I Wear My Cities Like T-Shirts

I’m wearing a pair of skinny jeans and a dark green boyfriend sweater (to clarify, a men’s pullover sweater and not a sweater of a boyfriend haha). In college, most likely you would have never seen this outfit on me. I tended to be mostly put together and polished, at the expense of knowing that I could not leave my dorm room in San Antonio, Texas without running into a professor or professional who would recognize me. Possibly I would have worn this outfit on a lazy Sunday afternoon, but now it is 3 o’clock on a Tuesday afternoon headed to errands around Taipei, Taiwan.

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The only explanation I can give to this is my adaptability. This is one of my better traits, the fact that I can adapt to my surroundings pretty quickly and painlessly. Typically, this also minimizes my sense of culture shock. Although, longer term culture shock still presents itself in more indirect ways.

When I studied abroad in London for a fall semester, I fell quickly in pace (and in love) with the city and its residents. I can still remember walking down Queens Gate and through Hyde Park, past Kensington Palace, and through the accompanying lanes. I still fondly look back over my own shift in personality that mirrored those walks.

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Strolling towards the golden afternoon in the park, I was brimming with thoughts and reflection, taking on the brooding look of the others I passed. I was in my own space, my own element. On the Tube, I expected quietness just as much as the others and found any disturbance of thought to be irritatingly unacceptable. Who were they to interrupt my deepest thoughts? On rainy days, I needed to surround myself with culture and on the rare sunny days, I needed to be out and seen.

I enjoyed my solitude immensely during the day, but couldn’t help and beam with intimacy in the evenings in my favorite drinking spots.

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If I could pick one spot that summed up my entire London persona, it would be my favorite pub. Located just around the corner from the South Kensington Tube Station, there was my gem. Was it historic or independently-owned? No. Was it special in any sense? Only in that it was my first, and you never forget your first.

I would spend hours reading and studying in this particular pub as I had opted to take graduate courses online during my time abroad as to not fall behind.  My order was always a bowl of soup and a hard strawberry lime cider. The staff would laugh and say I was the only person besides the old folk that would order a soup in a pub. I didn’t care. It was delicious and hearty. Later in the afternoon, snacking involved more cider and vinegar seasoned chips (fries). Studying would continue until the first of the men came in for drinks after work.

At this point, I would leave to collect supplies for dinner. Cook, dress smart for the evening, and go back out: finding myself back at my spot.

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This time was different. I was a bit rowdy, chattier, and everyone I met seemed like a long lost friend.

That was London. You keep to your own business throughout the day. Get to where you need to be and do what you need to do. Anyone who kept you from that ought to feel ashamed. But as soon as the sun went down, the intense intimacy with which Londoners interact with each other comes spilling out of restaurants and pubs. It flows with the very drinks that pour from the taps. It was homey, hearty, and soulful.

So San Antonio was polished, put together me. London was knowledge by day, intimacy by night me.

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It didn’t stop there. In Italy, I was carefree and bubbly. In Prague, I felt quirky and curious. In France, I felt calm and sophisticated, airing on the side of diligent caution. The list went on.

Even today, I wake up and look at my clothing rack. Some days (when I actually have the willpower to think beyond the colors), I ponder over what I feel like wearing.

Do I want edgy Camden Town of London? Maybe a dark leather jacket. Possibly, I should wear a Thai-inspired dress? Or a Nordic-themed button-up and scarf combination?

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My clothing has stopped reflecting mainstream and has transformed into location. Where in the world do I want to be today? Does that fit how I am feeling? Who am I today?

And that’s the kicker. I wear my cities like t-shirts.

One day, I’m Italy; another, I’m London. Today, I’m Taipei. Tomorrow, well I just might try something new.

The idea that fashion is all about the attitude you bring is only half true. Fashion is partially made up of the attitude you commit to it; the other half is the genetic composition of what makes you ‘you’. And that never stays the same. How can it when we are dynamic?

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The speed at which my taste in music, food, clothes, and people will change is about the time it takes to exit the aircraft.

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How about you? Do your tastes change based on your location?

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3 thoughts on “I Wear My Cities Like T-Shirts”

  1. I love this: “The only explanation I can give to this is my adaptability.” If you look at any exchange student or traveler’s pictures, over a year, they change so greatly in their style, which I think reflects the changes in personality/confidence and certainly adaptability. As a traveler, I greatly change my style to reflect the city and the people in it, great post!

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