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How California Dictates What You Wear

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I Guess I’ll Just Have Bangs Forever

It is a truth universally acknowledged that growing your bangs out sucks so hard. You’re volunteering for a mild but persistent annoyance all day, every day, and the cost of and dependency on bobby pins is completely self-debasing. Plus, whether or not you have bangs doesn’t matter to anyone but you (although people do love telling you not to “give up”), and it was presumably your own dang idea, so you can’t even complain. So why in god’s good name am I doing this now, when there’s so much else to worry about?

In October, I was the lucky person to say “I will!” when asked who wanted to get a haircut from renowned hairstylist Sally Hershberger on Facebook Live. The haircut was set for November 9th, a date you may remember as the one immediately following the US presidential election. The haircut was moved so that I wouldn’t spend the haircut cursing/crying/throwing up and rescheduled for December 7th (another familiar date, depending on how much you know about WWII). You can watch it here; it’s very, very long.

The thing was, I needed a haircut in October, back when I first said yes. And by December, my bangs — for so long cut straight across, like the Zooey Deschanel-but-mad-all-the-time that I wish to be in the world — had grown to a length where any hairstylist (never mind the talented and truly delightful Sally Hershberger) would naturally say “Grow them out!” And thus, my hair was cut into a shag with sweeping side bangs, which I was told never to straighten, ever.

It is easily the best and most skilled haircut I’ve ever gotten. Months later, I still receive compliments on it frequently, and it’s growing out beautifully. If you have a bunch of money and want a shag, see Sally.

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But also, during these same months, I have never truly and fully warmed to this look for myself. It’s just not quite for me! It’s a cool mom haircut, and I am just a regular mom (but without kids). Plus, I always straighten it, as opposed to never, because who has time to air dry, and I often end up putting it in an unskilled topknot with the kind of slicked-back, bobby-pinned bangs that make me look like the world’s oldest and most out-of-shape field hockey player. If I don’t, the growing-out bangs are always in my face.

I just want to be able to wear my hair down and see at the same time. I want to throw out all my bobby pins and stop looking like I’m perpetually on my way to the gym (‘cause I’m not). I don’t want to throw out contact lenses because the hair stuck in my eye ripped them in half. I don’t have it in me right now to take on modern woman’s most notorious, low-grade, totally elective irritation.

As such, I’m making a hair appointment and tentatively planning to have straight-across bangs until I die or go bald. As much as I feel like I shouldn’t have the same haircut at 31 that I had at 25, I miss my my old bangs. I’m not sure I ever wanted to get rid of them, or if I wanted to want to get rid of them because it seemed like the right aesthetic choice for a woman of my age. But who cares about that?

Now, I’m doubling down. Bangs forever! Bangs through my 30s, bangs into my 40s bangs for my 50s when global warming gets us all. Bangs for formal occasions and bangs for fun. Bangs even when wearing headbands.

When I do die, I want my body turned into fireworks to be set off over the ocean — but first, please gently trim off my bangs and let them waft over Brooklyn, so they won’t get ruined by the salt water. Meredith Haggerty, senior editor

The Myth and Magic of California Style
California illustration

Everyone’s got a California. Mine starts at birth, in San Diego. It carries into the Bay Area through age 7, after which my family relocated to the suburbs of Boston. That’s where it took on greater force.

California became the site of family vacations just as I was plugging into pop culture. Whereas before it was a place to live, now it became a haze of leisure-distorted observations and fictionalized renderings: Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen’s spunky, freewheeling antics in the Venice Beach–based Billboard Dad, Marissa Cooper’s unfazed rich-girl style on The O.C. California now came with a soundtrack, and it was by Phantom Planet.

I realized that California didn’t belong to me soon after moving out East. New England’s moody weather and haunted-seeming buildings better suited my inward somewhat macabre sensibilities, and when we finally made the pilgrimage to New York, a place that struck me as commanding and fancy and gross, I knew where I wanted to end up one day.

