‘The Situation’ is no Frank Sinatra
New Jersey: there are 24-hour diners everywhere; it’s home to Bruce Springsteen, Bon Jovi and Atlantic City; it’s a short drive from New York City. But let’s not forget about the state’s oceanfront property. It’s the one place in the country where a sandy boundary with an ocean is referred to as a "shore" instead of a beach or coast. Despite all the good things about New Jersey, the "fashion" from the television show about life on its "shore" is making waves that could cause tsunami damage to the rest of the country’s impressionable sense of style.
The famous stretch of real estate is typically a place to escape the metropolis and soak up the sun. But unbeknownst at the time MTV began filming its hit "reality" show "Jersey Shore," the boardwalk unfortunately became the runway for middle America’s fashion sense to take flight in the wrong direction.
Just before New York Fashion Week, where some of the most well-known names in the style world showcase their couture and ready to wear lines, an Associated Press story alluded that some Americans will be rejecting what these brilliant minds say will be on the racks. Instead, they’re going for the look of those middle-class teens and 20-year-olds from New York boroughs, Long Island, northern New Jersey, eastern Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Delaware: red light district chic, or perhaps a better word is cheap.
Before being on West Virginia University’s campus (also known as University of New Jersey, West Virginia campus) I thought the clothing of these men and women who live so close yet so far away from one of the most fashionable cities in the world wore had been sensationalized; but I was wrong.
For a 9 a.m. class girls could be seen sporting skirts and tops that left NOTHING to the imagination; acrylic nails; a fake tan; (for the most part) fake designer handbags; dark lipliner and no lipstick; and of course the VonDutch trucker hat. And guys: muscle shirts or tanks; shorts or "check out my glutes" jeans; button downs (yeah, the collar was popped); mirrored sunglasses; the year-round fake tan; and hair that 50-mile-per-hour wind couldn’t move.
Outside of seeing these 18-to 20-somethings on college campuses along the East Coast, the rest of the country and those in our area might be thinking the "style" seen on "Jersey Shore" is the latest trend – it’s almost like an immigrant whose culture is being adopted in a new world. But in reality these late ’70s and ’80s looks have been perpetuated for years and have become a tradition for some in said areas.
Over the years we’ve seen these looks on the big screen and on television: "Saturday Night Fever," "The Sopranos" and nearly every Martin Scorsese movie about the "neighborhood." It’s as if those states adopted the style of disco dancing and Tony Manero and welcomed Rocky’s leather Tiger coat with open arms, but refused to give them up after 1986. Every now and then something becomes so popular in our culture that everyone begins jumping on the bandwagon, but that doesn’t make it right for decade after decade.
Now that teens and those in their 20s are apparently falling for the hairstyles and duds worn on the "reality" show, one of these quasi-celebrities will apparently try to have her say on what will be in this year when she releases her own clothing line. Jenni "JWOWW" Farley has already launched her fashion Web site and the infamous yellow "shirt" she wore "clubbin’" in a few episodes is ready for purchase -in multiple colors no less.
This lowbrow "fashion" could be attributed not only to the culture but also to what’s available to those living in the more metropolitan areas. While visiting a close friend’s hometown in southern New Jersey, I was taken to a "flea market." Used merchandise, crafts or vegetables didn’t surround me. Instead there were fake designer clothing and accessories and inexpensive stereotypical shirts and pants associated with the Northeastern Seaboard. The "flea market" was packed, too. You could barely move; it was almost like Meadowbrook Mall on Dec. 24. So, that’s where these middle-class kids get their clothes, I concluded.
In West Virginia, we too have had our sense of style passed down over the years, possibly in part because it’s what we can afford. People here wear sweatshirts, plaid and T-shirts. Very few individuals in our area look like they stepped out of Vogue or GQ, instead they rely on what mall stores and department store buyers say is in style. Hooded sweatshirts from American Eagle and sweaters from Macy’s don’t say "fashionista," but those choices probably won’t land you on an episode of TLC’s "What Not to Wear."
Let’s not replace our conservative wardrobes with tops that cannot be worn without investing in body tape or require muscles the size of Texas.