UChic Pop Rocks: Take It to the Streets

With today’s heightened interest in fashion (TV shows like Project Runway, the devotion of museums like NYC-based International Center of Photography to fashion exhibits, celebrity forays into fashion design… the list could go on for days), it is no surprise that street style blogs constitute their own growing genre. Such blogs, epitomized by the granddaddy of them all, The Sartorialist, combine the current fashion obsession and today’s preferred mode of online expression. Unlike much of the user-generated content on the Internet, street style blogs are pleasantly entertaining, inspiring and even uplifting in their simple, unadorned presentation of what people are wearing.

Most street style blogs seem to channel The Sartorialist in format, if not content. The Sartorialist is the baby of Scott Schuman, formerly of the fashion industry and now a full-time photographer and documenter of international street fashion. Since September 2005, Schuman has been snapping digital photos of stylish individuals who catch his eye and uploading them, usually sans captions, to his Sartorialist blog. Having drawn the attention of the fashion world, Schuman now travels in service to Style.com (the online home of Vogue) to fashion capitals such as Milan, Paris and London (plus Stockholm, Florence, New Dehli, Ivy League campuses, etc) in addition to his beloved New York to document high and low fashion as seen on the world’s pavement. The point is and always has been, as Schuman writes, to share photos of people “that I thought looked great.” Schuman says, “My only strategy when I began The Sartorialist was to try and shoot style in a way that I knew most designers hunted for inspiration.”

His site has been inspiring, not only for designers but for budding fashion photographers- and straight-up people watchers- around the world. One can find a street style blog for nearly every major city: Tel Aviv, Tokyo, LA, even Montreal. Other blogs are organized by themes, such as Advanced Style which features pics of old people, or Altamira which differentiates itself by ironically returning to the root of fashion photography: snapping models. Indeed, there are so many street style sites that there exist, for your convenience, websites that simply consolidate the best content of other street style blogs for your viewing pleasure.

The potential glut of street style could be bemoaned for the sites’ amateur approach or, more extremely, for “fast-tracking the death of any sartorial subcultures or actual attempts at rebellion — the cost of the internet age — [by] ironically undermining the true point of eccentric fashion – in defiance of expectation,” as the acid-tongues over at Jezebel so cynically declared.

Yet I prefer to see the positive side of things, and in this case, street style blogs capture weird, elegant, inventive, and altogether unexpected fashion from across the globe. As Virgina Heffernan wrote in her excellent New York Times article on the topic, “A friend of mine won’t look at Garance Doré [fashion blogger] because he says it fills him with longing he can’t bear. I feel nearly the same way, though I don’t stay away; I’m pleasurably overwhelmed.” Similarly, I initially felt depressed viewing the amazingly effortless style boasted by some of the chicest people I’d ever seen- why couldn’t I look so fabulous? But, as I was encouraged to see (by my father!), better to view such imaginative sartorial statements as motivating and creativity-sparking. After all, fashion is about finding inspiration anywhere and everywhere to create something new and different. In that case we can never have too much inspiration- and indeed, never too much street style.

Overwhelmed by choice? To start, click here for (of all people) Justin Timberlake’s digest of hot street style sites- naturally, this rising fashion star has compiled an excellent list.

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