Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Philadelphia Street Style: Mina in Zara and American Apparel, Walnut St

It's Halloween, but you'd never know it. Hardly anyone was in costume on the streets of Philly today. Instead, there was a deathly post-Sandy calm perfectly appropriate for a night when the spirits walk the earth.

Mina is wearing a Zara jacket, with American Apparel scarf and tights, an H&M sweater, and Forever 21 boots.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Fashion Canceled Due to Extreme Weather — Now Join My Instagram!

With Sandy banging against our windows (and knocking down our fence) these last 24 hours, it has not been optimal conditions for shooting street style. So I've gone inward instead, messing with aspects of the blog that didn't need to be messed with and caving in to public pressure to create an Instagram page. So there is one now. Follow it at the icon above to the right or through this link: I'll be using Instagram to share photos that don't make it to the blog for one reason or another. If you do not follow it, you will miss out. Maybe. 

Monday, October 29, 2012

Philadelphia Street Style: Tiffany in Lucky Jeans and Marc by Marc Jacobs, Walnut St

I caught Tiffany coming out of the Lucky Jeans Shop on Walnut St, Starbucks in hand. She's wearing Lucky Jeans, a jacket by Marc by Marc Jacobs, and shoes from Urban Outfitters

Looking at these pictures now, as rain and wind pelts Philadelphia with a force meteorologists insist is for the history books, it's hard not to feel some somber nostalgia for back when I took these pictures, just a few days ago. We were so naive back then. We still had hope for the future. And now, here we are, trapped in a storm of mass media hyperbole so thick it's nearly impossible to see through it to the very real weather event outside. 

Friday, October 26, 2012

Philadelphia Street Style: Qua'Deira in H&M, Juicy Couture, Doc Martens, and some big pink hair, Walnut St

Qua'Deira has some of the biggest, pinkest hair I've seen on the streets of Philly so far, and let me tell you, there is no shortage of big pink hair on the streets of Philly these days. Her sweater is from Urban Outfitters. It's worn over a school uniform shirt. Her white jeans are H&M, her purple boots, of course, Doctor Martens, and her necklaces Juicy Couture. 

Blogger Swag

I got my very first piece of blogger swag delivered to my office mailbox on Wednesday. It consisted of an Extra-Large T-shirt emblazoned with the words "I'm a keeper," a button with the same message, a micro fiber screen cleaner, and, of course, a marketing packet in a snazzy, heavy-on-the-Helvetica white folder. The message inside reads, "Somebody thinks you're a keeper...Hi there! [notice it's not directed to me specifically] You've received this Keepsakes package because we at Keep ( think YOU are a Keeper. That's right — you! You are a tastemaker and influencer, and as such, we want to invite you to join us as we reinvent the way people shop online." Lucky me.

Should I be flattered by this? Should I be taken in by the oversize T-shirt and button? Do I have any right to be annoyed that the default size for Americans these days is XL? I couldn't wear the thing if I wanted to, at least, not while convincingly portraying myself as a fashionable, influential kind of guy. It's cool to be a tastemaker and all, even if I'm one of thousands of anonymous people addressed in a generic mass blogger mailing. But somehow I don't think I'll be doing much to promote Unless, that is, this report constitutes a form of promotion, in which case anything I say about them could be construed as a method of indirect marketing. I probably should have said nothing. But then what kind of social scientist would I be? So here I am, involuntarily promoting someone else's product, and let me tell you, after reading through the materials, I still don't quite understand what that product is, only that it will be "revolutionizing" the way people shop online. Revolution — it seems — comes cheap these days. Everyone's revolutionizing something. 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Philadelphia Street Style: Rin in Thrift Store Pastiche Chic, Market St

Rin says — with a detectable amount of pride — that everything she's wearing, other than the boots ("White Mountain, I think"), comes from Good Will. I like the clash of patterns and styles in this look. And I like the fearlessness with which she put it together. Plus, you may note, she is wearing old-fashioned door keys for earrings. I didn't notice that little detail when I took the pictures, but I fully support it. 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Wait a Minute... Who are Street Style Bloggers Anyway?

Complex Magazine's List of "Must Know" Street Style Bloggers circa 2010. Notice they are (nearly) all dudes.
Who gets to count as a street style blogger? Sounds like an easy question to answer, but I'm not so sure it is. Certainly anyone who posts pictures of stylish people "on the streets" has a good case to make that they are one. But what about those people who take pictures at nighttime events, like, say, The Cobra Snake or Last Night's Party? What about people who take pictures of style stars outside fashion shows? Those shots are taken, technically, on the street, but is it the same street as the one the rest of us walk? What about people who repost street style pictures on their Tumblr pages? Do you have to produce original content to be a street style blogger? That requirement is not in place for most other types of style bloggers. Why would it be important for street style ones? And what about people who take street style pictures professionally for magazines and websites? Are they still street style bloggers? Is there a threshold of success after which one transitions away from being a blogger? Must you still be an "amateur" to be one? Neither, for instance, Scott Schuman nor Adam Katz Sinding (whose blog Le 21éme Arrondissement's tagline is now officially "This is NOT a street style blog"), consider themselves bloggers. They both use the word "website" to describe their medium. And yet they still maintain sites that others recognize as street style blogs. Can you be a street style blogger, then, against your own will?

