I spent last week in LA for Thanksgiving. Let me be clear. I love LA. It is one of the most enigmatic, contradictory, and mystique-laden cities ever created. It’s easy to look down your nose at Los Angeles, with its sprawl, its year-round tans (real and otherwise), and its unabashed addiction to consumption. It is what it is, but to sneer so easily at LA is a grand act of hypocrisy. LA is just a massive, undisguised take on American values. People hate on LA, I think, because LA IS America. It’s our youth-obsessed culture, it’s our consumption-addicted culture, it’s our ego-driven ambition, and it’s our vulnerable fear of failure.
While I was there, I heard two early twenty-somethings talking about how they never wanted to turn 30. They never wanted to get old. I’m 31, but I found this more amusing than offensive. I had always looked forward to turning 30. Thirty meant that you could drop the bullshit, you could start to really be yourself without fear of someone raising a judgmental eyebrow in your direction. It meant that you could start wearing whatever the fuck you wanted and if some little snot said some shit, you could write them off as “small-minded.” That was my 22-year-old take on 30.
The twenties were great. Sort of. They were all about appropriately branding myself, which was frankly sort of exhausting. I occasionally found some weird sweater or something at Eddie Bauer, but wouldn’t buy it because it didn’t fit the image of myself. Often– like many people in LA actually– I was doing too much all at once, ever in service of my personality brand. I was thinking about all of this when I walked into the magical wonderland of Opening Ceremony, on La Cienega, and saw a very friendly staff of young personality brands.
Spoiler alert: unlike San Francisco, LA actually has a vibrant fashion scene that exists entirely separately from the first glance “look” of LA’s beach bod, plastic surgery, intentionally-ripped jeans, Ed Hardy persona. But you have to look for it. It’s your responsibility, it’s your labor of love. If you think San Francisco is stylish, then you’re buying your clothes online. San Francisco’s fashion persona is definitely a much nicer first glance, but wait a second and you’ll find there’s no there there. This is true for a lot of reasons, but mainly it’s true because if you want a city with dynamic designers, innovative approaches, and quality craftsmanship, you have to invest in it as a city. New York actively invests in their designers (duh), as does LA. They also invest in their artists, by the way, whereas San Francisco and Oakland like to use their artists to drive up property values for developers and then claim a “vibrant arts scene.” True story.
Sadly, Opening Ceremony was a little bit of a bust. I got there too late (they were closing in 15 minutes) and the store was massive– too massive to peruse in a whirlwind. I remember almost nothing of what they had, except for all of the Pendelton items, and a few other drool-worthy gems. Which I openly coveted in the hopes that I would discover some sort of sample item loophole.
At any rate, here is a list of items that I didn’t buy because I became overwhelmed and panicked:
I never would have worn any of these things in my twenties because, well, they were too expensive (the Gaultier coat remains too expensive for this decade, too), but also because I was constantly moving from one look to another. The lack of focus and constant experimentation was fun, but I actually prefer cultivating a more classic look that I can grow up with and riff off of in really fun ways. And with well-made materials. Which brings me back around to LA. Ironically, you can age gracefully there. Surprising? It shouldn’t be.
San Francisco is ACTUALLY a youth-obssessed culture and its style landscape speaks to the fact. It consists primarily of many boutiques filled with items of poor quality, lots of thrift stores masquerading as “vintage,” and an array of shops that cater to the ever-so-popular cutesy, pauper “artist” look . You can still find things here, but there are almost no high-end designers who call SF their home, and when there are you can bet that they’ll skip off to NYC or LA when they get enough recognition.
In LA, however, if you wade through all the bad nose jobs and Uggs, you can find extremely sophisticated, very well-made everything. Frankly, the menswear is off the hook with the classic Hollywood chic look coming back, but for everyone all the way across the gender spectrum, you can find lines that span time, highlight your best qualities, and are forever adaptable. If you want to look good as you get older, you really need to embrace the idea of grace. You also need to plunk down some cash and think of clothes as an investment, rather than as a series of throw away looks that vary wildly from year to year. The more you scramble to hold onto your twenties, the more you’re going to be at a loss. Looking good is mostly about comfort with yourself. Afterall, Pendleton has been around for 100 years and they just keep looking great.
So really all of this was just to say that I was totally right. The thirties are the best! Though, I have a friend in her early forties who says that the forties are the best. So we’ll see!