I felt not so much like I was in a city full of undertakers, but rather in a city that was in casual but widespread mourning. A sombre, solemn city where everyone dressed in black in recognition of some great death, but one of which visitors were unaware.
Standing at an intersection, the light would change and a wall of dark would approach, like a funeral procession that had just disbanded and was now going about its daily business in all seriousness.
Okay, to be truthful, not everyone was in black. There were other dark shades among the herd: deep greys and navy blues mottled its appearance, but black dominated. Now and then a tiny flash of resistance sparkled: a turquoise scarf, red mittens, a green hat. A few light greys showed as accents, like some Darwinian random mutation. Sometimes the white earplug wires of an iPod stood out in jarring contrast against all the darkness. But mostly it was monochrome: subtle shades of black.
Black hat, black gloves, black scarf, black coat, black pants and black shoes. It’s like everyone saw The Matrix and decided collectively to emulate Mr. Smith. Yes, even to the black shades worn on overcast days and into the evening.
I stood out like a crazed flamingo in a conservative wildebeest herd in my yellow-and-almond winter jacket. Now and then I’d spot another rebel against the herd instinct: a bright splash of colour like a beacon in the swirling sea of dark. If our paths intersected, and out eyes met, we’d share a secret smile, two rebels sloughing off the herd instinct, fellow travellers in the underground of colour.
There’s an old joke about New Yorkers wearing black until something darker comes along. It seems Toronto has adopted the black-as-fashion statement. I like black. I wear it a lot. Black can be forceful, mysterious, sexy, confrontational, challenging, expressive and strong. But it’s not so much fashion as anti-fashion, if everyone is wearing it. Is everyone in black mysterious and sexy, or just hopeful they are?
Fashionable means rubbing against the grain of the herd: wearing the opposite, wearing the things that make heads turn, being visible. If you accept the notion that doing the opposite of the herd is the front line of fashion, in Toronto this week, I was – for perhaps the only time anyone will ever accuse me of it – exquisitely fashionable.
At the very least I was un-black, which may be close to the same thing.