Style Watch

I don’t mean to sound old or out of touch or anything, but when did young women — like, regular young women, out for a night on the town — start dressing like hookers?

I wrote a story in this issue about the NRA national convention, which was in Charlotte over a weekend in May ("Welcome to Gunland," page 80). Local tourism officials estimate that more than 70,000 people attended the convention, many of them from out of town. To report the story, I spent three days at the convention, wandering the exhibits, attending workshops, and listening to speeches.

At night, I went out. I wanted to see what uptown looked like when tens of thousand of convention-goers mixed with the usual uptown crowd. I should add that usually when I go out uptown, it’s to dinner or a show or a game. So this was somewhat virgin territory for me. But one scene is burned into my mind. On the sidewalk along College Street outside the Ritz-Carlton, a group of about seven men were walking north. They were wearing various shades of camo and golf shirts logoed with gun manufacturers. Ahead of them on the sidewalk, coming south, was a group of prostitutes. It looked like they were having a competition to see who could wear the shortest skirt or dress, with bonus points for the highest heels and tightest top.

This could be interesting, I thought. And it was, but not for the reasons you might expect. The groups met and continued walking without incident. But as the group of hookers passed me, I saw that they were not hookers at all. They were women in their twenties having a bachelorette party.

As the night wore on, I realized that the participants in the bachelorette party were simply meeting the new dress code. The majority of the women I saw out were dressed similarly, teetering on Eiffel Tower heels and constantly smoothing down skirts that may or may not have been sold as belts. I thought maybe I had wandered onto the set of MTV’s Jersey Shore. Seriously, the new style must "prêt à-stripper." I was embarrassed for these women. Hooters girls would be embarrassed for these women.

I asked the women in my office about this. They assured me that it is an uptown thing, that women don’t feel the need to expose themselves in the restaurants and bars of Plaza Midwood and Myers Park. Hey, people can wear what they want. And I suppose one could argue that this is an issue of female empowerment, that it’s a good thing if women are comfortable enough with their own bodies to display them. But I think what it comes down to is this: they look ridiculous.

Richard Thurmond

Coming Next Month

Special Issue: Where Are They Now? Tracking down the heroes, rogues, and rebels of Charlotte’s recent history