To say that living in New York changed my approach to style would be an understatement. I spent five life-changing years living in the city, and my wardrobe essentially underwent a makeover within the first two. While I've harbored a love of fashion and clothes since my elementary school days, my chosen line of work and New York's open-minded spirit fundamentally changed the way I think about personal style.
Now that I'm back in my native Michigan, I've noticed a number of sartorial differences between the Midwest and New York City. First and foremost, the fundamental principles that govern style in the two locales are worlds apart. New York is about artistry and self-expression, while the Midwest champions comfort and practicality.
Of course, these are merely personal observations. Fortunately, there will always be someone or something that defies categorization and stereotypes. What's more, social media has fundamentally changed the way fashion and trends are disseminated to the public. While new styles used to slowly trickle down from industry tastemakers in New York, Paris, and Milan, Instagram can now serve as a direct window into the fashion world no matter where you live.
Advances aside, the regions still offer two vastly different takes on personal style. Below, read up on the sartorial differences I've noticed since moving back to the Detroit area.
Style Differences: Footwear
Generally speaking, the Midwest is much more casual than New York City. This sentiment applies to workwear, weekend ensembles, and of course, shoes. I find myself wearing more sneakers and flat sandals than I ever did while living in New York. That's not to say I didn't wear my Vans and Chuck Taylors in the city—comfortable footwear is essential. But in my opinion, wearing anything but flats or sneakers in a casual setting in the Midwest can feel a bit unnecessarily dressy. My patent-leather ankle boots and heeled mules have taken a bit of a back seat.
I amassed quite a collection of funky sunglasses during my time in New York. I was never above scooping some bright-red Le Specs knockoffs on St. Marks. But generally speaking, I've seen fewer super-skinny, '90s-inspired styles back in the Midwest. People tend to stick to more classic or circular styles, like the popular Ray-Bans.
Leggings are a staple in the Midwest, regardless of the activity. While I often wear leggings to run errands in Detroit, I seldom stepped out of my apartment in New York without a pair of Levi jeans and black boots. Generally speaking, the Midwest prioritizes comfort over everything—versatile joggers, worn-in hoodies, comfortable sneakers, and leggings in every color are staples.
While my vintage fur coats and trusty leather biker jacket were in heavy rotation during New York winters, I've noticed less statement outerwear back home. From fall jean jackets to winter parkas, coats are more for warmth and comfort than added style points.
Growing up, I felt that if I wore a super "trendy" or dressy outfit, people would think I was trying too hard or cared too much. I think that social media has changed this in general, but New Yorkers are much more shameless about their sartorial choices. Wearing something completely off-the-wall or straight-up impractical is celebrated. As a result, I felt like I too could experiment a bit with my style without fear of judgment. I tried out countless new looks during my time there, and I never felt the least bit self-conscious about it. This experience certainly influenced my style the most.