March 15, 2015

Overseas, Underfunded: Fashion

A few days ago, I decided, I need a haircut. This seemed like an easy enough proposition, and yet I was shaking in my boots. Well, I’m actually wearing hiking shoes which, by the way, are great for these uneven cobblestone streets.

Although many Germans, particularly young adults, speak fluent English, local businesses like barbershops and hair salons receive their business almost entirely from the immediate community. They have little incentive to familiarize themselves with our language. That being said, I could not help but have horrific visions of leaving the hair salon with the dreaded reverse mohawk or, even worse, a perm.

Naturally, I did what any determined, daring, adventurous young man would do: I let the other Lafayette guys go before me, and asked them how it went. To alleviate you of the mind-boggling suspense I am surely holding you in right now, all went well with my haircut, and I even used the opportunity to try out a more “European style” haircut.

This whole escapade led me to wonder if Europe has its own distinct fashion since, after all, there are haircuts that we instinctively associate with our friends from across the pond.

First of all, I am anything but an expert on fashion. I didn’t pay particular attention to what I was wearing until about sophomore year of high school. Honestly, you’d be much better off conferring with a man afflicted by color blindness than me when it comes to fashion, but that’s beside the point. These are all trends that I have noticed throughout my travels thus far. They are hardly as official as something out of “Vogue”, but I’ll give it a shot.

For now, let’s stay on the topic of hair. Unfortunately, for all of you ladies out there, I haven’t observed a definitive difference in female European hairstyles. You may say that because I am a dude I would be less likely to nA male model with a trendy "Euro cut" hair styleotice differences among girls’ hairstyles, but you would be wrong as I grew up with two very fashionable older sisters.

Among men, however, there is a stark difference. The “Euro cut”, as I alluded to earlier, can be found anywhere and everywhere among children, teens, and adult males. In fact, it was startling at first to see how nearly half of the German population seemed to have variations of the same hairstyle.

In case you are not familiar with the typical European haircut, the hair on the top of the head is kept long and the front is often styled upward in its best impression of a tidal wave. Meanwhile, the sides and back are trimmed extremely short so that they mirror the length of a golf course putting green (0.125”). In case you’re not totally satisfied by my descriptions, check out the accompanying picture.

My theory as to why this hairdo has gained such extensive popularity lies entirely with soccer… or football… or fuβball. There’s no doubt that soccer is the most popular sport in Europe. While I plan to further discuss soccer in future posts, I will say that like any sport, soccer has an incredible amount of influence in trends, particularly fashion.

In America, an easy comparison to make would be with athletes’ widespread use of Nike Elite socks. After a few commercials and athlete endorsements, America saw every man, woman, and child clamoring to cough up $12.99 for one pair of socks featuring Nike’s iconic “swoosh” logo.

The same applies for Europeans and their adored soccer players. People are looking at these athletes and thinking, Not only are these guys incredible soccer players, but they look good, too. I want to be like them. Since becoming a professional soccer player takes years of careful dieting, meticulous practicing, and, well, effort, it’s easiest to just copy the way they look. German soccer star André Schürrle and Real Madrid superstar Cristiano Ronaldo are prime examples of such idolized European athletes.

German soccer star André Schürrle in uniform

André Schürrle

Real Madrid soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo

Cristiano Ronaldo: I think God was pretty unfair to the rest of the world when he created Ronaldo.


There’s more to these Europeans than just their hair, though. They tend to wear clothing too depending on where, or more specifically what beaches, you are visiting.

Multiple of my fellow study abroad students have pointed out to me that Europeans wear particularly dark clothing. When I started to pay attention I couldn’t disagree. Entire cities seemed to be adhering to a dress code of black, brown, and gray. Occasionally you would pass by a daredevil who decided to sport a pair of beige khaki pants, but that was just about the extent of their color palette. Naturally, I felt like a walking neon sign in my bright blue winter jacket… and my physically radiant white skin.

Me  in front of Big Ben in London as I am being swallowed by the mass of dark colored clothing.

Me in front of Big Ben in London as I am being swallowed by the mass of dark colored clothing.

Granted, my observations so far have been made during the latter half of winter. Additionally, a little bit of snooping around the internet has told me that dark colors are common throughout northern Europe, which has been the focus of all of my traveling as of now. Nevertheless, entire populations would be doing themselves a favor if they could figure out how not to dress as if they are attending a funeral. I’m surprised that this trend hasn’t shocked Stacy London and Clinton Kelly into resurrecting What Not to Wear, but hey, like I said, I know nothing about fashion.

The final distinct fashion statement that I feel confident applying to an entire continent’s population is the scarf. Scarves on men, scarves on women, scarves on babies, scarves on dogs. They are everywhere.

You could attribute this to the Europeans being particularly conscious of the brisk weather, but we have experienced about a week of low 60°F weather in which the scarves suffered absolutely no casualties. In fact, people will take off their jackets and just wear their scarf with a t-shirt and long pants. It’s absolute madness. I don’t know at what point I crossed over into the Bizarro World, but it happened.

I understand that the scarf isn’t absent in American cold weather outfits, but it is nowhere near as common. In particular, I’ve noticed that European men sport the infinity scarf which, up until recently, I had considered as an accessory almost exclusive to women.

One thing is for sure, while I may not understand European fashion, I look forward to trying it out and seeing how it feels to blend in with the black, brown, and gray masses.

Picture Citations:

The citations are very long, but I can provide them if requested.

posted in James Onorevole

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  1. You work is both informative and comedic.

    says Marcia LeWand
    March 16, 2015 at 7:10 am
  2. Hi James!

    I enjoyed reading your blog and found it very entertaining! I love your easy, casual style and your light sense of humor.

    Enjoy your time abroad, be well and safe travels!

    Mrs. Newman

    says Margaret Newman
    March 16, 2015 at 6:46 pm

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