But when we’d return to San Diego, I felt a loosening around my edges. I’d start to look with envy at those tan, athletic kids with stringy hair dried out from sun and saltwater, who hung out on the beach in clusters or worked at the snack shack by the parking lot. Long before the word “chill” had entered my vocabulary, I knew what it was, and I knew that I didn’t have it like they did.

Everyone has a California because California is a product of Dualstar Entertainment, Fox, Epic Records, and countless other corporate entities. It’s disseminated in film, television, and music, from La La Land to Baywatch to No Doubt.

The easiest way to tap into California from afar is to wear it.
When we talk about California this way, most of us are referring to the southern beach communities radiating up and down the coast from Los Angeles. Inland, the relaxed vibe fundamental to our California ideal evaporates in the dusty heat. Sometimes we’re speaking about the alternately crunchy and techie Northern California, which has its own aesthetic history and modern-day stereotypes.

The easiest way to tap into California from afar is to wear it. In advertisements, apparel companies like PacSun, Hollister, and Brandy Melville have made Southern California fundamental to their identities, even though Hollister’s identity was wholly manufactured in Ohio and Brandy’s in Italy. (PacSun was actually founded in Newport Beach.) The clothing is often simple and always secondary to a lifestyle in which everyone is young, beautiful, and surrounded by friends on the beach.

It was in the course of researching California style that I recently headed back to San Diego, where I began a weeklong trip up the coast. I did so with the understanding that the topic, much like the state, is huge and diverse, and that trying to conduct a thorough anthropological study of Californians’ taste in seven days is, to put it plainly, stupid. But my goal was to investigate the ways in which California style has been distilled and marketed to the rest of the country and the world, and so I did.

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The Best-Dressed Man on Reddit Is an Expert at Thrifting
A man in a shearling jacket.

There are two things to know about Joseph Knowles. He’s approaching a dynastic hold on Reddit’s Male Fashion Advice subforum, where he’s been voted the best-dressed man two years running. And he does this by only spending $40 a week on clothing, rarely ever paying full price for anything.

When I reached out to Knowles for an interview, I imagined a conversation about high-end labels, a lavish monthly spending budget, and outfits propped up by gifts from press-hungry brands. But instead, he issued me a warning: “I just want to let you know about 95 percent of my wardrobe is thrifted,” he wrote. “I buy almost exclusively used clothing from relatively no-name brands and tailor my own stuff.”

Knowles is a Vancouver resident who’s currently applying to schools in hopes of getting a masters in physiotherapy. On the side, he does photography, writing, and styling. He received the Best Dressed Man title after his peers on the MaleFashionAdvice subreddit, which has just over 632,000 subscribers, chose him based on his contributions to a biweekly thread with a self-explanatory name: “What Are You Wearing Today?”

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Just One Thing
The ‘Putty’ That Makes My Pores Invisible

Thomas Roth Pore Putty, $38

I live right by a Sephora, so I do most of my drunk shopping there. Last week, I stopped in after two big glasses of wine specifically to buy a Beautyblender (I’m very behind) and then remembered that there’s one product I’ve been thinking about for months but never tried: Thomas Roth’s Pore Putty ($38).

The mental image of “pore putty” is so funny to me, but I totally get it: As someone who has large pores on her T-zone, I’ve been daydreaming about this kind of fix-it for years. I finally bought it and I’m really into it.

It has the feel of a moisturizer that’s a little serum-y in texture, but it’s tinted, so you could wear it without anything else on top. I expected it to literally be the consistency of putty, or at least feel a bit more like clay that would fill up what are essentially really tiny holes on my face like tar does for potholes.

I use it as a primer for my foundation, so it’s kind of a two-in-one: It helps my makeup stay on throughout the day, but it also makes the surface of my skin a lot more smooth. The only downside: It costs almost $40, so I probably wouldn’t have bought it had I not been kinda buzzed. —Tiffany Yannetta, shopping director

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