#135: Never Ending Casual Friday

A year ago, I wrote about the increasingly casual nature of American attire and the aesthetic that Venkatesh Rao calls domestic cozy. I said that “by wandering the city in sweatpants and slippers, we're finally dressing for the environment we have, not the one we're nostalgic for,” meaning an environment that is increasingly safe, controlled, and comfortable—outdoors as well as indoors. While the leather jacket evolved from functional outerwear (or “urban armor”) to become a countercultural symbol during an era when cities like New York were widely perceived as gritty and dangerous places, Allbirds and athleisure became the most appropriate clothing for the recent zeitgeist, signifying the growing comfort and safety of urban life. In his 2001 essay “Junkspace,” Rem Koolhaas proclaimed that “air conditioning has launched the endless building,” leading to our unbroken experience of interiorized, mall-like architectural space. “The more we inhabit the palatial, the more we seem to dress down” is an observation that will resonate with anyone who’s been to Vegas. That pattern soon expanded to the outdoors as well, sans air conditioning: Mayors Giuliani and Bloomberg accomplished the Disneyfication of the formerly seedy Times Square in the ‘90s and ‘00s, while unassuming urban districts everywhere became gentrified playgrounds for the affluent, and many public spaces quietly became private, complete with heightened security. The more recent explosion of shared scooters in those same districts marked the trend’s apotheosis—a twee iconography that reframed downtown areas as campuses or leisure zones.

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