Should you want to blend in with the locals, you’ll need to employ “fashion,” which is a concept the French made up to sell decorative belts and berets. (If you really want to impress New Yorkers, pronounce the word “fashion” with a French accent, and kind of fling your arm out when you say it, like you’re in a musical.)
The key to fashion in New York is to pretend you’re planning to seduce someone at a funeral. Which is to say, wear provocative or at least expensive clothing, but only in black.
New Yorkers wear black 99% of the time. It’s possible that some of them wear polka dot underwear or white socks, but generally people get ancy if you ask them about their undergarments on the subway. Presumably most people wear black socks, black underwear and black bras underneath their black clothing, including men. We simply don’t know.
During the winter the only form of acceptable coat is a black one. You might be tempted to vary from this model by wearing a bright orange coat, so that rescuers can spot you in the event of a skiing accident — don’t. Orange will make you stand out like a sore thumb, and people will come up and ask you for money. Plus, most of New York’s ski lifts are underground anyway, and rarely break down. Except for the G Train, which is horrid.
Buy enough black clothing to accommodate your wardrobe. You may be able to get by with one black jacket, but you will need multiple black shirts. When shopping, ask yourself frequently and out loud, “If I knew I was going to attend a funeral every week for a year, how much black would I need?” Also remember that you’ll be seducing someone at said funeral. Be sure to announce that out loud as well.
Don’t worry that you’ll lose individuality for want of neon colors or bright stripes you might otherwise wear. If you can grow a beard you’re allowed to join a club called The Hasidic Jews, who are guys that wear black cowboy hats and glasses and speak in a code language. If you’re a fireman visiting New York, write “BLACK” on the outside of your helmet with a sharpie to confuse people. If you’re tired of wearing a black blazer over a black shirt, spice things up with one of your tuxedos.
The exception to the “dress in black” rule is if you live in Williamsburg. Williamsburg is an area of Brooklyn with a local economy built entirely on coffee, microbrewing and kickstart campaigns for half-written screenplays. All of the coffee and nicotine and spilt boutique Indian Pale Ales dumped into the sewers there have seeped into the water supply and rendered most locals color blind. They probably think they’re dressing in black, but are actually wearing bright yellow glasses or orange-and-purple plaid. If you’re visiting Williamsburg, imagine a bus full of old people collided with a bus full of circus clowns, and got randomly reassembled limb-by-limb. Dress like that.
With a little foresight, you can easily camouflage yourself and mingle about the streets of New York like a local. And if that doesn’t work, simply look out for people who look chic and hip, and politely ask them if you can swap clothes.
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