Hansen: O.C. still lacks in the fashion department

Perhaps it’s not fair to compare New York City to coastal Orange County. One is home to scarves, gloves and perfectly distressed leather. The other wears imitation Naugahyde flip-flops.

But it’s the weather, critics quickly say. New York is cold and dreary, facilitating layers and 47 shades of black. Orange County has warmth and light, which helps radiate the bling.

Regardless of weather, there is an undeniable stylish effort in New York. People try, at least. In the OC, people either try too hard or not at all.

A tilted beret makes an impact for any generation. A dashing ascot says something. A Sex Pistols lapel button on a bespoke Ermenegildo Zegna suit — well, that’s just wrong.

The point is it’s not the clothes that make the person. It’s the bystanders who have to suffer the consequences.


On a recent N.Y. trip, I couldn’t help but notice the colorful dividing line between the East Coast panache and our West Coast beachwear. Granted, it was a little cooler in N.Y., but not by much. The daily highs surpassed 70 in the city.

And it wouldn’t surprise me to see New Yorkers wear black shorts. Black just looks better on an Easterner.

It’s not just a black shirt and pants either. There’s the full ensemble: black purse, shoes, bracelets, hair, nose rings.

Suits are dark as well, but there is always some splash of color: purple socks or an unexpected pocket square.

Scarfs are not just neck dainties. Think carpet runners dangling to the ground. One suspects they double as a blanket in Central Park.

There is a street sensibility to it all, however. Their trendy boots are not affectations. They actually need them to navigate the unpredictable terrain that is a N.Y. street, full of potholes and unidentifiable objects that may or may not be organic.

Because they don’t drive, they use that extra car payment money to buy supple Hermes handbags. Here in the O.C., we’re good with our velcro wallet.

They have a Buffalo Exchange in Chelsea, surprisingly, that probably does more business than all of The Lab Antimall in Costa Mesa. The reason is there so much clothes volume. Add to that four distinct seasons, and you have people dying to rotate their inventory.

If you want proof that style is part of their DNA, just look at the children. All are dressed with care. Clothes are coordinated. They are not all little Neiman Marcus designer babies, but at least they are wearing matching socks.

Here there is a flat sameness -— as in flat T-shirts. The only differentiation, especially along the coast, is the different surf company names: Hurley versus Billabong; Quiksilver versus Roxy.

You can spot the tourists here because they are wearing linen or a lightweight Merino wool. And, yes, they actually wear an outfit.

It’s undeniable that fashion in Southern California is irrelevant because of the lackluster fashion shows. The only shows that matter start in N.Y. and continue moving east.

The L.A. fashion shows are essentially ignored and treated more like another excuse to roll out the well-worn red carpet and call it an awards show.

Having said all of that, there are benefits to L.A. fashion.

We can usually roll out of bed and make brunch without changing. Pajamas are perpetually in.

Cotton T-shirts stay fresh for a remarkably long time. And if they do ever start to lose their luster, just keep them for a few years and proclaim them “vintage” at your next party.

If we want to be more New Yorky, we just wear a wool cap and look ridiculous in summer.

Because we wear very few clothes, we are tan and look healthier than most people in the United States. Besides, let’s face it, we are always on vacation.

The New York Times ran a long article last summer about the cultural changes between L.A. and N.Y. It noted that “no less a New York mascot than Fran Lebowitz, whose jaded, cigarette-sucking visage may as well be inscribed on the city seal, also confessed to a change of heart about Los Angeles.”

“L.A. is better than it used to be, New York is worse than it used to be,” Lebowitz said. “New York has become vastly more suburban, L.A. has become slightly less suburban.”

Perhaps L.A. proper is starting to become more interesting. Unfortunately, it may take a while for the clothes to follow suit.


DAVID HANSEN is a writer and flip-flop wearing Laguna Beach resident. He can be reached at