Here's what a trip to Copenhagen taught me about style

Travel journalist Mary Holland shares her Danish Girl style tips

Danish girl style tips

Words: Mary Holland | Photograph: Getty

My love for Copenhagen didn’t start slow and tentatively like many long-term relationships do. No. It started off passionately, like a hot, steamy one-night stand that blossomed into a full-blown love affair. From the moment I stepped off the plane at Copenhagen airport for the first time, I knew it was a relationship that was going to end well (god forbid it ever had to end). There were cool young kids in Stan Smiths and oversized sweaters with messy hair that didn’t look messy at all, and hip dads in good jeans with navy blue cashmere jerseys and snappy sneakers. Beyond the fashion, the wood-clad coffee shops played Bon Iver and the wine bars had Finn Juhl chairs and stocked biodynamic everything. The city looked as if it had jumped off the pages of a Kinfolk magazine.

I wanted it all. The stocking socks with polka dot prints, the playful dresses that didn’t feel too flimsy, the slick raincoats that were functional but still fashionable. Here's three takeaways I took back home with me:

Being ‘basic’ is cool

Women in Copenhagen dress exactly how I had always aspired to dress, in a simple uniform (well-cut jeans and a comfy sweater) with an individual element (a printed blouse or cool bag). Their outfits easygoing and effortless, their makeup minimal and hair easily-styled. At the core, approachable and practical but put together in an irrefutably cool way.

For the record, being surrounded by ‘cool’ is not something new to me. I live in New York where ‘cool’ things aren’t hard to come by. But ‘New York cool’ isn’t always my kind of cool. Between the all-day active wear and the outfits that are so painfully styled according to what’s trendy, they may as well add a masthead to their outfits, crediting the Instagram account of the fashion director at Vogue. For the longest time, I’ve loved good, simple clothes (call me norm core, I don’t care). I remember returning from a trip to London with a bag full of quality basics – T-shirts, sweaters, jeans. I also remember my sister’s face: Why did you buy so many boring things? She groaned. Frankly, I love boring things. What’s better than investing in a really good pair of jeans? And while I do also have a penchant for playful outfits (I’ll take a printed pantsuit any day of the week), if I’m going to diverge from my basic uniform, there has to be a good balance. If something is going to be frilly, it needs to be offset with something sharp (precisely why I wore sneaker-like brogues on my wedding day). Danish style is just that: simple and sharp with playful elements. It’s also practical. Why would you wear anything but a good waterproof raincoat when you have to cycle through the rain? And who, just who, wears soaring stilettos on a cobbled street? Not the Danes.

Velvet track pants? Who dis?

Is it always necessary to be ‘on trend’? The women of Copenhagen don’t constantly fiddle with their outfits nor do they fall prey to horrible trends (anyone remember sneaker wedges? Or velvet track pants with giant letters emblazoned across the bum? The Danes don’t). Trends pass through the city, but they’re not taken with such heed. If cat eye sunglasses make you look like you’ve gone wrong, why wear them? If the sneaker wedge really is a tragic addition to the shoe category, why try make it work? Timelessness is everything.

Birkenstocks can be sexy

Newsflash! Being comfortable in your clothes is sexy, be that in Birkenstocks or a sequined bolero jacket (hopefully not). The Danes don’t dress for anyone else but themselves, yet their power and sex appeal is palpable. So often we think that looking ‘sexy’ means wearing (an, often, unflattering) body con dress and towering shoes. Which is fine if that’s your vibe, dress how you want, but mom jeans can be sexy, too. And so can polo necks and crisp white shirts and maxi skirts and high waisted pants! In Copenhagen, nothing about the outfits shriek the traditional ‘sexy’, yet the women, with their damp hair and crew neck sweaters and perfectly tailored jeans and timeless billowing dresses that graze their weathered sneakers, are sexy.

When I return from a trip to Copenhagen and settle into my regular New York life, my daily clothes feels same-y and boring, my un-styled hair feels messy and unremarkable. And, hey, maybe I am just boring. But when I arrive at Copenhagen airport, a few months later, all feels right. My jeans feel good, my navy blue sweater hugs me perfectly and there’s no other shoe I’d rather be wearing than a practical sneaker.

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