Taking Note of Presentability and Fashion

A great way to start making generalizations about the differences between Russian and American cultures is to compare their politics, economies, and media. I’m not qualified to write about any of that, but if it makes it any better, my sweeping generalization is something rather superficial, and perhaps non-controversial. In my short time here in Moscow, one of the main things I have noticed is the effort to make things presentable. Specifically, I have seen this in the grandeur of the city, its rather cleanliness, and most importantly, in the great fashion sense that everyone seems to have.

One source of presentability I think could be the grand architecture which is present on nearly every corner throughout the city. The color palette of the many buildings is light: white, yellow, cream, and light grey. Of course, there is also plenty of red in and around the Kremlin, but in general, there are not a lot of dark buildings. With clothing and cars, light colors look great, but are difficult to keep clean, so when I see that these light colored buildings are rather clean, I think to myself that these buildings are somehow fancier, regardless of whether that is true.

Not every building is as tall as the main building (ГЗ), but their sheer length and continuity still catches the eye. I can tell that the differences between not just American cities but also European cities I have been to,”similar” cities such as London and Berlin, are quite obvious, even if I can’t specifically say why. Everything is just grander and more extravagant (I know it’s a terrible description, but I don’t want to and don’t know how to delve into exact architectural differences).

One of my greatest surprises was the general tidiness and cleanliness of the city that I was not expecting, likely due to the reluctance and sometimes utter refusal in American media and culture to believe that Russia could be anything like the US. I have often seen road cleaning trucks along the roads and paths along the river. The underground walkways, which I thought would be a hotspot for trash and buffoonery, are completely fine. In reality, it’s like most other American and European cities, and I am glad I was proved otherwise.

I realize I only have a broad generalization of Moscow based on the small fragments which I’ve seen, but I think this generalization on the extravagance and cleanliness of the city is linked to my perception of presentability through clothing, not just at MSU but in the public as well. I have seen the parts of Moscow that most foreigners would go see, and these parts are visually appealing and kempt. This doesn’t mean that everywhere else is gritty, dirty, and not worth seeing, but just that it seems that the city really cares about what makes Moscow Moscow, and not just another megacity. The public fashion sense seems to reflect the city’s elegance and effort to maintain it for everyone that lives and visits the city.

I knew coming to Russia that people in Moscow dress up, and in general, this has been true. My clothing here sticks out: my shoes don’t always match the rest of my clothes, some of the colors I wear are too bright, and my coat just isn’t long enough. It’s just not in my blood to have amazing fashion sense, and I’m jealous I can’t look as sleek as the guys here. For girls, it’s a completely different nightmare, and I do not have the fashion knowledge to reliably comment on it.

This phenomenon of great fashion is not just at MSU, either. In the waiting area in the hospital where we received our shots for encephalitis, there was a large mirror on the wall. I noticed that woman after woman, most of them middle-aged, would walk up to the mirror and spend a couple of minutes adjusting their hair and coat before heading out. The thing is, it was snowing quite heavily, so their efforts were in vain as they put hats on anyway.

My comments on the fashion I have observed so far is not meant to be condescending in the sense that I think people here care too much about how they look. Rather, I see it as a mutual agreement to look good for both oneself and for others. When you go to class, or do something as simple as meeting someone for food, dressing nicely is an indicator that you respect the person you are spending time with, whether it is a teacher or a friend. I don’t expect to elevate my fashion sense to the next level while I am here, but this realization is something I will keep in mind not just now but when I return home, because I do see the value in making oneself presentable for self-respect, respect for someone else’s time, as well as the respect by being a reflection of the environment one lives in.


Article written by broadbentc

One Response

  1. michael gutkin
    michael gutkin at | | Reply

    I found the women to be gorgeous, and got the impression that their care in dress was a matter of their dignity and authority, not just their femininity. and so many celebrating the beauty attendant on their youth.

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