Gen Z in the Big Apple
Kate Bowie investigates the fashion trend hitting NYC this summer.
By christening New York ‘a concrete jungle where dreams are made of’, Alicia Keys verbalised what a lot of us feel about the Big Apple. Home to tens of museums, hundreds of movie sets, and thousands of fascinating Americans – before I hopped off the plane at JFK, I was close to believing its streets really could be paved with gold. While I might’ve been disappointed on that front, NYC didn’t fail to provide a rich site for anthropological investigation. Let me guide you through my discoveries.
Now, as Keys says, New York City is a ‘jungle’ to say the least. After a few days across the pond, it became obvious that I’d have to limit the scope of my study of the trends sweeping the city this summer. After darting between music, food and hairstyles (which, to be honest can be summarised in one word: mullets. So many mullets) I settled on one easy to observe from afar: fashion.
So what did the fashion epicentre of America have to show for itself? In all honestly, nothing as intimating as I’d assumed. Most locals aren’t making too much effort – the tank top, shorts and chucks combo synonymous with vestment–Americana can still be spotted everywhere from the subway’s commuter lines to the night-life hotspots of Brooklyn. New Yorkers, it seems, simply have better things to do than worry about their outfits. Being such a talkative bunch they’re likely to have told you who they are, what they do and bagel spot they recommend before you’ve had a chance to judge their outfit.
But among those in generation z who are making a conscious effort to put their best footwear forward, there’s a trend that is undoubtedly standing out.
In 2022, layering is king in New York City.
Outfits are far less about individual pieces and far more about what you can combine them into. The fashion forward locals can be found in basic collared shirts, sweaters worn out to translucency and silk scarves they’ll have thrifted for a couple of dollars. All pieces which are nothing special – that is until you’ve combined them. And suddenly you’re staring across the subway at a genius who’s managed to create a stain-glass silhouette of colour and light. Even more impressively, they’re doing in it 30ºc heat.
Like all the best fashion trends, everyone’s doing it differently. The well-funded twenty-somethings of the upper-east side seem to be favouring loosely hand-crocheted layers and delicate mesh. The drag queens and kings of Williamsburg can be found in fishnets and leg warmers, with corsets layered over puffy sleeves. And on the weekends, high schoolers are taking strolls through central park in the most literal layering possible; patchwork making up their skirts, shirts and accessories.
Needing to understand more, I legged it to the Met and discovered I was neither the first one to notice laying’s popularity here in the US of A. The Met’s current fashion exhibition, ‘In America: A lexicon of fashion’, confirmed my discoveries. Littered in layered chiffons and opening with a signature quilted collection, the exhibition used different fabrics as a metaphor to the patched worked cultures that make up America.
After exploring the many boroughs, suburbs and communities of NYC, I don’t think it’s a stretch to apply the same logic to Gen Z’s current layering obsession. A generation finding their feet in a city that is somehow more than the sum of its many incredible parts, their latest fashion trend mirrors their environment. And I certainly wouldn’t be able to pick one shirt with so many great thrift shops around either.
Words by Kate Bowie