People in this town wear n'importe quoi. Winter is the worst, what with jeans tucked into wool socks, soggy Uggs stained with salt, and sweatpants bulging out of boots, but summer is about the same, only with less fabric. Having travelled far and wide, I can say with some conviction that Montreal is among the worst dressed cities in the world, barring west coast outposts where socks are still worn with sandals to achieve a look about as bland as the American highway. Eight years in, and I find myself making trips to the Depanneur in the aforementioned Montreal attire and I like it - because where I come from, people must get dressed up to throw out the trash.
This insouciance is not welcomed by all, however. A European friend of mine who'd invested substantial sums in his wardrobe found the city so indifferent to his refinement and Italian leather that he left in protest and moved to Shangahi. Ha, gotcha! Shanghai has spawned an entire culture of wearing pyjamas in broad daylight. I’m not talking here about the kind of pyjamas worn by your grandma (well, perhaps), but the matching button-down kind - a pyjama suit, if you will - such as the one worn by the gentleman in the picture. It’s not exactly business casual, but more like business as usual. You wear it to the market and to get your nails done. My friend is currently in the south of France, ducking Speedos in his free time.
Now, as some of you will know – or maybe not if you’re under 40 and hail from Montreal (or simply come from California) – the theater is a place where fine dress is still accepted and – in many parts of the world – even expected. This is recognized by some members of the audience at Place des Arts, as recently evidenced by a lady who sat next to me during a ballet at Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier in a handcrafted Christmas sweater featuring a large owl which she had adorned with a delicate string of pearls.
Seeing as how I’m already stomping around in socked jeans in the winter, I decided to put the city’s boundaries to a further test of style, and donned, some weeks ago, my pyjamas to the theater. I accessorized accordingly with opera pearls gifted by my aunt, a pair of sparkling pumps, and a silver purse produced in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. I initially half-crouched behind parked cars as I made my way down St-Denis, but soon felt free of all shame as my costume drew but not the slightest glance. That night, I only needed to kick off my shoes and remove my pearls before rolling into bed, and the following morning, I did not need to change as I took my pyjamas for a walk down Wellington Street – the gentrified part. This was perfectly acceptable to people at the bookshop and the health food store. I now wear my pyjamas everywhere as if I were in Shangahi, and no longer think of them as a form of night dress but as an all-purpose outfit fit for Montreal.
It is, nevertheless, still possible to attract some scrutiny in this town, at least mine because I’m very judgmental. And so, the other day, while I was grocery shopping at the Portuguese supermarket next to Cinema Amour, a young man presented himself at the cash register with some broccoli and cereal in an ensemble which I will call military boudoir. The lanky lad wore a pair of soldier boots and what can only be described as fragments of stockings, one extending from the ankle to the knee and the other from his other ankle to about halfway up his calf. This was accompanied by a pair of satin shorts with a string ribbon and topped with a body-hugging camisole whose décolleté framed the entirety of his bare chest. Parts of his head were shaved, naturally, as is the fashion here and now. I allowed myself to stare but very discreetly, through my hair, and only sideways. His interactions with the cashier confirmed good mental health.
Now, we don’t only dress to say that we don’t care. We also dress to say that we care very much, and this young man seemed to be saying Fuck You! to the supermarket at large. But this is nothing. Two weeks ago, I spotted a topless woman meditating at a public park in Verdun. She seemed to be saying namaste.
Please: keep quiet if you've got nothing to say and... you can leave your hat on.