Over the last few days, I’ve been spending a lot of time perched on a ledge at the intersection of Sauchiehall and Buchanan Streets over the stairs of the Buchanan Galleries, where I am doing my ethnographic study. The streets are both pedestrian walkways and form a massive shopping district, so hundreds of people walk by every day and from my eagle-eye view I have a pretty great opportunity to people-watch. One thing I have noticed is the huge range of fashion choices in this city look much different from the comfy, casual look we are used to on Concordia’s campus.
For the ladies, even casual looks are a lot more structured than we might expect in the States. Ugg boots are paired with black skinny jeans instead of baggy sweatpants, but a more popular choice we have noticed is denim cut-off shorts and black tights or leggings, which is not a look that is seen often at home. Blouses and blazers are popular choices even for a casual day of shopping, and the high heels that we have seen are borderline ridiculous (maybe that’s just ethnocentric of me, but they can’t possibly be comfortable or practical). Also popular are brightly colored skinny jeans in every shade of the rainbow and a curious affinity for wearing leggings as pants, and while I would never make either of these fashion choices, Glaswegian women seem to pull it off in their European style.
Even more striking is the difference in men’s fashion between Scotland and Minnesota. As Ariel and I were discussing today, we very rarely see the “bro” style of grungy sweatpants, sweatshirts, and backwards caps that is so common among college-age men of America. Instead, most men wear skinny jeans, tailored shirts, and hair that has been not only combed but styled, which is a style change that we have been appreciating.
Along with the structured styles that are popular among the adult population, much of Glasgow’s youth follows another trend that has not yet been named in the U.S.: NEDs. NEDs are Non-Educated Delinquents, or youths that usually have chosen not to continue schooling after the age of sixteen (which is when Scottish secondary school ends) and are generally recognized by their tendency to wear track suits and congregate in public places and cause disturbances, as a policeman I talked to earlier this week explained.
Of course, in a city as diverse as Glasgow, it is impossible to say that everyone is well-dressed or even dressed in a similar style. Many people are dressed very much like they would be in the U.S., and many people’s choices would not be considered fashionable, like the man I saw yesterday with multi-colored dyed dreadlocks and facial hair and leopard-printed bell-bottoms. In any case, there are some definite differences in clothing choices that have left us feeling out of place at times, but have also made my hours at the stairs a little more interesting.
In case you haven’t heard, it’s the Diamond Jubilee this weekend, celebrating 60 years of Queen Elizabeth II’s reign and meaning lots of weekend sales for shops and department stores. God save the Queen.