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  • Writer's pictureGuts Mafia

The Curse of being a New Yorker

An unfashionable take on being from the world's most popular city 🫠

I’m writing this because, quite frankly, I’m tired of people not saying it—being a born and bred New Yorker sets you up for disappointment.

Being born in the boroughs, there’s this involuntary indoctrination of sorts that binds you to the world of food and fashion in very unrealistic ways. From day one, you fall into one of two categories here: either you’re part of the haves or the have nots. This metric is nondiscriminatory in that it never accounts for a person's character and merely serves to separate what truly already exists—those already with the money and those always working for the money. NYC offers a few interesting varieties of lifestyle based on the category you find yourself dropped in, but they can largely be diluted into one of these two pockets with the slight chance of migrating should forces be in (or out of) your favor. With that being said, what you have access to under either of these umbrellas in a metropolis as diverse as this really relies on individual savvy, underground research, and at times, black-market intel you can only finesse over time. Let's chop it up.

There’s something sadistic about being allowed to eat Ethiopian delicacies at 3 AM or shop the first wave of foreign fashion as soon as it touches the eastern coast, and yet we indulge prolifically. Falling in love with the ways in which this city operates is one thing, but when it becomes the unwavering standard to which you hold all other cities, you’re toast. Nothing will disappoint you more than realizing that no matter how far you travel, you’ll never find a city of the same magnitude that moves as magically as NYC does. But, by the very same token, it's a slippery slope into becoming the stereotype who asks ‘where the bodegas at?’ in rural Iowa. Ironically, it will always lack cultural tact. It is the very access to everything that we tout, which cripples us the hardest outside this epicenter.

One of my favorite things to do when my homies visit NYC for the first time is tell them to meet me on an empty stomach. Little do they know I’ve mapped out about 6 miles of comestible experiences that they are expected to walk through. There is always the inevitable complaint about feet, but I quickly quell it by stuffing their mouth with a cronut or beef patty and coco bread. The pride you embody being able to treat visitors to a taste of all corners of this earth within just a few blocks of each other is unparalleled, and arguably it is that ability that often imbues New Yorkers with an air of arrogance. Our standard has been set, and our expectations have been solidified; if you can’t give me a taste of what I want when I want, you must be living in some inferior hamlet in the rural Midwest. We don’t care that you live in L.A.; everything closes at 10, and we want that pierogi now, at 2 AM.

The bar is high, and not only are you ranked based on what you’re able to eat, but by how you drape that well-fed, multicultural belly and body. Think of it this way: if food is the secret handshake of cultural belonging, then fashion is the loudspeaker in the cacophony of millions. Whether it’s quiet luxury or peak maximalism, what you wear usually serves as the first (and often last) impression that is left on a stranger in passing. Fashion can convey a statement of personal values, accomplishments, or even political beliefs; in a heavily dense population where the chance of crossing paths twice is slim to none, a lot of natives give heavy weight to making sure that even their fleeting image is cohesive and in accordance with their beliefs. In this way, fashion is one of NYC’s most widely practiced religions, with everyone landing somewhere on the spectrum between ‘couture’ and ‘idgaf’. Now, even though the latter can sometimes be a victim of circumstance, being financially strapped in a city that offers so much is where the most innovations in style occur. There is arguably no greater thrift community than in the city where bums and billionaires ride the same train.

The pressure starts young, elementary school even, and god help you if you went to public school where the unspoken dress code was always ‘effortless cool’. I distinctly remember enforcing a self-made rule of never wearing the same pair of pants twice in a week simply because I feared my peers thinking I had little access to variety. My mother understood the assignment when it came to lunch too; she never gave me boring Polly-O string cheese—no, she made everything fresh, wrapped it with love, and attached a custom daily note to each meal. Our daily poverty would never read through my meals or mode. The need to flex could bring a kid to tears if someone pointed out their off-brand or off-trend fit. Showing that you could move with ease through the zeitgeist of popularity was the goal, and we were all drinking the Kool-Aid.

Some might argue that the phenomenon of fashion pressure is not isolated to the NYC experience, and they’d be right—but let us allow diversity to enter the conversation. My school alone represented 100 countries, and simmering in a melting pot like that at a young age exposes first-generation Irish kids to Japanese streetwear, Harlem heads to Ecuadorian ceremonial fabrics, Ghanaian prints will meet Jabo jeans. One of my favorite memories will always be my Desi homie’s mother wearing a Knicks jersey over embellished sarees all basketball season. And you better believe all comestible crossovers gave the same energy.

Because of its overwhelming density by being most migrants' first stop off the Atlantic, NYC naturally encourages this cultural melting pot that transcends the very fabric of larger America. Our confidence as New Yorkers in spotting tourists based on a few fashion touch points, or what food bag they’re carrying, ceases to amuse me. Funny, because it will be US who stick out like sore thumbs when we try to live elsewhere. We’re always on the hunt for halal, no matter how far into Havasupai we are, and it often triggers a pang of disillusionment that ‘new home’ lacks in some way. I think our biggest upset is accepting that culture inherently exists within monocultures, and it is from those very wells that the fabric of NYC draws its variety.

I will always appreciate the freedom of fashion fluidity that New York offers, its ability to always be at the zenith of modern cool, and I know that I owe my entire sense of vogue to it. I may never feel truly at home anywhere else but, I always take every opportunity to shop the local vintage or eat at the most popular spot in the ten thousand-person town. Deep down, I know that without them, there is no us; without those wildly outdated Shakespearean blouses sitting accumulating dust on a rack in some tiny town, these silky Soho slacks would be nothing.


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