Tough skin. It’s around 365 days a year. The 4,560,000 people that reside in the city of Manhattan kill to survive, and you sit in front of your big screens wondering how they do it. Tough skin. It’s under their designer labels, indie thrifts, masked by Ray-Bans and Roberto Cavalli. It’s not the clothes that make the people walking this city, it’s their ability to withstand what most of us have never endured.
If you’re going to earn street cred, start by realizing that one large city can never compare to another. I’ve spent twenty years in Miami (watch as the full fledge Floridian raises her hand), so survival to me consisted of central A/C, personal transportation, and plenty of time for leisure. Trade suburbia for a brownstone, and after realizing city living isn’t at all like Sex in the City, your life can begin.
Now that I’m morphing into a New Yorker, a similar process as puberty to a teen, I had to find out the hard way how to play the part. You learn that trend trotting on 5th Avenue isn’t posh, it’s inappropriate. I suffered, oh yes I did, with the summer heat, blistering feet, and frustration of making my way out of the house and realizing I was unprepared for what I had to take on. It’s a hard place to live in, but a few tricks of the trade make readjusting as comfortable as fitting into the right pair of shoes.
I live by four basic rules I picked up from a friend from Long-Island. My second week settling in, I couldn’t go anywhere. Summer was disastrous. Assuming I was making a clean getaway from Miami’s summer heat, I instead I had been gifted 98 degree heat waves from Mother Nature herself. Welcome to New York. There is no A/C, and having to take public transportation definitely interferes with the effort you put into your personal appearance. Culture shock punched me in the face, paired with the biggest question of all, “Why am I the only person sweating in New York?” then it was mapped out for me.
Hair & make-up:
You never fully understand true and natural style until you live in extreme environments. The five boroughs fall under hard core. You turn to ELLE, Glamour and Hair Magazine for tips as you would page through the Bible for direction. Up-dos and minimal make-up were never meant to make a feministic statement to rebel against eye-liner and shadow. They’re that functional decision the average person makes when taking the subway, or running up and down Broadway. Sweat is an epidemic. Tying everything back, and laying off the face paint is the only thing keeping you from hacking off your locks and risking seven years of bad luck, smashing mirrors, because you’re so butt ugly and can’t stand to see eye liner running under your eyes any longer.
This is when you realize you’ve been doing things incorrectly all along. Natural is actually attractive and youthful, shining light on the skincare you’ve ignored. Focus on taking what you have and rejuvenating it. You can never start too early. It’s the only time in which covering up is not an option when you’re getting ready to go out. You should work towards developing this sense of confidence in what you were born to look like, and know how to play it up when you want to make a statement.
Try: Plumping Mascara / Peach Lip-Gloss / Moisturizer / Light Blue Shadow/ Hint of blush
Letting your hair loose isn’t always a good thing. You can play so much with the way you pin, clip, twist and sprits your mane. Side braids, messy buns, and the classic pony can transform anyone from a hot mess into a classy fix in seconds. I always carry bobby pins in my purse and swear on their quick and easy purpose in life. When I do leave the house, trying to experiment (hair vs. humidity) and the heat waves and windy days usually win, I finally twist a few strands up in seconds, pop them in place, and my statement suddenly screams “I meant to look like this”.
Loose delicate blouses are ultra-feminine and breathable. You feel like you’re indulging in fine fabrics and cuts, but you’re just trying to make it through the day looking half decent and not sweating like a construction worker. I’ve come to hate cotton. Its fit and feel don’t scream luxury. You can fake it. Look like you’ve spent a million dollars, but your wallet and comfort can tell the difference. Layering is also more fun when your trendy goods are thin enough to breathe in.
If there were ever two top priorities on the list, it’s having the right shoes and handbag for every outing. Small is functional, minimal, but practically impossible to use in the city. You spend the day out, with a high chance of shopping along the way, and let’s face it, who wants to keep their hands full, risking your chances of developing those veiny things on your hands at an early age.
Messenger bags are my daily best friend. I can pack groceries, spare shoes, a small puppy. They go hand in hand with shoes and the fact that life is not like the movies. You’re not hailing cabs, you’re taking public transportation everywhere, and if you’re wearing your dancing shoes, you’ll most likely have a set of flats in your bag in case of emergencies.
Try: Dr.Scholl’s Fast Flats. The everyday black ballerina shoes transform into blissful relief on your tinkers.
You have to look the part to play in the game. Learning to toughen up isn’t necessarily taking pointers from Gossip Girl, I tried that and it never plays out the same. It’s about finding a comfort in who you are by what you wear, wherever you are. Take it from an insider.