Don't Forget Your Red Dress Shoes

Columnist Ryan Collins compares fashion standards between Northeast Ohio and Italy.
Red dress shoes--a fashion statement in Northeast Ohio, but a common attire piece in Italy. Photo: Ryan Collins

Europe – almost everyone in the United States wants to go there. It’s a continent full of history, amazing cities, great style and a penchant for dance music. Happily, I’m studying in Italy this semester. Most of my summer was spent preparing and asking questions about this experience. However, one question I knew I wouldn’t be able to start answering until my plane landed was: What’s it like to be gay in Italy (and Europe in general)? I knew from the Internet that most of the very LGBT-friendly countries in the world are in Europe, but I wanted to see for myself. That’s what this blog is all about.

Let’s talk about fashion before anything else. Before I left the United States, someone asked me what I absolutely couldn’t leave Europe without. I answered: “a pair of capris.” I quickly found a pair, and it made me realize I had two dilemmas:

1. Regular male dress in Italy is terrible for gaydar. What some may call stereotypically gay fashion trends in the U.S., like bags, capri pants and fitted clothing, are normal on guys here. While it’s nice to see so many well-dressed men all day, European gaydar is much different (and more subtle) than American gaydar. American gaydar will go haywire here!

2. I had to find a pair of red loafers. I had been searching for a quality pair of black loafers in the U.S. for a long time, and I thought I would finally find some in Italy. Well-made black shoes are certainly available, but I found an alternative. Many men here wear dark clothing, or a suit, with red shoes. It was a little odd at first, but I now realize red shoes are just as good if not better than black ones. The look just works. Since three days ago, I’ve been the proud owner of a pair.

Style is incredibly important in Europe. That’s even more true in a fashion city like Florence, where I live. I don’t see many people wearing hoodies, flip flops or anything too functional-looking. The frumpiest outfit I’ve ever seen on the streets of Florence looked better than the thrown-together clothes someone wears walking down any KSU sidewalk. Of course, considering this is the city where Gucci was founded, I would consider dressing well to be  an unofficial law.

To wrap this up, no matter what my gaydar says, European or American, I’ve come to the conclusion European clothes have better quality and look much more flattering. Wear with pride!

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