Seattle, we’ve got a lot of good things going for us. Our fashion sense isn’t one of them.
Don’t get me wrong: We’re certainly on top of the trend when it comes to anything designed to be worn in or near a tent. And there’s something to be said for our role in the origin of 1990s grunge, which, perhaps by virtue of its being similarly defined by flannel and dinge, has had unusual staying power.
But, believe it or not, this city of ours played host to plenty of fashion moments in the last decade. I chatted with Clara Berg, the fashion curator at the Museum of History and Industry (which held its first fashion retrospective in 2019), and Sydney Mintle, founder of fashion PR company Gossip and Glamour, about which ones we’ll remember the decade for—long after we’ve started wondering what the hell we were thinking.
GQ Names Seattle One of the Worst-Dressed Cities in America
We didn’t exactly start the decade out on the right Blundstone: In 2011, GQ magazine deemed us the 34th-worst-dressed city in America. To be fair, a whole lot of cities made the list, including Los Angeles, whose residents would no doubt consider themselves better dressed than us (even back then, as they chapped their hypocritical hides on bejeweled Ed Hardy jeans). Our biggest offense, according to GQ, was our tendency to hold onto the good old days—grunge may have been cool at the time, but by 2011, it was time to let go. “Quit damning the man for five minutes and get yourself a blazer,” writer Mark Byrne advised. (In case you were wondering, that counsel is no longer wise.)
Seattle-Based Brand TomboyX Breaks Down the Gender Binary
At the time of its founding in 2013, Seattle-based underwear brand TomboyX was at the forefront of the decade's movement toward gender- and size-inclusive clothing. The brand, which has long been embraced by queer and trans communities, gained popularity after it became the first company to make gender-neutral boxer briefs; it’s since evolved into a variety of styles made to suit everyone, leaning into forward-looking practices like using fit models for every size (rather than just sizing up the smallest). But why underwear? “It’s that layer between who you are on the inside and how you present on the outside,” co-founder Fran Dunaway told us in 2017. How fitting for a world where we increasingly dress for ourselves.
Seattleites Don Local Sports Gear—Especially Seahawks Green
Mariners gear, all tridents and teal, once reigned supreme as Seattle’s sports merch of choice. But the Seahawks and the Sounders have swooped in with brand new color schemes (and slightly better records). The Seahawks’ current “Action Green” neon is a relic of the team’s 2012 change from lime (which they’d only just adopted in 2009, after a long love affair with forest green). The Sounders, before becoming a Major League Soccer team in 2009, were primarily blue and white. Berg says she’s seen a huge influx of the teams’ shared color in city fashion since. Here’s hoping that incoming hockey team picks a more flattering shade.
Eighth Generation Counters Cultural Appropriation
In 2013, Google searches for “cultural appropriation” started their slow ascent—Washington, coincidentally, was one of the states most interested in the term. Three years later, Native-owned business Eighth Generation opened its flagship store at Pike Place Market. Its motto is “Inspired Natives, Not 'Native-Inspired,'” a nod to the fact that its products, like the wool blankets that are also worn as traditional honor gifts, are made by and benefit Native artists. (The story is a bit more complicated for a certain Portland-based brand, also famous for its wool blankets.) At the end of 2019, the Snoqualmie Tribe bought Eighth Generation as part of an effort to support Native artists.
Tech-Branded Backpacks Feed the Swag-Hungry
Tech swag has existed, in modern terms, forever. Just look at the troves of vintage Microsoft gear being hawked to the irony-poisoned online masses! But the modern version is less nerd novelty and more systematic sartorial takeover: Lately, every new tech recruit is christened with piles of cooler-equipped branded backpacks and the kind of T-shirt you’d be better off saving for bedtime. And those recruits absolutely piled into the city during the last decade: Amazon’s Seattle numbers exploded from 5000 in 2010 to over 50,000 in 2019. Google erected a monster new campus in South Lake Union. Microsoft? Well, those Connector buses sure made it easier for the Redmond-based company's less masochistic employees to live on this side of the lake. Despite having the salaries to afford a better wardrobe, tech workers have made this city look like a goddamn career fair. These days, it more or less is.
Alaska's New Flight Attendant Line Takes Off
Perhaps, in a world with a little more flight shame, we’ll remember the new Alaska Airlines flight attendant uniforms as an unfortunate example of the carbon-fueled culture of the 2010s. But whether or not you approve of taking to the skies in the first place, you’ve got to appreciate just how Seattle the 2018 collaboration is. Dreamt up by Seattle-based designer Luly Yang (whose startlingly couture design shop may have taken you by surprise on a downtown walk), and featuring a color palette that Berg says has become recognizably ours (check out that Seahawks green!), the uniform’s reveal is one of the most distinctive moments in Seattle fashion.
Legacy Brands Get a Leg Up
Eddie Bauer, the inventor of the unfathomably popular (but oft-maligned) puffy coat, doesn’t turn 100 until this year. But Seattle’s legacy brands have already made a comeback. As consumers veer away from fast fashion, Berg and Mintle say that brands with local history—and clothes that last longer than a few nights out—are seeing some time in the spotlight. Just look at Seattle-based outdoor brand Filson, which, despite being founded more than a century ago, now claims a spot in the wardrobes of plenty of Seattleites with little to no need for workwear. “Seattle has had this attitude of being above fashion,” Berg says. But people increasingly want “clothes with a story”—a desire that’s ushered Seattle into this its future as…dare I say it?...a slightly more fashion-conscious city.