Original CT Street Style

Ten Levi’s looks that epitomize Cape Town street style

Words: Dylan Muhlenberg | Photographs: Nick Gordon

There are a lot of models in Cape Town, and some would argue that pretty people contribute a considerable proportion of our gross domestic product. This may influence how Capetonians dress, more often than not looking as if they’re about to be pulled in as an extra on a beer commercial, or photographed for a street style blog.

Whatever it is, there’s an undeniable cultural take on fashion that’s easily recognised by just how effortless it is. However, despite being understatedly chic, there’s a lot of thought that goes into creating the perfect Cape Town ensemble. The weather here allows those who call Cape Town home to either put together several outfits in a single day, or come up with the type of layered look where by adding or taking away, depending on what the elements are doing, you’re able to go from a 5am call time to the wrap party dinner.

Those establishments that insist on dress codes are no longer around, as the real essence of modern Cape Town style is all about self-expression, and is not so much about what you wear, but how you wear it. There’s a certain cool nonchalance here that prides itself on wearing old items in new ways.

Cape Town style isn’t big and obvious, and it doesn’t always feel the need to make a statement, instead it’s a way of expressing personal style in subtle ways that will often be overlooked by the untrained eye. You can consider yourself properly assimilated here when you begin to notice those heavenly little details that make what at first glance appears to be a basic outfit, unique. And when you do, don’t ever copy a look, as that would be setting yourself up to fail. Instead, you should allow these elements to inspire your own style, so that you can draw your own conclusions and come up with your own original look.

The best thing about denim is how it’s such an easy canvas to start building your look from. Solid and reliable, you simply slip on your pants and what you do from there is totally up to you. In this case, geometric print socks that marry beautifully to the MaXhosa vest by Laduma and knit cap.

Because this look uses elements that most people would already have in their wardrobe, everyone should be making a mental note to do something similar at their earliest possible convenience. Notice we said ‘everyone’ and not ‘women’, because this gender-fluid look works with both guys and girls and is something of a modern update on Annie Hall’s androgynous getup from the 70s film of the same name.

This guy dresses like he has the type of encyclopedic knowledge that can only be garnered from a misspent youth hanging around the arcade games of the general stores that raised him. We bet he could wax lyrical about the 501 ‘Fluffy’ of the Cape Flats, or the 501 XS worn by 90s West Coast rappers. Actually we know this because that’s exactly what Brad did when we photographed him in an outfit he describes as, “G’d up from the feet up.”

While the sock game has grown pretty crazy of late, what with garish wild styles and sockless ankles being the looks of the moment, it’s good to see someone taking the athletic white sock back. When worn with black lace ups it reminds us of a Thriller era Michael Jackson, and then the guy goes and graffiti’s his jeans like a young Jean-Michel Basquiat. We’ll stop making comparisons before Dumi clocks us like an 80s Iron Mike.

We spot this guy around town a lot and he’s always dressed in a variation of the same theme: double denim, boots, wayfarers, some sort of hat… The stuff is always really worn in and the fact that he always wears it with a big bushy beard means that he can probably chop wood or change a tyre or is at least familiar with shutter speed and aperture ratios.

It’s exciting to see how the male silhouette is widening and guys with cows instead of calves don’t need to try and squeeze into skinny jeans anymore. If you’re worried about taking big risks then you can do like Jesse here and play it safe with everything else. And it doesn’t get much simpler than white canvas sneakers and a white T-shirt, which in this case is taken to a higher place because of the cut of the pants.

We like the patches on Julia’s jacket almost as much as we love how she dresses like a teenage runaway. Those boots were made for walking and like the rest of her getup can take a beating. Minimal washing required. What at first glance is a pretty tough, straight-up-and-down look is made that much more appealing with the detail on her shirt, delicate necklaces and that American flag scrunchie bunched up around her wrist.

With one contrasting blue sleeve on prison stripes and a warden’s key chain hanging from her belt loop, this is an arresting look that’s made stronger by how much intensity she exudes. It's probably the most important thing to remember when getting dressed in the morning – is this something you’re feeling and are you being true to yourself? You need to have the courage of your convictions.

We’d recognize that reflective tape on the inside seam of Luke pants even without shining a spotlight on it. In fact, we’d just like to take this opportunity to say that the Levi’s Commuter Range was the best ever. Like all great denim, they’re something that you can easily make a part of your uniform and really wear to death.

We had to include the guy behind popular menswear brand, What My Boyfriend Wore, when we saw how he’s able to wear a blue-collar trucker jacket with an outfit that’s best described as dapper. Instead of looking out of place he combines the other accoutrements of the Dandy to come up with a textural feast, proving that while the majority of Capetonians dress down, when the mood calls for it we’re able to dress up with the best of them.