They say style is a global language, but that doesn’t necessarily mean all cities are sartorially equal. Sure, the Internet’s knocked over a great many of the world’s cultural barriers, but do you really think Milwaukee’s fashion scene bears even a slight resemblance to Florence’s? Hell to the nah. A city’s distinct style is part of what makes it unique.
Shayne Stephens knows this better than most. Lately, the Canadian marketing guru/fashion expert/host has been travelling to some of the world’s coolest destinations and sussing out local styles as part of his ET Canada series Style Scout. Each episode sees him take a deep dive into a city’s cultural landscape, finding out where in-the-know folks shop, drink, eat, play, and chill. (Think Anthony Bourdain — yeah, we went there — but with hipper fashion sense, a more on-fleek Instagram account, and, okay, not as much culinary knowledge.) In episode one, for instance, Stephens heads to Chicago, where he eats a bunch of deep dish pizza and gets a haircut while hanging with the artist behind Chance the Rapper’s album covers. Good times. Watch it below, and then read our chat with Stephens, wherein we grill him about his wild tales from the road, the best thing he’s eaten, and the world’s worst-dressed city.
Tell me about Style Scout.
Sure! Style Scout is a YouTube series that I’m hosting for Entertainment Tonight Canada that sees me visit different cities around the globe to explore what makes them unique and culturally relevant. And not just from a fashion perspective. Style encompasses so much more than that. I think viewers will be pleasantly surprised at how diverse the subject matter is. Expect food, drinks, art, music, design, and anything else that might lend to a location’s greatness.
How did the idea for the show come about?
Jesse Barkley, ET Canada’s producer, and I were seated next to each other at an industry luncheon about a year ago and got to talking about the seeming lack of style-related content in the marketplace. As we’re both passionate about the subject, an impromptu brainstorm session ensued between courses. Humorously, I think we had the concept fleshed out by the time coffee and dessert rolled around. We’ve been working on it since then.
How big an impact does style really have on a city? Do people underestimate it?
Good question. I feel that people do underestimate the role it plays! There is something impressive, captivating even, about people that take pride in how they present themselves to the world. And it’s fair to say that certain groups of people — collectively — seem to make it a priority. It’s why Italian men are said to have ‘sprezzatura’ and Parisian women are often referred to as ‘effortlessly chic’. Is it good for a city? Of course. Those labels build intrigue and make you want to experience it for yourself.
I know that fashion is important to you. What effect has it had on your life?
I think that the late Bill Cunningham was on to something when he said that “Fashion is the armour to survive everyday life.” It’s been true of my experience and therefore hugely impactful in my life. For years I used fashion as a tool. When I was younger, the right sneakers or sweatshirt helped me fit in. As I got older and grew more confident, I used it as a way to stand out, to set myself a part, to make a statement. Somewhere along the line, I fell in love with the art of it — the materials, the designers, the brands, the proportions, the silhouettes. Today, it’s no longer a tool, it’s just an authentic part of me. It may also be the only part of my life where I’m fully in control!
Which city has impressed you the most?
That’s a tough one. I’m drawn to the energy, the overwhelming feeling of possibility, that big cities offer. I adore New York and Paris for that reason. The city that impresses me the most, however, is Tokyo. The style, the design, the customer service, the pride the business owners have in their establishments. It’s magnificent. North Americans have a lot to learn from the Japanese.
What’s the best dish you’ve eaten so far?
This is going to sound funny, but I’d have to say the pizza at Stush in the Bush, this amazing little vegan farm-to-table restaurant in the mountains of Jamaica. All the vegetables were hand-picked that morning, so the flavours were incredible. And it was light, which meant that I could also devour the fresh plantain chips and home-made hot sauces.
When you were in Jamaica did you partake in any, ahem, recreational activities?
I’ll plead the fifth on this one. Aren’t ‘marijuana cigarettes’ illegal there? 😉
Is there a crazy-ass tale from the road you’d like the share with us?
[Laughs.] I wish! To be honest, we’re in and out of a city pretty quick, having arranged our locations beforehand. Doing so helps things run smoothly, which mitigates potential mishaps. It’s also a new adventure with a big learning curve for me. I try to get as much rest as I can, so I can be ‘on’ the next day. Thus far, we’ve been pretty tame. But it’s early on. The team is awesome, so I suspect there will be some tomfoolery in some of the next stops.
What’s your vote for the worst-dressed city in the world?
I think it’s still way too early on the Style Scout journey to be able to make an educated call on that! I believe that cities have their own overarching fashionability. Whether it’s current, on-trend, popular fashion or not is another story. Nashville, with its deep roots in country music is going to look a lot different than Paris. Does that make the people any less stylish? I don’t think it does. They’re just stylish in their own way in their own context. Circle back with me in a year and I may feel differently!
Where you going next?
We started with Chicago, Jamaica and Paris, the first of which will drop in early September. As for next locations, I can’t say just yet. But I can assure you there’s a nice mix of international and domestic locales on the list. If you’re at all interested in travel and style, you’re going to want to follow along.