Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Street Style Photography: Hopeful or Harmful?

Lewis Mirrett for

I've been pouring over all the street style blogs lately—now more than ever—since it's been fashion month, and finding so much inspiration in the photos. But then I read this article, about how this fairly new incarnation of photography is creating a new unattainable ideal for women, and it really made me think about the effect the pics are having on the women who covet them—including myself. Take, for example, style snaps like these. If you look at these photos and take away the idea that you have to own a pair of your own Prada creepers then I think you have the wrong idea.
This deliberateness has surely had an effect on the authenticity of street style photography. Will Welsh lamented on, “When the street-style trend went nuclear, all the accidental “Who, me?” unselfconsciousness that once made it so fresh was tainted.” The Cut took a similar stance, saying, “One could argue that ‘original style’ isn’t what attracts photographers anymore; rather, it has evolved into street style stars wearing different versions of their signature looks, perpetuating their own fame.” — Fashionista
 Sure, the photographers snapping the pics might be searching for the socialite or the next It girl, but to many of us those designer duds are a far away fantasy that we easily do without. I always thought of street style as akin to runway style—it may be equally as untouchable (though not always!) but that doesn't stop people from looking to it for inspirations that can feasibly touch their own lives. Friends of mine who have been style snapped lately (like here and here) don't make me feel bad because I can never have what they have, and for the record, neither do these ladies. I look, and I edit out what I like, and I think about it the next time I'm looking in my closet trying to decide what to wear.

How do you guys feel about style style photos?


  1. I like street style photos because I think they provide inspiration that's a lot more relatable and wearable than traditional editorial shoots or runways. Especially at Fashion Week, there are a lot of people wearing pieces that are out of the realm of attainability, but for me, outfit inspiration has never been about replicating an outfit exactly—it's about seeing new ways to wear pieces I already own, or inspiring me to be on the lookout for certain items at a price point I can afford. Fashion is to be taken with a grain of salt.

  2. I think the problem is less attainability and more the pressure this puts on women to look a certain way (that for most women takes a lot of time and effort to get to) ALL THE TIME. It's no coincidence that many of the women who are photographed consistently seem to have the type of career (or lack thereof) that allows for a 2 hour outfit selection/primp session. There was an article in the NY Times you should check out about the effect this is having on college campuses.

    I think we're entering an era - driven by street photography yes - but moreso driven by the ease of digital photography and social media where women will under the same amount of pressure to look 'just so' (or photographable) all the time as they were in the early 60s. That makes me sad.

  3. While it may put pressure on people to look put together even in their off time, many of the women who get photographed are editors who have as little time as everyone else!

    I see the "just so' look as more of an ideal or something to strive towards that has less to do with a specific style and beauty standard and more towards giving an outlet to people who like to be creative with the way they dress.

  4. Relatable yes, but the fact that anyone can slap 'street style' on their blog, just like any other tag, is vaguely annoying.

    I love fashion 'street style' blogs, and most obviously The Sartorialist has set the bar. Though not everyone has access to a fancy cam like he does, it IS great that regardless of access, anyone can post good LOOKS.

    What is understandable is the lament that not everyone has time to primp, and that perhaps this phenomenon has everyone insta-voguing all the time. Ready-made fash-onistas galore. Although it's nice to see that regardless of age, ethnicity, gender or class, people care about esthetics. It's cool that people can make themselves occular feasts!

    I'm ambivalent about how reproducible street-style blogs are, but ultimately the good ones, read: inclusive, well-executed, are GREAT sources of pick-and-choose inspiration. Agree on that one, L.

    Ultimately I

  5. Many of the looks I find the most inspiring are very casual, and don't take much time to throw together. I think the benefit is in seeing what kinds of items can be versatile and useful, practical pieces that can fit into an everyday life to add style.

    While I agree that this trend may put more pressure on women to look a certain way all the time, I don't think it demands it, nor do I think it's necessarily a bad thing to encourage people to take some care in their appearance—I'm glad people try harder than living in Uggs and Lululemon pants, which has felt acceptable for too long.

    I also think that another fashionable standard, which was to wear all black or only designer names, is increasingly losing its cache due to street photography. Street style has given visibility to a greater variety of aesthetics, and I think it inspires bravery in people who would like to express more creativity in how they face the world (especially given the prevalence of cookie-cutter clothing stores).

    That isn't to say there aren't people taking street style to be a life philosophy—there are those who are "peacocking" for the paps, and there are likely those who take an extra 2 hours to get ready in the morning because of some picture they saw online. But for the first group, it's now a part of their career, which deserves a time investment (and probably did even before street style blogs, in the case of fashion editors)—and for the second, it's a problem with attention management. I think it's unfair to blame street style blogs for readers' misguided attention, much in the same way it's unfair to blame video games for teen violence.

  6. These sites are just for inspiration--it is just to be used as a tool for creating your own style. To me, fashion is about taking risks and using yourself as a canvas and dressing your body with what looks best on you, it's not about trying to look like that really trendy girl over there who has that those jimmy choo shoes which makes her look so hot. At the end of the day, YOU wear the clothes--you're what is gonna make it look good.

  7. Street style isn't just about women- Sartorialist features a lot of gentleman's looks. It seems intended to be inspirational and not aspirational. While bringing this intense fashion out into the street may create more pressure to look that good outside, since most of us don't live in Milan and Paris it adds more of a fairytale sensibility. Sadly, when you see pictures of the dozens of street style photogs taking pictures of these models who dress up only to get seen on blogs, it becomes clear the way that capitalism co-opts every aesthetic. I felt very weird at Toronto Fashion Week, as I'd never been in a situation before where there were other photographers taking pictures of the people I was taking video of, which made me feel like a Hyena descending onto a picked over elephant carcass.
    It makes hesitant to photograph any fashion event in the future, and stick to celebrating people who aren't dressing up just in case their picture is taken.


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