Art & Mind

What's in the Downtown Girl Media Library?

Avid reader in downtown Long Beach photo by Seven Shooter

So I'm having a rough first half of 2024, which has led me to finding inexpensive ways to avoid lapsing into a funk. And one of the ways in which I've decided to do that is to ponder what makes up a certain trend or aesthetic and why. My current obsession is the Downtown Girl (DG) aesthetic, particularly what lies beyond the clothes and accessories?

I know some might say that the DG style has run its course, but as someone who has lived in this style for years before anyone called it an aesthetic, I'm going to keep beating this drum as long as it makes me smile. (Again, we're trying to avoid an emotional funk here.)

But why ponder this aspect of the style exactly?

Well, I noticed that a lot of the other aesthetics, specifically the Academia related ones, are associated with specific films, books and artistic creators. But you rarely see the same applied to the DG aesthetic with the exception of certain musical artists (We get it. You all love Lana Del Rey and Hozier.) And since I'm of the mind that Downtown Girls/Guys are kind of the non-clichéd cliché when it comes to aesthetics, I felt like the style deserved a little deeper dive.

So what is a Downtown Girl?

According to the Teen Mag website, the “Downtown Girl” is an aesthetic that revolves around the romanticization of living in the downtown area of a city, specifically in New York. It first emerged in New York in the 1970s and 1980s, specifically in neighborhoods like SoHo (South of Houston Street) and the East Village. These urban areas were inhabited by artists, musicians, young creatives, and counterculture individuals who sought more affordable spaces to live and work.

As a result, a vibrant cultural scene began to develop, influencing fashion as well. The punk subculture, the bohemian spirit, and the carefree attitude of the streets shaped the downtown style. Since then, the downtown style has expanded to other cities around the world thanks to popular sites such as TikTok and Pinterest.

Now, to be fair, I think that's a pretty good definition of the DG life and aesthetic, although I am aware that others may prefer a different description.

To me, the DG isn't so much about the reusable tote bags, boot cut jeans, and over-the-ear headphones. She/he/they are about filling their lives with amazing forms of creative expression to counter the harsh reality of an often unequal world that seeks to break our spirit every day. Perhaps my interpretation is a bit maudlin, but I do feel it resonates.

It's not about the band tees, leather jackets and Converse sneakers. It's about the determination to find joy and pleasure anywhere and everywhere around you, even while fighting against a cruel system of injustice or oppression.

Maybe I'm romanticizing it too much. But then again, maybe romanticizing life outside of an idyllic setting that never makes it into the fairy tales of old is exactly why I find the lifestyle and aesthetic so appealing.

What brings a Downtown Girl joy?

So as I mentioned, the DG aesthetic doesn't have as much commentary online as its Dark Academia, Light Academia, or Chaotic Academia counterparts. If you scroll through social media tags on Tumblr and Instagram, you'll see plenty of people recommending specific books, music, films, hobbies, and more in order to explore those aesthetics.

Whereas, the DG is largely identified by what they wear and the occasional activities they participate in, like shopping in thrift stores and vinyl record shops. Recognizing this dearth of information, I decided to fill the void and share what books, music, films, hobbies, and more I think would be in tune with the DG lifestyle.

However, the main hurdle I encountered with this effort is the reality that every DG is unique and proudly so. So even though there are traits that tie the typical DG into the aesthetic, she/he/they will always tweak, fiddle and adjust those traits to suit their preferences and personal interests. At the end of the day, I'd argue that is a part of what makes every DG a DG.

Alright, enough pontificating. Let's see what media I would suggest that reflects the Downtown Girl aesthetic or ...

What's in the Downtown Girl Media Library?

Here is the template (see below) I borrowed and slightly tweaked in Canva to help illustrate my recommendations. I added the labels underneath the photos to mark what each item in my recommendations would be, but feel free to change that to suit your interests. Or go full DG and create a new template from scratch that truly reflects you.

Downtown Girl Media Library template

And here are some of the media categories you can include in your personal selections. But of course, if you don't like any of these, feel free to substitute your own. Just remember to think outside the box and not limit yourself to only what's popular in the mainstream or popular in the aesthetic itself.

Again, this is not about trying to declare that only these suggestions are a part of the DG aesthetic. It's simply my way of recommending what would be our version of The Secret History, Dead Poets Society, or any of the other media that I see constantly recommended for Academia aesthetic lovers.

Interestingly, I couldn't really think of any novels that might fit the DG style or properly reflected the aesthetic because I kind of feel as if a DG will read whatever they want -- dime store novel, pulp comic, literary classic, etc. -- simply because they were fascinated by the topic, a fan of the author, or just for the fun of it.

With that in mind, here's where I landed with my Downtown Girl Media Library ...

My Selections for the DG Media Library

For those who may have trouble reading my graphic, I chose these creative gems and gem-makers to be in my library:

Now I chose these to be a part of my selections for a variety of reasons. Some made the list because I know the artists personally (musician/singer-songwriter Christy Paige, visual artist Austin Romanaux). and I love what they do and wish others knew more about their work. Some made the list because they are one of my favorites to ever grace the artistic world (the film Amélie, comedian George Carlin). And some made the list because I feel they capture the vibe and zeitgeist of what it means to be a Downtown Girl/Guy (the play The Sign in Sidney Brustein's Window).

I suppose if I were to simply characterize a DG from my perspective, they would be a lover of multiculturalism, creative expression, and digging beneath the surface of what qualifies as acceptable to find what truly reflects our authentic selves. And I like to think my selections for the DG Media Library capture that idea just right.

What do you think? And what would you put in your media library? Book suggestions are especially welcome!

Top Image: Avid reader in downtown Long Beach by Seven Shooter on Unsplash

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