Fashion Friday: Is Boston a Fashion City?

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When you walk down the street here, chances are you’ll see people that run the gamut of fashion. There will be the well dressed ladies of Beacon Hill walking briskly in high heels down the brick sidewalks, clutching their Birken bags, but on the same block will be a group of sleepy college boys dressed in the worst gym shorts and tank tops money can buy.

It’s interesting because Boston is not usually known as a fashion hub, although it is a hub for almost everything else! There are fashion weeks, and there are other fashion events, but they never receive the press that other cities do. Indeed, there are so many art school students and working creatives in the city that it seems like there should be more attention paid to the unique styles and clothing that they bring with them.

One reason for this silence on the fashion front may stem from a damning 2011 GQ article that lists Boston as the ‘worst dressed city in America,’ a dubious distinction, to be sure. While the title does sting, is it true?

No, I think not.

And, it turns out I am not alone:

While every city is host to some sartorial sins, Boston is a city full of style and fashion, as demonstrated by the burgeoning local blogging community, rich street style, and the growth of such institutions as Boston Fashion Week in the city. One need only walk through Boston to see that its citizens are urbane, stylish, and au courant.

Martine Severin, [curator of Severin Photography] who has lived in Boston since the tender age of ten, finds fashion inspiration on the streets of Boston and around the world. Her work has achieved both local and international relevance–she has exhibited her work at City Hall and the Boston Center for Adult Education, and her photos have been lauded throughout the Web. Outside of Boston, she has shot street style photographs around the world — at fashion week and otherwise in places like Australia and Span, to name a few from this year alone. Why, then, does Severin make her home in Boston?

“There is fashion, style and beauty in Boston at every turn,” said Severin, “Today I was walking about and noticed this young man in peach colored jeans and canary yellow sneakers. It was a wonderful combination. Then there was an older woman dressed in black who had the most beautiful wave of silver hair. I think GQ may not have looked hard enough before declaring us the worst dressed city in the US.”

Boston Street Style

A stylish Bostonian leans on a bike. Photo by Martini Severin.

Indeed, Boston is not only the heart of original preppy style, but is also full of hip, downtown aesthetics. Part of this aesthetic diversity is, of course, owed to the city’s multiculturalism. “There are people from all over the world here. It’s wonderful to have so many cultures here. Just last week [my husband and I] were deciding between going out for Thai, Senegalese or Tibetan. I love Boston for its diversity in style, culture and food,” says Severin, who often photographs stylish Bostonians on the street of many cultures.

Boston’s music scene also contributes to the style scene. With bands like the Dropkick Murphys, the Pixies, Aerosmith, and countless others getting their starts in the city, Boston has deep musical roots. This inevitably generates a deep style impetus. Boston is a fixture on countless artists’ touring routes, attracting acts both tiny and extravagant—one need only attend one of these concerts to see the diversity of style present in Boston.

As the world’s biggest college town, with a significant portion of its population represented by undergraduate students, there is certainly a collegiate influence on the Boston style scene as well. GQ’s claims of undergrad sloppiness, however, only go so far. While it is true that many students spend a part of their time in sweats, Ugg boots, and hoodies (the main style offenders cited by GQ), there is a preponderance of style represented on Boston’s college campuses.