Swiping through the celebrity shots from this week’s Grammy Awards, I was finding it hard to see anything that really blew me away.
This was strange because the music industry has always had edgy, alluring icons of style: Jagger, Hendrix, Patti Smith, Bowie, Debbie Harry – the list is endless.
And in 2016 we have – Taylor Swift. In an awful fuschia sweeping silk skirt and an Anna Wintour bob. And Justin Bieber in a white tux. Lady Gaga always pulls off something spectacular that at least makes you look twice, but it’s performance art, not real style, the sort Keith Richards or Nick Cave have.
Florence Welch looked very en pointe in pale pink Gucci, but she is also the new ambassador for jewellery and watches for the house so the sponsorship tends to detract points for originality.
I was fast losing interest (Carrie Underwood in a strapless dress, a few cutaway gowns that wouldn’t look out of place in a Las Vegas piano bar) until I suddenly stopped in my tracks.
Courtney Barnett. A shaggy haired brunette with no makeup, wearing black jeans, a black (not brand new) shirt and R.M Williams boots. And an Aussie.
Not being familiar with her music, I looked her up on YouTube and spent the afternoon listening to her quirky, clever songs. The fact that she had chosen not to dress like a game show hostess was one of the ballsiest red carpet moves ever. Something we haven’t seen for ages. Genuine street cred.
Street cred, is of course, the diametric opposite of the new sport of street style. The street style poseurs are not dressing to reflect their art – that is their art. And it is not easy.
A friend of mine came over in a panic last week, as she had to make a sudden trip to snowy New York and needed to borrow a warm coat or two.
We started pulling out pieces, most of them things that I bought to wear at the various ready-to-wear fashion weeks during winter. Black. Navy. A khaki army coat. Grey. Charcoal. More black. She looked a little underwhelmed.
“You must understand, this was what we wore before street style became a thing,” I tried to explain. “We weren’t going to be photographed.”
I used to live out of a suitcase for four weeks and packing all black made sense. I was starting to feel like a complete fashion loser.
“Oh, look here! I have a bright orange Burberry coat!” I said triumphantly.
Funny, although it was very expensive, I have never worn it. It makes me feel conspicuous.
That is the underlying difference between the exhibitionists who love and crave the attention of the street photographer, and the others who wear black pants, a roll neck sweater and sensible boots and parkas. We all love fashion but some of us just like to stay off the radar.
Wearing colour, as much of it as you can, all at once, clashing and contrasting, is the surest way to get noticed on your way to the shows. There are currently more shots of technicolour street style explosions online than there are looks from the runways.
The precision and the planning required must be painstaking. It’s no doubt easier if you live in that particular city, but for travellers, that is real commitment.
I can only imagine the packing – laying it all out on the floor, working out two outfit changes per day, probably photograph it all, adding the quirky clutch in seven different colours, earrings, sunnies, beanies, scarfs. And that’s just the accessories. Add a crazy hair colour, and you’re good to go.
If you actually have a ticket to get in.