… Exploring Los Angeles Fashion from Bohemian to Rock by Melissa Magsaysay.
LA is known for a lot of things; In-N-Out Burger, the star system, the smog and the abundance of posers, hustlers, artists and beautiful people who proliferate the streets with studied cool.
Those of us who haven’t been to LA will automatically assume that it’s not a particularly stylish city, especially in comparison with fashion capitals like London and Milan or districts with their own distinct fashion identity, like Stockholm or Brooklyn. My sister is in LA at the moment. She texted my mother to say that a millionaire pro poker player bought her lobster (alright for some, I say, tucking into a bowl of rice pudding with jam). In terms of life as well as fashion, LA is not un-stylish; it just plays by its own rules.
City of Style is the attempt to unravel the various subcultures and style tribes of LA. Sociological study this isn’t; each chapter consists of a short history of the trend, along with who wears it, coupled with the various address of useful shops and style profiles of suitably sun-kissed Angelenos. There are seven key trends explored; however, the only problem with the laidback, melting pot LA style is that trends eventually blend into and leech from each other – The Romantic Bohemians have elements of the Indie Eclectics, the Casual Chic look owes much to both the Rockers and the Skaters and Surfers. Some of the people whose style is profiled could fit easily into two or even three different chapters quite easily – the lines are not clearly defined.
The book is well researched (the chapter on Chola style is particularly interesting and deftly handled from a cultural appropriation point of view – odd picture of Miley Cryus dressing up as a chola notwithstanding) with a varied assortment of people contributing interviews. Where else but in LA could you have Tony Hawk, Slash and Monique Lhuillier contributing to the same book?
Like LA itself, City of Style is a mishmash of different types; picking and choosing the best bits to make one sprawling whole. It’s one part cultural history, one part travelogue, part shopping guide, part endorsement, part style manual, part street style book. The endpages hold a bibliography for further reading – a must if some of the chapters pique your interest and you’d like to learn more about Skaters, Cholas or Glamour Gals. So far, it’s the most comprehensive survey of LA style that has yet to be undertaken – it’s a crime that something like this hasn’t been thought of before.
If you adore the So Cal street style or just want to learn more about LA fashion, this is a great place to start. If however, you want to delve more into a particular subculture, you may be better off searching elsewhere – this book is an excellent foundation and cover-all, but not an encyclopedia.
City of Style: Exploring Los Angeles Fashion from Bohemian to Rock is published by Itbooks and is out now.