Tuesday, May 18, 2010

British Is Best

I've been living abroad for the better part of 18 months now. I've done time in France, I spent a particularly harsh winter in Germany and right now I'm enjoying the early summer sun in Spain. In all the time I've lived away, guessing my nationality has been an amusing sport for those from around the world for a couple of reasons. The first being that I speak all three langauges reasonable well, so unless I'm heard speaking English, it's not the immediate thought, but the second and more relevant is that I'm what you might call exceptionally average. I stand five feet and five inches tall which puts me (although at varying ends depending on the country) at average height, I'm not olive skinned but I am at the darker end of fair skinned and I tan very easily. I have dark blond hair and brown eyes, both of which are commonly found all over Europe.

So imagine my surprise when I was out shopping and I hear someone behind me saying "You're British?". I wasn't entirely sure how to react. I did at first think this mystery person was merely talking to someone else. But alas no, she meant me. I turned to be confronted with a fairly attractive Spanish woman, early 20's like me, channeling a grungy London look with an oversize slogan t-shirt and a leather jacket (at 26 degrees, some people still feel the need to guard against the terrible "cold"). Having recovered from said shock, the first thing I could think of in response was to ask how she knew.

A short conversation revealed that us Brits have a very distinctive style, which is apparently envied amongst the other Spanish women she knows. I feel it's probably my duty to point out here that the day's ensemble was a running late creation, having cut it a bit too fine to change between classes and meeting a friend my dark skinny jeans and breton stripe 3/4 length sleeve t-shirt remained.

After hastily thanking this woman for her complement and even more hastily exiting the shop (without the garlic, water and yoghurt I'd gone in for) I set to thinking. What is it about our style that makes us Brits so distinctive? Or is that only those who have an active interest in British style, who find us distinctive? Or even just that certain cultures or countries find us interesting or stylish. I'm certainly intrigued by this thought... what about you?

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