At the end of August, I packed up my northeast Minneapolis apartment and headed for the airport. I was sad to be leaving. Sort of. Maybe. Not quite.
I hadn’t exactly fallen in love with Minnesota during my three-month stay. I had, however, fallen in step during my summer internship at the Star Tribune. The lakes! The beers! The hard vowels!
I grimaced at a young TSA officer as he questioned me about my journey — this was terrorist screening posed as small talk. I’m heading east, I answered, to work in the fashion department of a men’s lifestyle magazine. Does he read them?
Yes, he said.
Did he have any fashion advice for the masses?
“Don’t try too hard,” he said. “Some men, they peacock.”
And, just like that, he made me feel a lot better.
I’m a more-is-more person. A childhood of cheerleading, community theater productions and Italian relatives means gaudiness is cemented into my very being. I am your grandmother’s costume jewelry personified.
But Minnesotans, by large, are fashion minimalists. So we are at odds.
Minnesotans love solid colors and restrained patterns. Minnesotans love practical haircuts. Minnesotans love fits and fabrics that can be described as “wardrobe basics” or “staples” or “machine-washable.”
Sure, there are some fashionable Minnesotans — they love heritage brands and aim for an elevated working-class look. Maybe you’re reading this while drinking a Spyhouse latte in a denim shirt and Red Wing boots.
Most Minnesotans are reserved by nature — and in their sartorial choices.
Last summer I went sailing with three Duluthians on Lake Superior, so I asked for their take on the hottest Northern styles. At that very moment, the sunset was blooming richness and casting its colors across the water.
Their answer? Expensive outdoor clothing.
Later that week, I went browsing at Cliché, a women’s clothing boutique in south Minneapolis. I watched a stranger press her hands over a rainbow-striped skirt that was seriously on sale and perfectly her size. “Where would I ever wear it?” she mused aloud.
Back in my Northeast neighborhood — supposedly a hipster hub — I tried my luck at Parc Boutique, another women’s boutique. The selection of solid-color clothing was overwhelming and a little dizzying. For reasons I can’t explain, I left with a $90 dress.
In other words, I was going chameleon. I found myself shedding belts and rings like snakes shed their skin. For work, I stopped wearing winged eyeliner, my trademark since age 17. I tried not to look like I was “too much,” and lost a bit of myself in the process.
Minnesota isn’t the only place afflicted by minimalism. I see it as a national plague. I read that four different paint brands chose off-white as their “it” color for 2016.
A New York Times writer recently posited that mass minimalism is our way of atoning for pre-recession excess. Or maybe minimalism offers a way to cope with recession-induced austerity. The writer went on to venture that minimalism is a class signifier, tentatively tracing it to Steve Jobs.
Today’s minimalist poster boy is Mark Zuckerberg with his closetful of gray shirts. Streamlining his wardrobe allows him to focus on larger pursuits, he says. Whatever.
Don’t get me wrong. Everyone gets to live their life by their choices and their closets. There are more pressing matters for concern. And there are exceptions to minimalism’s reign in Minnesota.
I spotted a few bold looks (including a few pirate hats) when I attended “Funk Night” at the Roller Garden in St. Louis Park. And I spied plenty of Minnesotans with well-crafted tattoos employing every color in the Crayola box.
And then there’s Prince, my idol of being extra, outdone only by Dolly Parton.
Regardless, I rejoiced when my flight landed in Philadelphia.
As I exited the plane, I spotted a woman in a form-fitting camouflage dress; she was serving side-eye to her travel companion at the gate. I saw multiple men sporting dyed platinum hair, chopped feverishly and made to stand on end with gel and pure hope.
And at baggage claim, my mother greeted me in her printed maxi-dress and high heels. Her metallic handbag swung wildly as she threw her arms out for a hug.
I would miss Minnesota, always. I’ll carry that wonder with me. But I was finally home. And, with my jeans and plain blue blouse, I was already feeling underdressed.
Danielle Fox is a writer and fashion assistant living in New York City. Find her on Twitter or Instagram: @foxddanielle.