Story: My Adventure in Amsterdam
November 11th, 2011

They say not to judge a book by its cover, but sometimes it can be a very good indication of whether the book is worth reading. Now don’t get me wrong — personality is definitely skin deep — but this past weekend, I learned that sharing mutual fashion tastes may be the best way to make new friends.

For my week off school, I decided to travel to London and Amsterdam. London was exciting, but it wasn’t until I arrived in Amsterdam midweek that I learned that sometimes it’s the smaller cities that really know how to do it big. My first night out, I was wandering by myself in Dam Square, where I walked into an interesting looking store called Tom’s Skate Shop. An urban skate-wear store at heart, the front was adorned in Nike, Obey, Hundreds, Stussy — brands that so fondly reminded me of home in San Francisco. The people hanging out inside the store were what piqued my interest however; their style was a clever combination of urban street style and classic finesse — beanies with bow ties, and loose knit sweaters with sneakers.

They had the kind of laid-back vibe that Paris so dreadfully lacks, and I gravitated toward them like the French do to freshly baked baguettes.

I was a little shy to make conversation at first — they were speaking rather animatedly in Dutch the whole time — but as I was leaving, someone sitting by the counter offered a friendly “Goodbye!” as if I had been making small talk the entire time. From there, I mustered the courage to actually talk. I complimented the store, and mentioned how it reminded me of home. He asked where I was from. And from there, we began talking.

It’s funny how the beginning of my night began with a “Goodbye.” But I guess that’s what’s so wonderfully different about a city like Amsterdam.

The people I met at the store invited me out to drinks and I spent the night bouncing around with them from club to club, learning that they were more than just a group of friends, they were a collective — a group of DJs, poets, artists who loved to chill, generate good vibes, and create. I had never been more excited to be surrounded by complete strangers.

The next night they invited me to a 1920′s party that some of them were to DJ for in the Leidesplein. I pulled out my best dress (as in whatever I had with me that was still clean) and tried to recreate that timeless flapper girl style as simply and quickly as possible. Forget “Midnight in Paris” — at the party it definitely felt like “Midnight in Amsterdam”, with men and women dressed to the nine’s in pin-stripe suits, beaded flapper dresses, fedoras, bow ties, and feathered headbands. Big band music mixed into modern hip hop as perfectly fashioned bodies cut a rug on the floor.

Needless to say it was one of the best nights I’ve had since arriving in Europe.

My last night in Amsterdam was certainly happy, but also bittersweet. Like Cinderella, I spent the night dancing away before the clock struck … 5 AM. I said goodbye to all my newly found friends, making promises to come back again soon.

And though this may sound like just a simple anecdote about making friends while traveling alone, it really does tie back again into clothes. I’m not trying to say you should only be friends with well-dressed people (though it is always a joy when you can borrow your friends’ clothes), but that the best kind of people are expressive people — and style just so happens to be the simplest, most straightforward way to express oneself. It’s true.

The friends I made that night could have very well carried their paintings around with them everywhere they went, spouted poetry instead of colloquial English, or played vinyls off a portable turntable — symbols meant to allude to their statuses as artists, poets, and DJs. But they didn’t need to. I could tell, just in how they carried themselves: their relaxed attitudes, friendly smiles, and, of course, spiffy threads, that these were fun people — artistic people — that were worth getting to know.

That’s the funny thing about fashion versus style: people like to follow fashionable trends or wear what’s popular because they want to be admired, neglecting to cultivate a personal style that’s much more expressive of their actual personality. So the next time you get dressed for the day, I say stop for a second and look in the mirror. Forget what that celebrity wore, or what was on that blog, or what you saw on that magazine cover — and ask yourself, “What does what I’m wearing say about me?”

And, if you don’t know, then it just might be time for a wardrobe change.