The French "sociologist of science" Bruno Latour has rather forcefully argued that groups are not matter-of-fact social units out there in the real world waiting to be identified — and categorized — by appropriately trained social scientists. Groups, rather, can only be said to exist to the extent that various parties work to make them exist. They are temporary assemblages whose stability fundamentally depends on the actions of group-making in which their members participate. So... unless street style bloggers are acting as a group, defining their parameters, casting nets of interaction, forging themselves into being, etc, etc, there is no such thing as the "street style blogger" per se, at least, not as an identity to occupy and live through.  

But street style bloggers, of course, aren't the only ones who lend meaning to the category of "street style bloggers." There are also blog readers, fashion brands, magazines, amalgamated street style websites like Street Style News and Refinery 29, not to mention the people depicted on street style blogs. All of these are parties with some stake in street style bloggers existing as a category. All of these are part of the collective of actors who bring street style bloggers into being. In their own ways, they also contribute to the form and content of street style blogs. Street style bloggers never act alone. At the very least, you can't have a street style blog without people to depict. And those people are not passive recipients of the bloggers' vision. They dress up. They pose. They leave comments on the bloggers' website. They help shape their own expression through the medium of the street style blog. 

Which brings me to a recent experience I had. The other day I had my first negative reaction from one of the people I posted. That person, whether rightly or wrongly, felt that I had misrepresented them and cast them in a negative light. This caught me, I have to say, by surprise, and I changed the post immediately, so that it was a little less flippant and a little more positive. It had not occurred to me that someone might take my comments the way this person had. To be blunt, I felt like an asshole. But also I felt a little hesitant to change the tone of the post too much. After all, bloggers' stock in trade is their honest self-representation. If it becomes too apparent that they are catering to someone else's interests, be it readers, brands, or even the subjects of their posts, they lose their credibility as a blogger. So while street style bloggers are beholden to all sorts of other interests, they maintain a uniquely defined relationship with their own. The question is: how do they know what those interests are? We talk a lot about staying true to ourselves, but those selves we are being true to are much more slippery than we care to admit. Are you sure you could tell your own interests from those of the brands you partner with? Are you sure you could tell your own opinions from those of the groups you belong to? And are your sure the things you like and relate to are of your own choosing? Are you show the parties with whom you have to contend are not influencing your reading of such things from the start?

Since I've started, for instance, asking people the names of the brands they are wearing I have several times caught myself making decisions about who to photograph based on whether I thought they'd tell an interesting brand story or not. Is this "being true to myself" or some imaginary third party potentially seeing the post? I couldn't tell, so I stopped doing it, or at least attempted to do stop doing it. It remains to be seen whether I can train myself to both ask people what they're wearing and also not pre-judge their suitability to the blog based on what they're wearing. But in any case, it is never entirely clear that the blogger is the one in charge. We can never be sure of who, or what, is acting (Latour 2005: 46).

Reference Cited

Latour, Bruno (2005) Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to Actor-Network-Theory. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Philadelphia Street Style: Abby, Rockin' the Forever 21, Chestnut St

Monday, October 22, 2012

Philadelphia Street Style: Daphne in Yiga Azruël, Chloé, Graham & Spencer, and R13, Walnut St

Daphne is wearing Graham & Spencer leggings, R13 denim shorts, a Yiga Azruël scarf over a Mayle shirt, and a pair of rather dazzling Chloé shoes. I don't know what possessed me to ask her what she was wearing, a question, by the way, I've been meaning to start asking people for months now, but it just never felt right. But talking to Daphne, looking effortlessly chic in a draped black scarf, it just felt natural, even common sensical to do so. And Daphne was more than prepared to answer. I'm going to try to keep up this line of questioning. It provides good ethnographic data, enhances my education on fashion, and, of course, fits right in to my new scheme of dropping lots of brand names and seeing what happens. It only took two mentions of American Apparel on this site before they approached me to advertise on it. Let's see how these brands do. 

Friday, October 19, 2012

Philadelphia Street Style: John and Eddie, Doing Justice to Ralph Lauren, Walnut St

John and Eddie are students who work at the Ralph Lauren store on Walnut St. They are, hence, head to toe in Ralph Lauren. I have to admit, I was a little disappointed when I found out that they were dressed for work. In my fantasy world, dudes just dress like this all the time. But then, it's not like Ralph Lauren is going to hire people who don't already dress sharp. No doubt, John and Eddie make very effective brand ambassadors. 

