America's Worst-Dressed People
Travel + Leisure readers rated major destinations in categories including style for the annual America’s Favorite Cities survey—and the results confirm that city dwellers fall short of fashionable in myriad ways. But it’s Anchorage that earned the dubious honor of No. 1 worst-dressed city in America.
That’s no surprise to Dr. Miriam Jones, a paleoclimatologist who has traveled in and out of Anchorage “too many times to count” during a two-year research stint. “It’s not uncommon to see oversized parkas with fur-lined hoods and bunny boots, and people aren’t alarmed when a person wearing a ski mask enters a room.” In Alaska, she adds, men sport beards and flannel in the most unironic way possible: to keep frostbite at bay and their appendages attached.
Baltimore, on the other hand, can’t blame icy temperatures for its No. 3 place on the worst-dressed-people list. According to eight-year resident Erika Poniske, locals dress poorly for a host of reasons, some of which can be attributed to city subcultures. Baltimore hipsters, she says, bypass the tried-and-true thrift store, opting to dumpster dive for their clothing instead. And if you spend enough time in the quirky neighborhood of Hampden, you might just run into a woman wearing her hair in a real-deal ’50s beehive.
Poniske believes it’s the city’s die-hard commitment to all things casual that makes it most deserving of its ranking. “If you’re going to take time to dress up in Baltimore, you better be on your way to somewhere specific. Otherwise you’re going to stand out, and you’re going to feel awkward.”
But a reputation for luxurious tastes doesn’t necessarily translate into smartly clad residents either. Take Dallas, which T+L readers consider a top 10 destination if you’re into upscale shopping, but which came in as the No. 6 least-stylish city.
Dressing well certainly has an element of personal taste, and this survey is based on visitors’ perceptions, not scientific fact. So, did T+L readers deem your city to be one of America’s worst dressed? Read on to find out, and feel free to defend local fashions in the comments.
No. 1 Anchorage
In chilly Anchorage, the dress code leans toward practicality rather than fashion, and many residents teeter through the streets bundled as tightly as Randy, the kid brother in A Christmas Story. Fashion trends take longer to reach this hinterland, but travelers are happy to make the trek regardless—especially in summer—and rated the city No. 4 for peace and quiet.
No. 2 Salt Lake City
Voters rated Salt Lake City one of the top 10 quietest cities in the nation and praised it for affordability and cleanliness. But T+L readers didn’t equate those squeaky-clean locals with fashion-forward ways—perhaps because, male or female, there are only so many ways to rock a polo shirt.
No. 3 Baltimore
In a city judged to have fairly offbeat residents, there are bound to be questionable fashion choices. Case in point: the Baltimore Hons, a group of people who sport the ’50s cat-eye-glasses look with gusto. Some visitors have their sights focused elsewhere, anyway, using Baltimore as a convenient, affordable base for day trips (ranked No. 12).
No. 4 Orlando
Orlando was voted the No. 1 family vacation destination, so visitors were likely focused on people seen around the theme parks, which aren’t exactly crowded with fashionistas—enduring Disney World’s winding lines in stilettos would be crazy. The city won raves for its weather and variety of hotel options.
No. 5 San Antonio, TX
San Antonio is known for rodeos, not runways. Take the famous San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo, a three-week extravaganza at which you won’t feel comfortable unless you’re suited up in western attire—from your head (one of those sweet hats) to your toes (cowboy boots).
No. 6 Dallas/Fort Worth
Bigger seems to always be better in the Dallas/Fort Worth area; just take one look at the infamously over-the-top JumboTron at the Cowboys Stadium. And when it comes to getting dressed, big hair, conspicuous designer labels, and slick snakeskin boots are the norm. “Less is more” is not a phrase heard round these parts.
No. 7 Atlanta
If the flashy reality-TV stars of The Real Housewives of Atlanta are at all indicative of how the rest of Atlanta dresses, it’s no wonder our readers ranked it as America’s No. 7 least-stylish city. Hotlanta has one of the highest per capita incomes of any southern city, but as the TV show illustrates and the saying goes: money can’t buy taste.
