Is There Such a Thing as the “Brooklyn Look”?


  • Michael Nagle for The New York Times

And, if there is such a thing as the “Brooklyn Look” does it really involve “wearing gold lamé while you’re taking your kid around on his scooter”? Should we just kill ourselves now?

No, no. We probably shouldn’t. We didn’t survive the Mayan apocalypse and Christmas with our families only to off ourselves because of a misguidedly-titled New York Times style article. We’re better than that. But so anyway, the New York Times has an article titled, “The Curator of the Brooklyn Look”, which mostly serves as a profile of the lovely Jen Mankins, owner and creative force behind the wonderful Bird boutiques. If you read the article strictly as a profile of Mankins, it’s not that bad, and Mankins certainly is worthy of a profile in the Style section. But that is not the hook to the piece or the angle to the whole profile. No, the angle is the Times’s ongoing obsession with Brooklyn, the most exotic of boroughs.

It starts off, “This is probably the understatement of the year, but the time when the phrase ‘Brooklyn look’ at best conjured Tony Manero’s white pantsuit is long past. For one thing, the look is decidedly feminine. For another, it’s more about day-to-day coping and nesting than peacocklike display.” Oh, really, New York Times? Leave aside the fact that you would even jokingly reference a character from a movie set in the Bay Ridge of the 70s, but to assert that Brooklynites don’t have any tendency toward “peacocklike display” is absurd and shows a complete lack of familiarity with, I don’t know, riding the L train. I know the New York Times has advised its readers in the past to get to Brooklyn via cab, but still. Still!

The article also quotes “stylist and fashion commentator” Mary Alice Stephenson, who defines the Brooklyn look thusly, “It’s gold lamé, but it’s cut into a classic shirtdress. You’re still wearing gold lamé while you’re taking your kid around on his scooter, but you can roll up the sleeves and the hem isn’t too short. It’s not precious.” Right. There’s nothing “precious” at all about wearing a gold lamé shirtdress while riding a Razor scooter.

Mankins and Bird are credited for “setting the gold lamé standard” and for being “a style oasis in the land of organic kale chips, strollers and bicycle helmets.” Which, is just about the most reductive view of what Brooklyn is that I’ve heard in a while. All of the Bird locations are amazing, and Mankins really does have an incredible eye and an interesting life story that the Times goes on to explore, but by trying to assign some kind of uniform style aesthetic to all of Brooklyn is futile at best and insulting at worst. Brooklyn style exists in places other than Cobble Hill, Park Slope, and Williamsburg and if the Times wants to ignore that, fine. I guess. But it remains ridiculous for them to then assert that there is some concrete “Brooklyn look” that centers around gold lamé and scooters.

Follow Kristin Iversen on twitter @kmiversen


  1. My mom, a Manhattan snob with a mom-like tendency to make insults sound like compliments, dropped me off in Brooklyn recently and said “I just love Brooklyn- I love how people here just don’t care what they look like!” That’s what the peacock line reminded me of.

  2. Brooklynites run the gamut from frumpy to utilitarian, from edgy to provocative, to very style conscious and ultra trendy. There is no one “Brooklyn look”. Each neighborhood and each ethnic group brings its own unique stamp upon the fashion and style scene. However, if people really believe that we don’t care what we look like, it’s not true! We DO care…but like what the REAL Brooklyn is all about, we just don’t care what anyone ELSE thinks about it, especially the pretentious and boring lemmings all rushing out to get the latest and the greatest gear, many of whom are not even aware that, yikes, some of those trends may have even started, oh, let me see, hmm…in Brooklyn?…and NO, I don’t mean Park Slope, Williamsburg or Brooklyn Heights either. :o)


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