking around London and Paris, I felt like I was going to explode. The museums, the architecture, the history, the fashion, the parks, the monuments, the rivers, the stateliness, the music, the ethnodiversity that is totally unrivaled anywhere in the States, all of it stimulated me to a fullness, or awareness, that I've never experienced before.

But the truly fantastic thing is the subtlety of this feeling. It creeps up on you. And I think that is what I want to see in the fashion world: a kind of subtle inspiration that is almost imperceptible, and never contrived. I want to see fashion that's effortless but emphatic. I want to see fashion that looks smart, not juvenile. Confident but not arrogant. European, not American.

(photo courtesy of The Sartorialist)


etoilee8 said...

Sometimes I feel like I'm the only person that ever feels this way. I'm always being told I'm a culture snob by my friends (I was going to blog about that, this week). I am not a culture snob. But I do seek a certain amount of creative inspiration that DC just doesn't provide. . .

Jeannie said...

i came across your blog via la femme. i love it. i love this post.
and i also saved that very image from the sart. because i adored her easy, sexy yet masculine european style. keep it up :)