Recently whilst walking down the street in Manhattan I looked up to see a flag afixed to a lamp post with 'NYC: Beauty Capital of the World' printed across it, topped by a pair of airbrushed lips.
What do you think? Do you think NYC is the beauty capital of the world? For as much as I like it (and I do, quite a bit), walking its streets never leaves me with the feeling that I've stumbled into the land of free, home of the... beautiful? Rather, it's the sweat pants, tapered jeans, Easy Living court shoes, baseball caps and general Seinfeld New York-ness that I see on the streets. There are, no doubt, neighbourhoods full of beautiful young things, but they mainly exist at the pointy tip south of 14th Street in Manhattan. That leaves a whole lot of New York without an even carpeting of BYTs. Clearly they aren't referring to what people look like but rather to an industry (similar to the ways in which cities claim to be the fashion capital of the world), but it does make me think about what cities I'd consider to be capitals of beauty, with media beauty ideals aside (the idenakit look that's heaved upon us by The Hills and other despicable displays in the media would leave old-school aesthetes like Brummel, D'orsay, Wilde, Ruskin, Morris et al shocked into silence... and not in a good way).
It's the way individuals look, the way they carry themselves, the interest they have in the general way things look. Places like London and Paris (and even cities as far flung as Split or Moscow) always suprise me with the way the people make looking great seem effortless, and, more importantly, individual. Or the way that the old abuelas in Madrid will dress up in their finest furs to do the most mundane errands. There's truth in the cliche that beauty's in the eye of the beholder, so I can't claim to know what is definitely beautiful and what definitely is not. But I freely admit that always put in that little bit of extra effort when I'm outside of the U.S. The sweats I'll wear to the grocery store in Chicago won't make it out of the bedroom door in London. After all, everyone else is dressed for comfort here.
And you don't see many books talking about the secrets to how American women stay so slim and stunning through the years. Bien sur, it's the French we turn to for those tips (although, I'm sure there are many who will claim otherwise... however, the stereotype persists and there are many others just like that one).
But, then again, I know some of the most innovative characters in the beauty industry today... and they reside in NYC. 3 Custom Colour, Rescue Beauty, Kimberly Sayer, Bond No. 9, Le Lebo and countless more are Manhattan-based and rightly proud of it. That's not to say that other cities around the world can't make equally impressive boasts (MJP in Paris, Guinot, Guerlain and Sephora too... This Works, Aromatherapy Associates and even SpaceNK in London).
So how the hell can one decide which locale deserves the title Beauty Capital of the World? To claim to be something as vague and lofty as the beauty capital of the world, as that banner suggested NYC does, there had better be the beauty currency to back it up.