Southern California and beaches--more than 100 miles of sun-drenched coastline from Los Angeles County to Orange County. Talk about a fashion runway--surf, sand and style.
But for most beach lovers, choosing what to wear is all about comfort mixed with personal style. Check out the beach-goers on a midweek day hanging out at the Strand, a two-mile paved path that spreads from Manhattan Beach to Hermosa Beach.
Here, away from the more eclectic Venice Beach, sun seekers are laid-back and unpretentious in their dress. Straw hats, colorful bandanas, shorts, sweatpants--even stilettos--are part of the oceanfront fashion fusion.
For Hermosa Beach bicyclist Nyree Allen, 26, the difference between fashion and style is a no-brainer.
"Fashion is what's in vogue and which is sometimes too hard to reach for some people," she says while taking a break from riding her vintage Suburban Schwinn, on the Strand's bike path. "Style is your character shining through your clothes. I'm definitely about comfort."
And pink hair. Except, on this Xtreme bad hair day, Allen, who teaches dance to kids and works at a local eatery, hid her cropped hairdo with a cheetah-print bandana.
Allen says fashion should combine comfort and fun. And creativity. She likes to put her own style spin on garments such as altering jeans into capris. From head to toe, she has it going on: rose-hued wraparound Arnette shades, dangling silver earrings and two toe rings on silver-glittered toenails.
Her dance kids also dig her style--especially her color palette. "My favorite color is [anything] shiny," she says, showing off her body glitter from the night before. And her tassels--the bicycle's, that is--that dangle from the handlebars. "I love when things glisten."
Nate Regimbal, on the other hand, is utilitarian when it comes to his clothes encounters.
"It's all pretty much for utility," says Regimbal, 27, about his lightweight synthetic cargo shorts and roomy blue camp shirt, both with plenty of pockets for wallets, keys and "whatnot." But truth be told, his girlfriend, Jennifer Kaufman, 25, takes credit for Regimbal's stylish look. "I dress him," she says.
As joggers and power walkers pound the Strand's pavement, others relax on the warm sand and bask in the sun with family.
Preschool teacher Equicha Turner, 24, of Pasadena, took time off from her La Crescenta job to hit the beach with relatives from Louisiana. And she didn't let being seven months pregnant stop her from looking fabulous.
"This is my first time in a long time coming to the beach," she says, adding that she was especially pleased that she could fit into her blue bathing suit, accessorized with a matching turtle-print sarong.
Buz Stout, 53, a contractor who lives in Las Vegas, grew up in Carson and now visits Southern California about eight times a year. A former surfer bum, Stout says he prefers wearing comfort clothes such as "loose shirts and denim shorts." And he never leaves home without his aviator sunglasses and favorite straw hat that he spray-painted white to keep him cooler.
"My life is changing, and I'm getting in touch with the outdoors again," he says, pointing to his 25-year-old roller-skates he hadn't used for 15 years.
Wearing a tight Puma baby-tee, a purple bandana and a dark denim skirt--perfect for a breezy day--Nicole Wood, 21, says she took all of 10 minutes to pull together her look.
Inside her camouflage-print backpack was a young mom's survival kit: lip gloss, magazines and face powder. And on her feet, the must-have flip-flops, bright red. And hanging on to mommy: 4-year-old Alexis, who "dressed herself" in a white summer dress and zippered velvet jacket.
Nearby, Marty Takagi, 30, and Yachi Tahara, 22, tourists from Tokyo, are caught in a romantic embrace--and proof that fashion opposites attract. Takagi, in a striped rainbow-hued T-shirt, baggy corduroy shorts and old-school Vans, is pure surfer dude. Tahara, in how-low-can-you-go pants with a midriff-bearing top and heels, is straight out of a J. Lo video.
"I like the '60s surfer style," Takagi says about his outfit. Tahara admits she's a fashion victim and follows the dictates of glossy magazines. Duh.
With Tokyo becoming globally more influential in fashion, the question begs: "What is the difference between California style and Tokyo fashion?"
"In Tokyo, everyone is into fashion," Takagi says. "People here dress like they want to and look very natural. They have style."