Wednesday, June 13, 2012

How to look like a Porteño

Like any huge city, Buenos Aires has an enormous breadth of style; on the daily you'll see everything from sweats at work to club wear during morning rush hour. However, with less disposable income and less consumerism than we have in North America, Argentina also has less fickle fashions. The predominant style now is the same as it was when I first came to Buenos Aires in 2010. Styles do change, but the classic Porteño look doesn't. Thus, one can always spot a foreigner in Bs.As. by a quick assessment of their style. 
Whether you're just curious about Argentine style, or you're trying to avoid looking like a fish food tourist, here's your head to toe guide for looking like a Porteño.
1. HEAD 
Ladies, make sure your hair is long, at least past your shoulders, but the longer the better. You should wear it down and usually straight. If you must put it up, the preferred style is a bun on top of your head secured with a clip or a scrunchie, never a hair elastic. Thick bangs are optional. Any other hair style is for old ladies or rebels. 
Men, you can blend in with any length longer than a crew cut  (because that's for the U.S. Army) including long flowing locks; it's best to just copy your favorite soccer player, though. Whatever style you choose, be sure to have a rattail underneath. 
Either sex could use dreadlocks, but you'll be judged for it.
The majority of Argentine girls and young women don't use makeup during the day, so if you want to blend in you shouldn't either. The majority of middle aged (and botoxed) and old women do, so if that's you then load up. For going out, standard going out makeup is ... standard.
Facial piercings are pretty big too, and are usually worn with a small colored ball. 
2. BODY
The work week looks very different from the weekend in terms of attire. Work style is rather traditional in most companies, so many people wear suits and ties everyday. Uniforms are also very common, so seeing a chef with a proper hat and white jacket, a bank teller with a skirt suit or a city maintenance employee in a reflective tape accented jumpsuit is very common. Of course, the fashionable elite just wear the same clothes they wear to the club to work; nothing drives success like a little seduction. 
If you don't have a prescribed dress code athletic gear is favored among both men and women. Adidas (haha) and Nike (haha) pants and jackets/sweatshirts are quite common, as is national soccer club athletic wear. Counter-intuitively American brands mainly Gap (haha), Abercrombie (haha), Hollister (haha) and Polo (haha), plus English graphic t's are also big here.
Weird pants are all rage. This mostly applies to girls and women who have harem, drop crotch, graphic print leggings plus more pants I don't know how to describe. However, (usually hippie) men sometimes join in on this trend with knit pants. Jeans are standard too, but that's not Argie specific.
*Most of these "imported brands" are knockoffs. Sorry rich luxury brands, no real business for you here!
3. FEET
Women have several distinct directions to go in the category of footwear. The most popular among the (street and subway clogging, can't walk on stairs or the crumbled sidewalks) fashionistas is the platform heel. The platform should be around 4 centimeters, and the heel should be another 6 to 10 on top of that. It's best if these shoes are also brightly colored suede and lace up, but that isn't mandatory. If you're a pussy fashionista you can go with a straight platform, which is particularly common a la Berkenstocks, clogs or saddle shoes. 
For the practical but still style conscious girls, the best bet is a low calf, leather, lace up boot. These can be in a classic brown or black, but colors like red and green are available if you want to make a lukewarm fashion statement. The really casual girls usually go for sneakers, generally converse high tops or Pony brand with velcro. 
An important note about both boots and hightop sneakers is that to appear truly authentic you should keep the top 2 holes of shoe unlaced, then wrap the laces around your ankle in the area of said holes once or twice and tie them in front. 
Businessmen wear leather dress shoes. The rest of the men wear sneakers, and the favorite brands are Nike, Adidas, Converse and for some reason Merrell. 
Of course men and women can also just use gaucho shoes. (That's not their official name. But guess what? Neither is Toms!)
4. ACCESSORIES
Yes, accessories make all the difference. 
First stop baggage claim. The vast majority of people carry their work documents and personal effects in an old paper shopping bag to work. I don't know why, but I think it could literally be the #1 most used piece of baggage. However, if your daily supplies weigh more than a sweater you might need to carry a backpack, on the front, like a faux pregnancy. You don't have to carry it that way if you think it looks weird (unless you want to make it to and from work with all your belongings, cause then you do have to carry it that way). And on that note of being robbed and/or pick pocketed, across-the-body-strap bags that zip close are usual.
As far as jewelry goes, see what's being sold on the streets outside of Alto Palermo, on Cabildo or in another upscale area and you'll see what's trending. Right now it's neon accents, but I think that's winding down.
During the winter, legwarmers are pretty common. Sometimes your weird pants aren't very warm. Scarves can also help with this, but lighter weight ones are huge all year round.
Men here accessorize too! So, if you're a norteamericana on vacay looking for a quick romance don't consider a bag carrying, jewelry wearing Argie as gay just yet. Usually, (thankfully) jewelry is something small and subtle like a carved wood ring, string bracelet or cross necklace. Argentinos are also big on murses (man purses if you aren't exposed to pop culture ever). It's not their fault though, most people don't have cars and go 10 or more hours without passing by home. 

Dress like this; don't say that you're American or that North America is a different continent, and you'll blend in just fine.

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