There is nothing that inspires my own style and my general thoughts on style more than watching people on the streets of a city. From Hong Kong, New York, Tokyo, Amsterdam and Vancouver, to Barcelona, Cape Town, Singapore, Zurich, London, Tel Aviv and Paris. I am fascinated by how people of all ages and sizes dress to suit their needs on a daily basis. Whether they are rushing off to work, traipsing kids off to school, having coffee at a cafe, biking, meeting friends, shopping, or going out for supper — I love to observe what people wear in all of these everyday situations. And you see it all. Classic, frumpy, trendy, retro, dated and avant-garde. Sporty, traditional, super tight and super baggy looks too. 

My love for urban style watching is the reason I enjoy street style photography. One of my favourite parts of worldwide Fashion Week coverage is looking at the photos of the fashion that is off the runway. It’s the next best thing if you can’t physically be there. Up to a point. 

YLF forum member Cocolion posted a comment about my interview with Stacy London that made me think more about the relationship between street style photography and actual street style. Commenting on NY Magazine’s In the Cut section, she said:

Sometimes I look at street style pics and think, “free model, free clothes, free stylist” as in, the publication/website gets free material. Even though I love seeing real people. So many of them looked like models in this feature, it made me appreciate the real looking bloggers like Susie Bubble even more”.

The problem is that street style photography is not a very good substitute for what you actually see on the streets. The style you see in the photographs is very filtered by the selection process of the photographers. Generally, the most dramatic, eccentric, edgy, interesting, daring, on-trend, or fashion forward outfits are the ones that are shot. Or photographers will focus on celebrities, influential fashion industry insiders, models, or people who look like models. Case in point, most of the 50 Street Style All-Stars in this slide show are fashion magazine editors, famous fashion stylists, or models wearing expensive designer items.

Of course, street style photographers aren’t doing anything wrong by filtering street style. Their goal isn’t to create a perfectly representative view of street style. Rather, it might be to draw us in with what they think are unique, aspirational, eye-catching or sensational pictures. And this is inspiring too, especially for designers who are looking for creativity, latitude, and potentially trend setting looks. 

So although street style is not representative of what you really see on the street, I will continue to browse street style sites because it’s fun to do so. It’s eye candy. I love looking at what the big wigs in fashion are wearing. I love to see what it was about an outfit that motivated the photographer to take the photo. My Pinterest board is full of street style outfits that have inspired me in some way, be it the specific outfit combination, or the general concept.

But if I want to be truly inspired by authentic street style in all its wonderful variety, I have to travel and physically walk the streets.