When I know you’re not a New Yorker?
I think I’m becoming an expert at recognizing real New Yorkers. What do I mean by that? I love watching people, taking notice of their behaviors and habits. That means I watch New Yorkers a lot. I got to coffee shops pretty often (by the way, someone should write some kind of analysis about New Yorkers’ coffee choices – it blows my mind what they’re coming up with), and I observe and listen. That’s why it makes me laugh when I see people outside of NY trying to mimic “being a New Yorker.” The major thing they’re trying to do is pretend to be “cool,” which basically means pretending like they don’t care. This feature I find to be the most accurate way to describe a New Yorker. We just really don’t care. And I don’t mean not caring about other people (we surprisingly do care), but not caring at all what others think of us.
It’s especially visible in the outfits we put on. If we feel like putting sneakers on with a nice gown, we do it. If we feel like putting on a purple hat with a pink puffy coat, we just do it. Having an expensive coat will not stop us from pairing it with something cheap or dirty, or something that doesn’t look like a great fit. We want to put it on, and so we will. And that’s something I learned to do here, too. I’m not saying I wear dirty clothes now; I try to look decent or interesting, but my comfort comes first. When I have a day off, I’m dreaming of just putting on jeans and a large sweater (or a hoodie) that will cover everything. A baseball cap seems like a great addition to that outfit (I have to buy one, by the way), especially given that I usually go to a coffee shop. But I also might pair it with heels – why not? I don’t want to feel entirely like a bum.
I see tourists, usually young girls (the older ones just wear sports outerwear coming to NY), who just want to be New Yorkers, and it doesn’t matter that they just got here. They usually think that wearing a hat will make them a New Yorker, or buying some fancy bag (and they’re thinking that Michaels Kors is the fanciest they can do) and walking in heels around Manhattan. First of all – if you put on heels, you’d better sit down. Manhattan is not made for walking in anything else but sneakers or UGGs. If you want to wear heels, make sure that someone will give you a ride to your destination, or that you can afford a cab. Remember – don’t walk more than a few blocks. It’s unhealthy. And it doesn’t look cool. Seeing you in this whole armor – a hat, fancy bag and heels – I would know instinctively that you don’t live here, girl. If you want to pretend that you’re a New Yorker, I have some advice – less is more. We love to feel comfortable. If you put a hat on – New Yorkers love hats – pair it with a casual jacket (usually leather) and sneakers. If you want to have a fancy bag, don’t buy something that’s obvious or with a big logo on it – New Yorkers don’t like showing off like that. We buy good labels, but the label itself is barely visible. I’ve also noticed one more thing – many girls don’t wear a lot of make up (African-American girls wear a bit more). So don’t look like you just got a Sephora makeover, or you’ll look like you haven’t found your way back home yet after a night out.
My main advice would probably be – don’t try too hard. When you do, you make it clear that you’re not from here. Because yes, New Yorkers are cool. That’s the greatest thing about them. They are cool, and so they let you be cool, too. They let you be whomever you want to be and wear whatever you want to wear at that moment. And this is what I mean by saying that they don’t care. My friend has this great expression that I love: “Don’t be so extra.” And that’s about right – don’t be so extra, girl. When you come to NY, just relax, put on what feels right (comfortable!) to you and chill out. This city is all about the feeling. Feel the city, let it carry you away. Loosen up, take a deep breath and be whomever you truly are, maybe for the first time in your life.