Crossing West 42nd Street the other day, a brochure was thrust at me. “Double decker bus ride?” asked a man wearing a jacket with the company’s logo emblazoned on the front.
Mortified, I looked at my friend. “Can you believe that? Did he really think I was a tourist?” Was I wearing a backpack across my chest? A fanny pack and white sneakers? A color other than black?
According to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, unless you’re wearing black, navy or gray, you might as well be wearing a sign that reads, “I’m from anywhere other from here!” As New Yorkers, many of us take pride in looking the part. But that doesn’t necessarily mean wearing a Prada bag slung over your arm or a yoga mat strapped to your back (I’m more the latter), but the most identifying accessory is, of course, your attitude.
This “don’t mess with me” expression can be seen all over the city, especially on crowded subways, busy streets and any Trader Joe’s. I think this stems more from survival than not wanting to interact with others. As New Yorkers, we’ve got a lot going on, but more so, getting from Point A to Point B takes enormous effort, day after day.
We’ve all heard the expression, “clothes make the man,” but aren’t we also told not to judge a book by its cover? Kids are bullied for wearing the wrong clothes. That happened to me. Summer camp, 1982. Girls had teased me because I didn’t own Guess jeans. When I returned home, my grandmother, having heard about Jeansgate, offered to buy me a pair.
“For your birthday,” she said. Nana always gave us checks for our birthdays and they rarely amounted to more than ten dollars.
“It’s okay Nana,” I said, knowing how much Guess jeans cost. “They’re not worth it.”
At that young age, my parents had instilled enough proper values in me that I knew that having a loving grandmother was worth a whole lot more than having the right jeans. Yet here I am, 30 years later, offended that someone misjudged me because of my clothes. Have I forgotten those early childhood lessons? Maybe I’ve just been in NYC too long. I mean, those girls from camp? They were from New York.