Europe and Style

I like style.

This tends to give me bad taste, ironically. Because style is funny, when you hear it from those who observe it and therefore enforce it. To read a magazine like GQ or Esquire or their female equivalents, and I know there are tons, you’re supposed to aspire to stand out, meaning you’re supposed to be your own man or woman. You’re better to pave your own way with clothes and shit than to follow somebody else until that short-lived trend very soon dies.

Every trend dies. That’s why it’s a trend. So don’t follow them, the magazines say.

But of course, then they’ll turn around and lecture you on the rules of style: how to wear a skinny tie, to never do up the bottom button your blazer, that black + white beats colour. Or if you’re going to wear colour, make sure it’s just to accent the black and white and navy blues – a camouflage tie, maybe, or bright, swirly socks someone will only see when you cock your ankle. And if you’re going to buy sunglasses with tinted, vibrant lenses, make sure they’re expensive. No Ryders or Banana Republic sunnies here, not even Oakleys anymore – now it’s Ray Ban, minimum.

So contradictions are everywhere in fashion and style. Like a communist proclaiming equality.

And I love style. Almost too much.

I love it in movies, favouring stuff like Ocean’s Twelve and Be Cool and Spanglish. I don’t care if they don’t have plots or if they’re ultimately kind of stupid – they look good and they speak well, so I love ’em. I’ll always take Bukowski over Hemingway – I don’t need a cohesive storyline or a neatly wrapped-up romance; I just came here to read about the fu*king and the booze.

I’ll pay more for an Old Fashioned than I would for something uglier and essentially the same, and I couldn’t even tell you what it tastes like. And then when you start drinking Old Fashioned, I’ll be onto Budweiser and I’m not shaving.

It’s why I love Europe, too. It’s why I’ve always loved it, as long as I could – I first visited Italy in 2003, and I’ve been back it seems every year since then.

Scotland and England in 2004. Poland, Prague, Budapest, and Berlin in 2008. Portugal, Spain, and Switzerland in 2009. Amsterdam, Paris, and Portugal (again) in 2012. Basically the whole damn continent in 2013. And a few more re-dos – Portugal, Amsterdam, Madrid, and Barcelona – in 2014.

It’s the castles. It’s the beach and the sun above – but even when grey and rainy, those old bricks and cobblestone streets look just as pretty, I think. London’s gorgeous when it’s ugly. Paris is Paris. As long as you’re in front of the Coliseum, do you really care what the weather’s like?

It’s not a smart place to visit over-and-over again, Europe – your dollar will go a lot further in Asia, Africa, South America, and even the United States.

But the style is everywhere. It’s in those tiny cups of coffee – one-fifth the size of your Tim Hortons for three times the cost. But damn, they taste so good when they’re so rich and important-feeling. It’s in the airports, where the magazines show off celebrities you didn’t know were so important and everything feels exotic even when it’s not – the Frankfurt airport is boring, bland, and metal, but there’s something so exciting about it. It’s the gateway to everything else, I guess, the first place you’ll walk through customs and know you’ve arrived.

It’s in their newspapers and magazines – publications like The Guardian or Der Spiegel feel heavier, feel weightier than the piles of dead trees and ink they throw on your doorstep back home, back in Canada or the U.S. (Or they ones they used to throw on your doorstep, that is.)

It’s in their hostels, too.

There’s no such thing as a hipster in Europe, not in the same way. What’s a hipster to a hip place? It’s liberating, to pay so little for a bed and to feel exposed but still okay, sleeping next to a bunch of strangers who are as unsure of you as you are of them.

Style’s in the eye of the beholder. Duh.

But not really. Sometimes, style is just so obvious, I think.

Brasiliera. The most famous cafe in Lisbon, Portugal, and the haunt of the country's most famous writer, Fernando Pessoa.
Brasileira. The most famous cafe in Lisbon, Portugal, and the haunt of the country’s most famous writer, Fernando Pessoa.
Tiles in Lisbon, Portugal. These designs line, it seems, the walls of every building in the country's capital city – even the streets and sidewalks, sometimes.
Tiles in Lisbon, Portugal. These designs line, it seems, the walls of every building in the country’s capital city – even the streets and sidewalks, sometimes.
Flowers commemorating those who died in Lisbon's crushing earthquake of 1755, which hit the city's old quarter – the Alfama – the hardest.
Flowers commemorating those who died in Lisbon’s crushing earthquake of 1755, which hit the city’s old quarter – the Alfama – the hardest.
The Bairro Alto in Lisbon, Portugal. Look up during the day, and you can sense the nightlife and a million partiers are about to arrive.
The Bairro Alto in Lisbon, Portugal. Look up during the day, and you can sense the nightlife and a million partiers are about to arrive.
Riomaggiore in the Cinque Terre, Italy. Even when those boats are shoved into the harbour with no order, it looks perfectly planned.
Riomaggiore in the Cinque Terre, Italy. Call it organized chaos – even when those boats are shoved into the harbour with no order, you couldn’t plan to perfect it.
The Walrus Waterloo, a hostel in London, England.
The Walrus Waterloo, a hostel in London, England.
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