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Philadelphia Street Style: Paula in Doc Martens and Etsy Chic, Broad St

Paula looked the super-seriousness of street style photography in the face and chose to smile instead. Here she is in an ensemble carefully scraped together from multiple boutiques. She is more of a boutique person, she says, than a brand person. She prefers the crafty to the "crafted in Italy," Etsy to Net-a-Porter. And I think she does right by it. I love the colors in the scarf and belt, the playful indie ("put a bird on it!") motifs, and the radiant delight with which she wears them.

Notice the title of this post. I managed to fit two brand names into a single one. This is no accident. Urban Fieldnotes has entered a new phase of experimental investigation. I'm calling it "Poke the Brands and See What Happens." 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Philadelphia Street Style: Brett in an Etsy Denim Jacket and Mocassin Boots, Broad St

In half of my pictures of Brett, he looks like he is about to be toppled by the crowd, a feeling, frankly, that just about any blogger can relate to. We are constantly working to steer the attention of the online hoards in our direction. And sometimes, at least briefly, we manage to. Take this past Sunday, for example. After shooting The Sartorialist Closer event at the Barnes Foundation, I had my biggest spike ever, reaching a total of over 1,200 pageviews in a single day. Some of those were from Facebook referrals posted by people whose photographs I included. Some were from tweets from fellow bloggers present. And about half of them came from one site alone, Ain't No Mom Jeans, my good friend Shana's site (thanks, Shana! And welcome, Ain't No Mom Jeans Readers), after she told her readers to check out my "must read" blog. The next day was an above average 460 pageviews. And now, a mere day later, we're back in the familiar 100-200 readers territory. It was fun while it lasted. This blogging thing can be quite the adrenaline rush. That's why it's so addictive. And I can understand why bloggers continually seek out those peaks, attending major fashion events, always looking for the next topic that will blow up big. There is, however, part of me that gets cynical when the posts I put up featuring style stars (say Scott Schuman and Garance Doré) get so many hits. I'm proud of those pics, and I took a number of other good ones at the event besides, but that was not my best work on this blog by any stretch. Where are the numbers tuning in to my best composed shots of assorted iconoclasts, renegades, and weirdoes on the streets of Philadelphia? Where are the readers interested in the everyday stylistas?      

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Philadelphia Street Style: Dericka, Walnut St

Monday, October 15, 2012

My Book, DIY Style, Finally In Stock on!

Buy it here. Or through the publisher, Berg's, website.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Scott Schuman, Garance Doré, and Philly's Fashion Elite at the Book Signing Event for The Sartorialist Closer, Barnes Foundation

Scott Schuman (left) and Garance Doré (right)

There is no question that Scott Schuman (AKA The Sartorialist) and partner Garance Doré (of the eponymous website) are the royal couple of street style blogging. Last night they held court at Philadelphia's Barnes Foundation. Hundreds showed up to meet them in person, including me and my family. Here are some shots of the line. No doubt one of the better-dressed ones I've waited in:

One of the things I was curious about in going to this event was whether or not it would, in fact, be "an event." Would it be one of those depressing book signings at a barely solvent Barnes and Noble, where a few scant elderly readers show up and pretend to be interested? Or would it be something like a major fashion industry shindig, attracting the bold and the beautiful like moths to a flame? As it turned out, it was more the latter. There was a standing bar, a green screen for getting one's picture taken, a book booth with Closer stacked high. And Philly's bloggers and professional fashionistas showed up in full force. Here are some of my pics of a few of them:

Reuben "Big Rube" Harley of Philadelphia Daily News  and Street Gazing
Erik Honesty of Cultured Couture
Sabir Peele of Men's Style Pro
Shana Draugelis of Aint No Mom Jeans
Leah Kauffman (right) of A Silk of Souls
And there was no shortage of photographers either. Here are a few shots of them in action.

Big Rube doing his thing. I backed into a pond setting up the shot.

And as for Scott and Garance themselves? I have to admit, part of me wanted to hate them. Nothing inspires spite and ire quite like success, and no one has been more successful at this game than them. I'd been equal parts dreading and looking forward to meeting them all week. I hate the feeling of groveling before fame. Makes me feel small. But upon walking up to the table where they sat signing books, I was suddenly an adrenalized fan boy, much more star struck than I anticipated. I shook both their hands (a couple of times at least), told them what a big fan I was of both of them, and then surprised myself by asking if I could take a picture of them for my blog. I took three. Go me! Two of them are the ones up top. We then had a brief, but very congenial conversation about my 4-year old daughter playing in the background (to whom I also had them sign the book),and then it was the next person in line's turn to make their quick interaction with them as rich and meaningful as possible. Clearly, Scott and Garance's success has a lot to do with their people skills. These are friendly and charismatic people.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Philadelphia Street Style: Musician Louis Middleton of Zander Bleck, 20th St

It will probably come as no great shock to my readers that Louis is a musician, playing keyboards and doing backup vocals for Zander Bleck, a pop rock singer ("U2 meets Queen meets Lady Gaga meets...")on Interscope Records. You can check out their music at, follow them at, or follow Louis on Twitter at Blogging, I've come to realize, is all about cross-promotion. So have at it. Let the cross-promoting begin!