Americana: making it outside of America

Each week, I will be taking a peek behind doors to give you the scoop on what it’s really like to work in fashion. I will be profiling people in the early stages of their careers in different areas of the business. Think of it as walking into an ice cream shop taking a sample of each flavor. I’ll be the one handing out the spoons. But first, a little bit about me:
I have been at Oxford now for over a month and am starting to recover from a late wave of culture shock. As an American, I did not expect to feel much difference (we speak almost the same language), especially after living in a much more foreign, distant and exotic country: France.  But here, as an international student, I feel slightly out of place.  And it’s not just from my American flag credit card (which I swear I did not pick out). I think, act and dress differently. My recovery from this sense of displacement, however, does not stem from feeling like I now belong. Rather, its that I’m becoming more comfortable with my Americaness which appears much more blatant now that I’m not completely surrounded by my fellow citizens.
One sign that I was no longer in New York was when I was out during Fresher’s Week and one of my new friends commented on my all black outfit.  Pulling at my thin cotton t-shirt I insisted, “but this is navy!”  As soon as I said it I heard it.  To be fair, black and navy are clearly differentiated colors in a New York wardrobe. On the other hand, everyone else thought I was Goth (it did not help that I was wearing brick red lipstick that probably looked even darker in the dim bar).
Toto, we’re not in New York anymore.
And am talking to a hypothetical dog as a literary device.
As an anthropologist I was quite bemused by the whole situation. It was fascinating how differently my friend interpreted my outfit.  As social creatures, we are cued as much by what people say as how they present themselves in terms of posture, gait, expressions, clothing and other forms of adornment. However, signals can be read differently depending on the background of the viewer. So when I wore what a New Yorker would view as understated chic: oversized navy tee, black skinny jeans and vintage black oxfords (oxfords in Oxford!!), others just saw as sad.
oxfords in Oxford!
For a week after, I thought about buying a couple more colorful items of clothing as to not alarm my fellow students.  But I didn’t like anything I saw.  I like wearing black. I am (dare I say) happy wearing it.
JP