Getting Dressed To Go Nowhere

an exploration of new spaces, cultural relevancy, and the farmer's market

The most jarring thing about going to university in a small, nearly postcard appropriate ‘collegetown’ was the disturbing lack of excitement around getting dressed. Whether it was biking to your 9am gender studies lecture or meeting up with friends to split a beer ticket, it seemed like no one was particularly pumped to characterize themselves sartorially.

And, in truth it made sense. Most of them had better things to do, including school, work, attractive life partners, & the cows on campus. (Or, at the very least, that’s what I would tell myself when my housemates asked why I insisted on wearing loafers to an establishment appropriately called Burgers & Brew.)

With that being said, it must also be noted that the opposite is true. One of the biggest cornerstones of city life is the notion that one is always on, that life is constantly unfolding, that zeitgeist never sleeps. For better or worse, part of being a young person in a city is having your finger on the pulse, whether deliberately or by pure coincidence. In a small town, even one populated by college aged residents, there is a certain slowness, one that vastly underscores day to day living.

So imagine, as someone who lives in a city, the pure agony that’s come from being locked down for nearly a year at this point. Of course, hundreds of thousands of citizens are dead, thanks to an administration that focused on nationalism and the myth of an ideal American. But a death that has been much slower, from the result of constant fumbling, is that of any relevant American culture.

Young people, particularly those of whom that graduated anytime in 2020 and later, have felt the biggest blow related to this. Whereas life was supposed to begin, it halted. Getting a job, securing a place of your own, and spending days evenly split between leisure and a job with a confusingly worded title were supposed to be the norm. But for many of us, that was not the case. What was assured for graduates, and most young people in general, was a future that was bright, and most importantly, one that promised relevancy. That future, along with the implications it carried, has been shelved, at this point, indefinitely.

So we must ask, is the City Boy, the titular spirit of this platform made up to define anyone with good taste (regardless of gender/orientation), at risk of being snuffed out?

The answer, to be frank, is no. At least, not to a truly worrying degree. If anything, the surreal situation many young people, including City Boys, find themselves in is one of malleability. The future may be unclear, but that doesn’t mean one cannot improvise.

With the great exodus of folk who move to big cities for what we can call Disneyland Reasons (a purely transactional relationship, one characterized by social media pertinence, with no regard for local community), young people have more opportunity than ever to create authentic cultural relevancy, on their terms- as it always should have been.

For example, one could say we are simply asserting that one no longer needs to procure a $17 cocktail at a rooftop bar to feel like they are reaping the rewards of living in a place with contemporary value.

And of course, the avenues to express and experience culture itself are being shifted as well. The “high street” in most city centres is deserted. Concerts are strictly (and tragically) online only, as are the showcases of designers around the world. The shift of cultural venue then, following the trend, becomes more malleable, and thus, more accessible.

Enter the Farmer’s Market. A staple of Bay Area living, and (lovingly, I hope?) mocked as a pillar of coastal elitism, it has, in no small part, become an essential part of keeping my sanity during these dark times. Especially when it comes to a concept we’ve been outlining throughout: cultural relevancy. In this way, the Farmer’s Market acts a town square of sorts.

Vendors sell their locally produced wares, whether it’s wildly fresh stonefruit, apartment-baked sourdough, or “witch blessed” incense, all three of which are essential anytime I hit the FM. There is a constant stream of friends and even family running into each other, cautiously approaching to say hello, with the rare elbow touch here and there. An air of curation hangs in the streets, as both Soviet grandmothers and Peloton moms search for the perfect head of cauliflower. (There is, of course, no competition here. The former laughably blows the latter out of the water every time.)

However, my most personally treasured part of the Farmer’s Market has been, to bring it back to the beginning of this piece, the fits. I cannot describe it, but it feels as if there has been some great shift in the style of Bay Area residents. I’m seeing less allbirds, and more clogs. The Patagonia Vest is still a staple, but on a recent jaunt around the Clement Street Farmer’s Market, a favorite of mine, I saw a weirdly hopeful amount of chore coats and tasteful fleece. Hell, I even saw someone rock a horse racing cardigan by BODE- who are, by the way, genuinely one of the few brands doing slow fashion in an interesting way. (Think cottagecore, but if it was done tastefully, crossed with some light Scandinavian grandma vibes.)

It was strangely hopeful. As someone who misses the theatre of getting dressed up for something, the farmer’s market is a nice stand in, if even just a temporary one. For myself, the idea of getting to express yourself in the most outward medium possible is something special. It is literally how people see you when you show up somewhere physically, and is one of the purest forms of sustaining a sense of cultural relevancy, even amoung you and your immediate circle.

Your clothes, the ones you expressly choose to wear, are ones that have a set of values behind them, ones that evoke certain narratives, and thus, perpetuate a certain kind of cultural commentary.

There is a romance to all this, even when getting dressed to go nowhere.