Differences Between U.S. & European Fashion

by Cameron Drake

Fashionable people can be found everywhere, but the definition of fashion changes everywhere you go.

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One of the first things one notices when transitioning between the United States and European countries is the often stark contrast in the fashion of both men and women. This article contains some qualitative analysis with a slight bias towards haute couture, but keep in mind that fashion is not about how much something costs, but how well the outfit is composed. It would be as much a mistake to lump together New Yorker and San Franciscan style as it would be to lump together Parisian and Milanese style. For brevity, this article will only highlight the major differences between American and European style.

Men's Fashion

When it comes to men's fashion, the major difference is accessories. In Europe, you will find that men wear a lot more accessories than in America. Some of the most common that you will find is scarves of all lengths and patterns, tie-bars, hats and pocket squares. One accessory that in many ways sums up the difference between American and European fashion is the satchel, which has come to be known as the "man-purse" in the states. What is seen as quite normal in Europe tends to be perceived as metro-sexual or even homosexual in the states. Fashion choices like extra-long scarves and capris may go unnoticed in Europe but make statements stateside. Most people generally consider European men more fashionable than American men and that is mainly because they are more daring. American male fashion is generally more subdued, but on either continent there are those on the cutting edge.

Women's fashion

The difference between fashionable women across the Atlantic is not as pronounced as that of men, but is certainly notable. The principle difference is that American women dress a lot more for comfort than European women, who dress for appearance. A good example of this is the way that women where t-shirts and leggings in both countries. Whereas in America women often don graphic tees as standalone tops European women will usually only use t-shirts as a part of an ensemble, with a preference towards simpler solid color t-shirts. While leggings are popular on both continents there is a huge trend in the US to wear leggings by themselves, a rare sight in Europe. It must be stated that very fashionable women on both sides of the Atlantic have very individual styles which makes it impossible to generalize. Women who are less fashionable in the US will often wear things that you would never catch your average urban European woman wearing.

Youth Fashion

Ironically, fashion among youngsters in both countries is very similar. While European adults are known for a comparatively more sophisticated style than Americans fashion among young adults in Europe actually tends toward American fashion. This has more to do with globalization and the influence of American music and movies than culture, which can be considered evidence that a global youth culture is evolving.

Top fashion designers

The most famous designers in Europe are very well known with great success in both America and Europe: Versace, Gucci, Prada, Alexander McQueen and Georgio Armani. These designers are known for their particularly elegant styles. America's best designers have very unique styles: Ralph Lauren, Vera Wang, Marc Jacobs and Calvin Klein are some of the best. Watching the runways of designers from either region is a very different experience, as American designers tend towards more wearable fashion, while European fashion is often high couture, but not very wearable.

Photo Credits

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About the Author

Cameron Drake is a senior history major at Stanford University. Drake has worked as a creative designer and webmaster for various departments at Stanford University and individual clients. He provides college essay writing assistance to high school seniors pro bono and is currently writing for the Stanford Daily Editorial Board. Drake will be pursuing a master's in communication-journalism next year at Stanford.