Does London have a distinct style? Is it easy to create the look and learn how to dress like a Londoner? Paris has chic. New York has preened. Tokyo has avant-garde. Milan has labels. Street style is the real city; the beating heart, the palpable soul. And London has soul in spades.
London has always been a melting pot of people and cultures, characters and styles – we welcome one and all, and it’s never been more diverse than now. London street style reflects and celebrates that depth and breadth.
Fashion factions in London range across a huge mix from the dapper, bearded-gent hipsters originally of Shoreditch, who look as if they might have just stepped down from their penny farthings, to the Roadmen and women of Stratford in their puffer jackets who aspire to Armani but generally settle for Champion, to the money’s no object Chelsea clique, and all the many flavours in between. Poles apart in style but they all march to one underlying beat; the London attitude that makes London Street style.
See also: Steampunk fashion
3 Basic Rules
It doesn’t matter your particular coterie, London Street style has three basic rules – be individual, be creative, wear the clothes and don’t let the clothes wear you.
In short, bring your own attitude to whatever you wear.
Possibly the only style faux pas in London is to be a fashion or a label victim. You might be forgiven if you’re a young teen slavishly regurgitating the current fashion dictate and turning up in the inglorious oh-so-on-trend uniform, but which looks ghastly on you, as you find your way to your own style, but by the time you hit your 20s most have passed that phase. And London Street Style really doesn’t demand much. There are very few no-nos.
Whether it’s for smart or casual, be individual; add your personality.
Throw a pattern and a texture together. Pair messy bed head with a hot-off-the-catwalk-and-need-a-mortgage-to-buy-it designer piece (if you can get one). Add a second-hand charity shop bargain to a funky new boutique find. Put a black biker jacket over a floaty floral summer dress. Set a smart fitted dress with a pair of trainers. Layer things up to make a statement.
Anything’s possible. Londoners are masters of juxtaposing odd pairings to throw things off. Think of it as street art, and you’re the canvas. But never take it, or yourself, too seriously.
Nor is age a barrier. There’s no need to be be pale and stale whatever your decade. Take Theresa May, the recently departed Prime Minister, for example – she’s no spring chicken and obviously she wasn’t there to be a style icon – politicians aren’t exactly revered for their style prowess, and let’s put aside her politics for now, but nevertheless she led her own look in her own way. Leopard print kitten heals, chunky chain necklaces, popped collars, colours and patterns aplenty – none of which were particularly trending or fashionable, and whether you liked her look or not, undoubtably she was expressing her unique sass, and better that than being a bland insipid ‘suit’.
Some say that in London we like ‘ugly’ style. It’s true that we don’t require matchy matchy here, nor delicate elegance, nor primped perfection. It’s ok, even good, if it’s a little rough around the edges, and individuality is positively encouraged to stretch to eccentricity.
Sometimes it feels like a contorted mixture of the inner turmoil that is ‘I’m wearing this because I’m fabulous’ with ‘Oh my god I’m so hideous I daren’t try pretty’. The painful vulnerability becomes strength, each distinctive peculiarity becomes style. Unapologetically embracing your inner odd-ball and allowing your idiosyncrasies to lead, becomes beauty.
London Street style needs to be put together in a ‘I don’t give a damn’ dishevelled wild-child sort of way, and carried off with an ‘I look shit hot’ attitude and a sprinkle of self-deprecation. If you can master that, you’ve mastered London Street style.