PHABRIK Magazine

The World of Street Style

By Mark St. James - Marquis of Fashion

September 2013

The world of street style has been growing at an exponential rate ever since Fashion Photographer Bill Cunningham published his candid shots of Greta Garbo in the New York Times back in 1978. What made those images different
from a million other paparazzi shots, was that Bill had no idea it was Greta Garbo; he took the photo because of his appreciation of her style and was genuinely interested in the way her coat draped handsomely on her body. Bill Cunningham is not only a very successful columnist at the New York Times but his career was also made into a film in 2010. Richard Press decided to produce “Bill Cunningham New York” to showcase Bill as the founding father of the “street style” genre.

Now, a photo of a woman in Mexico with a multi coloured poncho can go viral in hours and drive millions of hits a day across the internet. The smallest detail can be seen as beautiful or bizarre but the choice is in the eye of the photographer whether a look is interpreted as fashion or faux pas. Everyone is a graduate of the police academy of fashion when it comes to street style because, it’s encouraged. The only difference between watching people on the street and scrolling through piles of jpegs is that screaming out “That’s Nasty!” is really only acceptable in the comments of a blog.

It is through street style that people can enhance their style diction and increase their appetite for new inventive ways to tie a turban or wrap a sarong. But aside from expressing your inner voyeuristic tendencies why
are people so obsessed with street style?

When a photo is taken of a model on the runway, you get to see a slice of what the designer feels is stylish for a particular season. From the hair, make-up, clothes, accessories, nail polish, runway, backdrop, and model, the image that is finally taken of the collection is so contrived that nothing is outside of what the designer had in mind when electing what you should see. Street style is a culmination of everything that is happening in the world at that moment (because the backdrop is the street in all its spontaneity) and the model is 100% untouched by another stylist or fashion enthusiast. This means that every person on the street is dressed the way they are because they chose to dress that way. And when a look really comes together and shines, the credit can go to that individual because they artfully crafted their look and knowingly or unknowingly inducted themselves into a world where the flick of a scarf in the wind or the properly placed glossy neon belt inspires someone thousands of kilometres away.

Of course street style wouldn’t be what it is today without some of the front-liners who championed their DSLR’s and took advantage of the www. platform. Scott Schuman from The Sartorialist and Tommy Ton from Jak and Jill hit the scene with an eye for style and a passion for exposure. Not through traditional means but by means of their blogs which reach thousands of people a day and do their part to enhance the mainframe of personal style. When a street style photographer asks to take a quick shot of you, it’s flattering and exciting. You may be a little self conscious due to your lack of modelling experience or ever-so-slightly dusty patent leather wingtips; but at the end of the day the photog (Photography Blogger) chose you to be a page in their book titled people watching.

Once upon a time people would sit on a patio and soak in the tragic and tremendous looks that happened across their paths, at times, the pickings would be slim while others there’d be more eye candy than a machine twirling glistening pulled taffy. Why take the gamble of waiting for gold to walk by when you can see the best of the best from Paris, New York, and London at the click of a button? This is what street style is, a compendium of where fashion has come from, where it’s going, and who’s wearing what.


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