The Fashion of Occupy Wall Street
Things in Zuccotti Park are getting very Fellini-esque.
Photo by Getty Images.
Those who have been overwhelmed by the incomprehensible political agenda of the Occupy Wall Street movement may take comfort from the following: The fashion trends championed by the denizens of Zuccotti Park are even more deliriously diverse than the disparate causes they espouse.
My shrink of 25 years is located a block from Wall Street. Not content with subjecting him to two terrorist attacks, Fate has now seen fit test his sangfroid with Occupy Wall Street. Or rather, our sangfroid. Since his practice overlooks Zuccotti Park, our recent psychotherapy sessions have been enlivened with shrieking, tribal drumming, cop sirens and general alarums.
The garnish du jour: a cardboard sign
Honesty compels me to admit that I have enjoyed every minute of it. The mardi gras media madness, the exhibitionistic activists, the visiting celebs—Hello Kanye! Good morning Al Sharpton!—call to mind the scene in La Dolce Vita where the male lead, a newspaper hack played by Marcello Mastroianni, reports on the mayhem that ensues after the Madonna—the original one, not the Ciccone one—is spotted lurking in a tree by two small children. Zuccotti, with its paparazzi, its restless wild-eyed devotees, its mangia! mangia! of donated food, is molto, molto Fellini.
In addition to increasing my appreciation for Italian cinema, Occupy Wall Street has also expanded my understanding of street style. Before and after each therapy session I make a point of touring the park in search of fashion trends, of which there is definitely no shortage. From bohemian to faux-hemian, from trippy to tragic, the cavalcade of activist style and provocateur panache is riveting.
On Monday evening I entered the fray and began to interview people about what they were wearing. Did anyone take umbrage at my audaciously superficial questions? Au contraire! The demonstrators were only too happy to talk about their sad rags and their glad rags.
First I encountered two perkily attired gals from New Jersey, fresh off the Path train: Nathalie was wearing a Batman hoodie from Hot Topic accessorized with a fake Le Sportsac bag. Janelle was rocking a fetchingly luscious flesh-colored angora scarf from H & M. There is, the Chinese will be glad to hear, no restrictive prohibition against aggressively sourced garment manufacture among the Zuccottees.
As appealingly jaunty as they appeared, my Garden State girls were lacking the garnish du jour: a cardboard sign. This season, ladies and gents, do not even think about leaving the house without one of these declamatory accessories. No need to obsess too much about the actual slogan. During my recent visit I noticed everything from “Kill A Banker” to “My Arms Are Tired.” I encountered one young man—his name was Scotty and he was wearing a faux-fur Kmart hat and homemade Jesus sandals—sporting a sign which simply said, “I LOVE YOU.”
Many of the activists do, in fact, love me. Literally. Several commented adoringly on my cheeky lowbrow TV appearances. One young man—he was offering passersby the chance to inscribe a message of hope on his torso with an indelible marker—asked me if I could help him “get on VH1.” I assured him that I would do what I could, and then scrawled my name right below his pancreas.
Juxtaposed against these media-savvy skater-boys, there are a number of hard-core old hippies. Sporting peace signs and granny glasses, these vintage Lefties are often to be found “teaching” barely audible lessons to small groups of pale-but-riveted young activist-ettes. While the hippie sages favor traditional Woodstockian attire, their acolytes are wearing nouveau grunge—checked shirts and skinny jeans—from Urban Outfitters and the like.
Contrasting wildly with all of the above are a number of dudes in hyperconventional banking attire. Executive realness. Are they CIA infiltrators? Have they lost their jobs? Have they lost their minds? It was impossible to tell. Either way, they look extremely spiffy in their custom suits.
Who gets my Zuccotti style award of the week? The orthodox Jews, hands down. On Monday evening, Broadway was overrun with elegant, black-clad Chabad-niks waving their etrogs (weird fruit) and lulavs (long frond thingys) at passersby in celebration of Sukkot. When I stopped to chat with two dapper young lads, they insisted that I pray along with them. As I jiggled my etrog/lulav combo, a profound thought occurred to me: Occupy Wall Street could learn an important lesson from these mysterious-but-charming zealots in their identical black hats:
Yo! Activists! Y’all need to get yourselves a signature flourish. How about a colored beret? Or a supercool pair of Black Panther-esque Ray-Bans?
Simplify your fashion message and the rest will follow.
Simon Doonan is an author, fashion commentator, and creative ambassador for Barneys New York.(Photo by Roxanne Lowit.)