malignant optimisn

image from the film daisies

The people in Ottawa know how to take a dig. Think about it. Across the country other Canadians think we have no taste, no style and no fun. We’ve been coined the place that fun forgot and labeled the most unsexy city in Canada.  Most recently we were blacklisted as one of the worst-dressed city in world. It appears that we have been seared by not one scarlet letter, but by a triad of Bs - boring, bureaucratic and bland.

We’ve got to face the facts. The odds are against us.

Population. Ottawa’s inhabitants consist mainly of civil servants mindlessly punching in and out of offices that generally resemble pine boxes with peep-holes.  

Location. We are in the middle of two of the most energetic and culturally diverse cities in Canada. Considering that we already battle against ongoing identity issues (*however this might be a Canadian-thing, not just an Ottawa-thing), we are clearly geographically positioned to have a superiority complex as well.

Attitude. The most significant reason we are always under attack for our lack of elegance, I believe, is our overpowering sense of optimism. At first you may think, what is this crazy blogger talking about? Optimism is a good thing, no? Well, not is you want to be stylish. Seems like the happy-go-lucky people of Ottawa, always seem to think that life is just coming up roses, while in fact, most are blind to what makes a city, and a population, in vogue.

The cynical are stylish because they don’t give a damn.  They are so disenchanted by society that the rules seems hardly worth following anymore. Freed of simple-minded optimism, the cynical are critical, complex, independent and rebellious – all the elements of great style. Fashionable people fundamentally do not consider the moral and social dogma that ties so many unstylish people up in knots. Thoughts such as ‘I wonder if the print of my skirt is too much?’ ‘will <insert loquacious co-worker’s name here>  say something about the height of my heel?’ ‘I hope my boss likes my tie’ would never cross the mind of a cynic.

I think to be chic you must have no great optimism in the natural state of things. You must forgo fact— such as this matches, this doesn’t match, this is in season, this is out of season— and replace it with notions, ideas and conceptualization about style. Natural beauty should become something to take pruning shears to.  If architecture enables us to appreciate the landscape of a city, liberated from practical concerns, fashion should do the same for the citizens.