A road trip is one of the most iconic activities for summer vacation. There is something idyllic about watching the gorgeous scenery of our nation shift as we travel across the regions of the country. This time, come along as we embark on a road trip to observe the variation in something equally intriguing: the fashion of the USA.
Style is a reflection of both the external and internal influences of a location. Although there are certainly overarching trends that sweep the country and dictate what the population will be wearing at a given time, there are still particular looks that come to mind when we think of certain regions of the USA. These looks are naturally influenced by the climate, geography, and weather of the region, in combination with deep-seated cultural influences. It’s no surprise then, that the history and the values of a region are manifested in that location's signature style. Let’s take a look at the five major regions of the USA and the styles associated with each.
Our trip begins where the nation began, in New England. When the Puritans first arrived on the bleak shores of the Northeast, they brought with them the timeless value of the American work ethic. This has certainly manifested itself in the style of New England, through its streamlined, practical look, with basic colors and clean-cut silhouettes found in brands like L.L. Bean.
The ocean is also a noteworthy factor in the region, and nautical looks prevail as we travel down the coast – think of stripes, canvas, and colorblock, particularly characterized in the style of Nantucket.
Due to its long history all the way back to the nation’s founding and before, New England places a great emphasis on tradition and societal structure. Often criticized for being uptight and hierarchical, institutions like country clubs and prep schools are seen as iconic examples of New England fashion, seen in places like our next stop, Long Island. Polo shirts and tennis skirts are staples of the preppy look.
On the streets of New York City itself, you will see cutting-edge street fashion, and all the latest trends, although the style has its roots in hip-hop culture from the Bronx in the 1970s.
For the next leg of our journey, we continue down southward, with the Atlantic Ocean to the left. Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina serve as a transition between New England and the South. Their trademark style is a combination of coastal preppy and classic Southern glamor.
Soon enough, however, we encounter sleepy Southern towns with their long, humid summers and deep historic heritage. The atmosphere is more relaxed. In places like Charleston and Savannah, you will see feminine dresses with bold ruffles, puffed sleeves, and bright floral prints, a nod to the classic Southern charm dating back to the days of the Southern belles. The decorative over practical nature of Southern style is perfectly reflective of the value the culture places on taking life at a slower pace and simply watching the world go by.
The bright look of Southern fashion becomes even more pronounced as we enter the Sunshine State. The Florida spirit is epitomized by the neon prints of Palm Beach’s Lilly Pulitzer.
Now, we make a U-turn and head back northwards and westwards to the Midwest, home of endless rolling fields of corn and sprawling lakeside cities. Midwesterners are known for a laid-back, welcoming attitude, which we see reflected in their clothing choices as they are more casual than the Northeast and more practical than the South.
Known for its bitter winters, Chicagoans have mastered cold-weather fashion, and the key is layering. You’ll see a lot of scarves, puffer coats, and hats around the Windy City.
Also home to rustic experiences like apple picking in central Wisconsin, and a trip to the pumpkin patch, or a Christmas tree farm in Northern Minnesota, the Midwest is the perfect place to find classic fall looks with tall boots, chunky sweaters, cardigans, and earthy tones. The Midwest is the agricultural center of the U.S., so naturally, you will also find some farmer-inspired fashion, like overalls and bandanas.
Heading southward once again, we’ll see classic colors like red, white, and blue, and patterns like gingham and plaid. The Southwest truly embraces the Americana look. Ultimately, the Southwest embodies the classic spirit of the frontier and an appreciation for the country.
We next head into beautiful Texas, the heart of cowboy country. This region is the birthplace of the Western look, the ultimate cowboy boots, bootcut jeans, and a plaid or denim shirt look. The workwear-inspired style of Texas reflects the cowboy culture of the state, the values of hard work, and a deep appreciation and respect for the land. Closer to the border, we’ll see details from Mexican fashion, like colorful embroidery and white cotton blouses.
As we head further westward into New Mexico, the style keeps its down-to-earth nature, but focuses on a more artsy, bohemian look with fringe, flowy silhouettes, and influences from the Navajo, like turquoise jewelry.
Rocky Mountain Region
Heading northwards once again we encounter the Rocky Mountain region. This is the ideal place for all things outdoorsy, from downhill skiing in Utah, to mountain climbing in Colorado, to fly fishing in Wyoming. The fashion of the Northwest is naturally closely linked with the environment. Here we’ll see an emphasis on environmentally conscious and sustainable brands, with all-natural, organic materials. The Northwest also has a definitive rugged, active look, including flannel shirts, cargo pants, and athletic dresses. It's no surprise that many active brands, like Columbia, were founded in the Northwest.
The rugged look evolves into its urban form as we travel toward the coast again, into the grunge look of the Pacific Northwest. This '80s-inspired hipster style incorporating ripped jeans and black and gray shades is still associated with the rainy coastal cities.
Now, for the final destination of our road trip, we head southward to the Golden Gate State. Our style road trip would not be complete without ending in a classic surfing town like Ventura, California. Rip Curl of Ventura captures the California surfer style perfectly: easy-going, with soft, bright colors, tropical prints, and lots of swimwear.
Around LA, we’ll find plenty of designer clothing, logos, and unusual colors, textures and prints. Further southward, we’ll see the effortless SoCal style with its tie-dye colors and trend-centered athleisure elements.
And so, like the thousands who flocked to the state in the mid-1900s, we have reached our final destination, the California Dream.
From “America the Beautiful” to “God Bless the USA,” many of our patriotic songs express admiration for the unique vastness of America. The size and variation of the country have fascinated generations of Americans, and what better way to appreciate the dimensions of America than through a tour of its regional fashion? Just as America is such a geographically multifaceted nation, the style of America expresses itself in a variety of engaging ways. After completing our road trip across the country, stop and think for yourself, what region most aligns with your personal style?
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