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Top 15 unforgettable U.S. style icons

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By Rena Galanis

The USA is a young country and like most toddlers and teenagers, it can be rebellious, self-centred, arrogant and challenging of the status quo: All the ingredients for rip-roaring style and it has it in spades.

The land of plenty has given us the most popular item of clothing in recent history – jeans, as well as its constant companion, the t-shirt.

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Levis jeans, the perennial youth favourite for over 140 years.

When Levi Strauss put out the now famous closet staple in 1873, it was designed for miners and the working class. The humble t-shirt was constructed for similar purposes (see post The Basic T-Shirt, Never Fade Away.)

Popularized by films of the ’50s and stars like Marlon Brando, Jimmy Dean and Marilyn Monroe, these pieces took on a life of their own with the emerging baby boomer population coming of age and with the help of a little  music movement we like to call rock’n’roll which, just happened to take the country by storm.

Elvis Presley swaying his hips in a pair of dungarees, guitar strapped to his chest and a sneer that would launch the genre around the world, was a kind of “Fuck you” to the establishment back in the day. And what teenager doesn’t want to raise the middle finger to their parents’ moral constructs, at least once?

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Elvis Presley doing his thing in jeans, a jean shirt and jean jacket!

The timeless, classic combination of jeans, t-shirt, leather motorcycle jacket, a pair of Chucks, all topped with Ray Bans, is still the uniform of choice for rebels without a cause.

With the youthquake movement of the ’60s taking hold, American youth, both male and female, firmly embraced denim and contributed to a world-wide phenomenon which, really, has not been paralleled. Flash-forward to 2014 and denim sales are in the multi-billion dollar category.

But the US style history certainly doesn’t end there. Colliding influences have come from New York high life to the rugged mid-West, to the more laid-back cool of Southern California tomboy/girls.

American designers are an eclectic bunch and have taken on the challenge of catering to all these divergent groups with visions ranging from the ladylike, the business woman, the preppy,  the surfer girl and the modern-day hipster. And that’s just for starters.

Not shy to borrow from their cultural ancestors (this is a land of immigrants, after all) designers have pilfered from a variety of sources and continents, but end up producing in a very US-way.

Some examples, past and present, include Oscar de la Renta for a European-influenced elegance; Bill Blass and Donna Karan known for luxe style in ready-to-wear for the working woman; Ralph Lauren who created a lifestyle brand around the clean-cut, Ivy League preppy; Calvin Klein for a pared-down, simple elegance; Perry Ellis and Marc Jacobs who ushered in youthful irreverence and attitude; relative newbies like Proenza Schouler, Alexander Wang, and Thakoon – just to name a few.

So, here’s to the US of A! You have given us Ray Bans, Converse, tomboy style, jeans, t-shirts, tank tops, army/navy, the hippie/bohemian, preppy style and minimalism, to name just a very few contributions to the fashion world.

Like teenagers we just can’t ignore, we have watched and followed.

Below is a list of 15 of the most unforgettable, US style icons. Click on one of the photos for details/close-ups and a slideshow:

 

 

 

 

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UKVogue editor Lucinda Chambers chronicles her fashion life

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Here’s a more in-depth look at UKVogue contributing editor, Lucinda Chambers (see accompanying article, Personal Style, Do You Have It?) from SHOWStudio. She talks about how she got her start in the fashion biz and what inspired her in her early days.

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Who says guys can’t be feminists?

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By Rena Galanis

Male high school students aren’t the typical attendees of Feminism 101.  Yet at the Elizabeth Irwin High School (LREI) in the U.S. some of the guys got a message about what it feels like to be a girl and ended up being okay with calling themselves feminists. Take a look at this video from Upworthy.

 

These students from the 2012/13 school year at the LREI High School in New York were taught about gender, race and class and how they intersect and contribute to oppression, for both men and women, and the fact that women have to sometimes grapple with all three.

The young men shown in the video, talk about the fact that they got a different perspective on just what feminism is and how it affects all people.

Which got me thinking, what messages are we passing down to our children, especially sons, around the treatment of women today? The fact remains that women are still paid less for equal work, are often expected to do the majority of housework and childrearing while holding down a job, and still experience domestic and sexual violence at alarming rates.

Going forward, men need to be part of the solution. And although there’s often a backlash when women are vocal about their experiences around these issues, many men do get it, as this article from AlterNet documents.

Research shows that society benefits when there is collaboration as opposed to competition and submission. Cooperation leads to better productivity and higher accuracy in accomplishing tasks, higher self-esteem, and less stress. Win-wins for everyone.

Difficulties arise when one group has more privilege than another and is less than enthused about giving up some of their power (even though all stand to gain more in the end.)

But some men are up to the challenge of working alongside and for women’s safety, equality and rights without feeling threatened that women are against men.

Mother Theresa famously replied to the question of why she didn’t march in anti-war demonstrations: “I said that I will never do that, but as soon as you have a pro-peace rally, I’ll be there.”

For those of us who are mothers, it’s time to clearly let our sons know that it’s okay to be pro-feminism and that that doesn’t equate with being anti-men.

 

 

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