No. 8 Portland, ME
With some of the most limited shopping options in America and one of its least diverse populations, Portland isn’t where you come to try on cutting-edge clothing. But that’s just fine because the city slays the competition in other areas, placing first in five survey categories, including best summer destination and best drivers.
No. 9 Phoenix/Scottsdale
Here’s a hint: if a city has a museum exhibit dedicated to the bolo tie, it’s not going to be fashion forward. The official neckwear of Arizona (yes, that’s a thing) is enjoying a comeback. But sunny Phoenix made the top 10 for spring break destinations—when attire is almost beside the point.
No. 10 Kansas City, MO
America’s No. 1 city for barbecue does not a fashionista make. Kansas City residents are among some of our nation’s friendliest, and they can school anyone and everyone about the intricacies of grilling, but it looks like they’re lost when it comes to putting together an outfit.
No. 11 Minneapolis/St. Paul
You know that stereotype that nerds don’t know how to dress? Well, Minneapolis/St. Paul is doing nothing to put it to rest. Residents in the No. 2 smartest metro area in America could stand to study style fundamentals. If only they could find time between enjoying the highly rated public parks (No. 3) and local theater (No. 4).
No. 12 Memphis, TN
This hilariously bizarre commercial for Memphis-based clothing store Divine Rags became an Internet sensation last year, racking up almost half a million views in just a few days. The TV ad was later revealed to be a clever publicity stunt by the shop’s owner, but its merchandise, including skin-tight dresses fashioned out of faux snakeskin, is all too real.
No. 13 Portland, OR
Ah, Portland. Poking fun of the city and its hipster ways has become a national pastime, and it’s not hard to see why. There’s the facial hair, of course, and the creative outfits that can make locals look like trendsetters or like they’ve been playing dress up in their grandparents’ musty prom clothes. Regardless, locals don’t seem fazed; they were voted the No. 1 friendliest.
No. 14 Washington, D.C.
When you’re saving the world, it turns out the last thing you’re concerned about is whether your navy pantsuit and square-toed pumps are worthy of a fashion magazine. The city has upped its cool quotient in recent years, but it’s still better known for museums and monuments than for being fashion forward.
No. 15 Houston
Texas’s biggest city doesn’t bother with zoning laws, and the haphazard layout (an oil refinery, a pet store, a house) might explain the approach some locals take to outfit selection. In the funky neighborhood of Montrose, for instance, residents are known to sport a woman’s blouse on top, spandex shorts on bottom. Work up an appetite people-watching, then chow down—after all, you’re in one of the top-rated burger cities.
No. 16 Honolulu
The Hawaiian capital ranked No. 6 for attractive locals, but only average ratings for their dress sense. Perhaps visitors are too distracted by those flamboyant Hawaiian shirts or have misgivings about flip-flops and board shorts as a year-round uniform. But any questionable fashion choices don’t stand in the way of romance, for which the city is the No. 4 destination.
No. 17 Denver
Denver residents were voted the No. 5 most attractive and No. 1 most athletic in the U.S., but that doesn’t mean they know how to dress those toned bods. To be fair, how fashion forward can one look in rock-climbing, snowboarding, or cycling gear?
No. 18 Boston
We’re blaming this one on the co-eds. There are more college students per capita in Boston—rated the No. 3 most intelligent—than in any other American city. And students aren’t known for looking pulled together. You’ll spy them around town in slouchy sweatshirts and pajama bottoms, or with their collars popped.
No. 19 Philadelphia
In Philly, it’s more about sports than style. Topping the list of America’s most sports-crazed cities, Philly residents proudly take advantage of every opportunity to represent their favorite team. The city also ranked No. 5 for its diversity, which means at least some locals have redeeming fashion tastes.
No. 20 Nashville
Friendly, affordable, and the No. 2 destination for live music, Nashville earned middling scores in the style department. This could be because shopping isn’t top of mind for visitors or maybe because any city in the same state as Dollywood automatically earns a spot on the worst-dressed list.