California Style: Laid Back or Uptight?

Credits: Photo - Anonymous, Styling - Sarah G. Schmidt, Location - Fred Wolff Bear Creek Nature Preserve, La Quinta, California

Late in the winter a weekend get away to California can help reset the mind. It helps too, when you check back in with Calgary weather and it’s snowing. Ha! And cold. Oh no. There’s no denying it; it’s still winter here. Deep inhale. Deeper exhale. Oh vacations.

California is laid back. California is uptight. Wait, what? Locations - like people - are layered and contradictory. Weird. I’m working on slowing the roll on quick judgments so this trip I tried to look a bit deeper than my typical snark fuelled rhetoric.

On the one hand, Greater L.A. and Palm Springs area are the epitome of west coast cool. Especially “cool” is the clothing style. As in, it’s hot outside so one need clothes that are cooler to wear. Lot’s of thin, unstructured-to-the-point-of-flimsy fabrics and atheletica everywhere. It makes some sense. One, it’s a warmer climate that, two, encourages an active lifestyle.

I’m all for wearing the right clothes to the right thing.

You’re headed on a hike up those rusty rock mountains and need performance gear?

Sure, wear the clothes and shoes that will help keep you moving.

Going for dinner out on the town and want to impress?

Put on pants. Any bottoms that have 95% or more natural fabric content will do. Am I insulting your desire to wear leggings and a sweater? Kawabunga dude. I’m fighting a small, one person battle in Calgary so I fear I am a minuscule and unwelcome voice in California.

This segues into what Californians are super uptight about. This should come as no huge news flash but here goes: wellness as a commodity. People move from all over the world to live in the land of eternal sunshine. Sometimes they have to give up a lot to get there. I can empathize that people are keen to defend what they fought hard for. Even if it’s the right to wear whatever you want. Californians likely, too, reject a more formal culture. Those more corporate or “uptight” places have a more rigid dress code.

Like any unchecked grouping of similar minded people groupthink can be troublesome. Look no further than the youth obsessed “LA face,” the ludicrous anti-vaccination movement, and barrage of fitness fads. With all of this in mind it’s not a shock that anything youthful, like working out and appearing to live a healthy lifestyle, is idolized.

Workout they do. Or at least buy the stuff to look as though they workout. Tomato potato. A Morgan Stanley study reports that the US, which is the world’s biggest market for active wear, currently accounting for $97 billion, or 36%, is growing year over year. Maybe all of the pictures of celebrities going to and from the gym in their gear and the rise of high and low fashion contribute. Sure it does. We are influenced by what we see and that can become the new normal.

In general North American society praises a more casual lifestyle than say 50 years ago. We live, work, eat, and play all the time and often at overlapping times. I’m not sure that the benefits of this multitasking madness are making us any happier than generation before us but we certainly are busy trying.

New theory: maybe that’s why so few people want to put on real pants? They’re just too spread thin trying to keep up with everything else?