In the 1957 movie 'Funny Face', Audrey Hepburn plays a downtrodden but educated woman who works in a bookstore; plain and dowdy. Her life is transformed when Dick Avery, a hot fashion photographer, decides she is to be the new face of Quality magazine, and, suddenly, she becomes the bleeding edge of fashionable.
I can empathise. Hepburn's experience is not unlike that which any European will has upon arrival in America. Because America, as a nation, is sartorially retarded. It is a wasteland. I've been to better-dressed homeless shelters.
Now, I'm not an individual overly concerned with fashion: I normally wear t-shirts and jeans, I have silly-coloured socks. My shirts - pure cotton though they may be - are unimaginatively plain and pinstriped, in a lazy, preppy sort of way. I do possess - and I admit this with great reticence - t-shirts with beer company logos on them. That's t-shirts. Plural. All in all, I'm no Kate Moss.
But I look decent. I don't wear white sports socks with a black suit. I don't wear shorts to restaurants. I don't own a fanny pack. I don't wear running shoes to work. I believe fedora hats had their day in the early 20th century. In fact, even a day was pushing it. (Oh, and by the way, it is customary in civilised countries to remove your hat inside. Cunts.)
Furthermore, I believe bermuda shorts to be a beach clothing item. You've already heard my opinions on baseball caps. Don't even get me started on wedding attire ("Congratulations, you looked like a complete twat on the most important day of your life").
Clearly, New York has some very fashionable people (I've even spied some harem pants of late: mais oui!), but if you speak to any of them - which I often do, in my line of work - they tend to be European. The Americans try and copy, but just don't get it. The hipsters - fedora hats, canvas shoes, capri pants, stupid, lo-fidelity headphones and badly-tuned guitars - are the worst, because they're obviously trying really hard.
In truth, New York is tolerable. But dare to venture out into New England or Jersey, and God help you. New York is a sort of halfway house - a safe haven for any would-be European visitor to start with. Like the little coves you practice windsurfing in, it helps those a little wet behind the ears to adjust. From there, they can make little weekend trips into the open ocean of sartorial carnage, so that the tsunamis of middle America don't immediately get them. One denim jeans-denim jacket combo is one thing, but try being faced by a hundred of them at once.
The whole thing is exacerbated by the obscene, graphic obesity everywhere you look. If you think a t-shirt bearing the logo of a fake girder company and it's fake date of incorporation printed faintly so as to add an air of Retro Charm is unspeakably horrendous, wait 'til you've seen it stretched hopefully, vainly over three hundred pounds of prime Yanksteak.
None of this bothers me terribly - as cultural omissions go, well-tailored trousers I can deal with. It just adds an old-fashioned air to the whole place, taken with everything else. Prices are a little cheaper, the clothes are a little 90s, the music is mostly pre-teen. They are still arguing about gay marriage. It's Europe, five years ago. Except there aren't any jobs.
P.S. Thought I should drop in a link to America's sartorial Bible: People of WalMart.