Walking Canvases

What do you think about this guy? Or the girl to the down there?


London Youth: click for credits
Girl from the Slums
Girl from the Slums

Their clothing and attitudes are so immediately striking. Without being over-the-top and wearing pink plumed hats, they assert themselves on the pavement that they walk on. Appearance certainly leaves an impact, and is a very important art form to many people. It sounds ridiculous at first, to claim that getting dressed and presenting a certain image out to the world is an important part of daily life. The images above, however, prove how much can be said with a look so simple. Focusing on your look and honing it to perfection is vain: of that there is no doubt. But is vanity really such a bad thing when taken in small doses such as the above examples?  The creative process of getting dressed can be time-consuming, and it takes concentration and passion, but for fashion’s faithful devotees, it’s all worth it. It certainly doesn’t have to be expensive, it doesn’t have to control your life and it doesn’t make you shallow. There’s something exciting about deciding what to wear, making sure that each element of your wardrobe symbolises a different part of you, or part of something that you want to become. It’s surreal and thrilling to let your appearance do the talking for you, or to use it to gradually phase-in new characteristics or a new lifestyle that you are going for. It’s healthy and it’s as valid an art form as painting, dancing or sculpting. With all these things, you are creating something that is uniquely yours, yet part of a wider community. In the case of fashion, however,  you become the canvas. A walking, talking work of art. What’s not to love about that? You can be a rough-and-tough working class lad, or a retired dentist, or a housewife, and be equal on the field of fashion.

Photographers like the legendary Scott Schuman grasped this early on. He doesn’t care whether his subjects are wearing a Gucci poncho or their grandfather’s coat. He sees the aesthetic qualities of the ensemble, but with his adroit insight, he can see what the outfit means and why it is being worn in such a way. A quick browse through his blog inevitably becomes an hour of flicking through page after page, appreciating what he can capture through his lens that we would perhaps bypass in real life.

Thousands have followed in Schuman’s brown-brogue footsteps, starting up their own blogs for the purpose of capturing street style or stealthily snapping a few stills of strangers as they go about their daily business. Both art forms, street style and street photography, are finally being taken seriously. Websites are popping up everywhere to allow people to explore this medium, with Lookbook being at the forefront of this. Lookbook stars like Gabriel Wulf understand style (here’s an important distinction: fashion implies following trends whereas style is what you make of it), and why it can become so important to an individual, saying

“Every time I get dressed and I think of what I should wear, it is a creative process and also an attempt to express a mood or an attitude. So I don’t just wear clothes not to be naked.”

Your own style can be used to define you, find a community of like-minded individuals and set you apart, all at once. It could be a comfy, oversized sweater or an elegant frock, and you can feel equally important, empowered and motivated.

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