As more and more cultural enclaves develop in Australia’s biggest metropolis, it follows that neighbourhoods are starting to form distinct fashion identities. We uncover the Sydney style tribes and what it means to identify with one.
“The wider world perceives fashion as a frivolity that should be done away with. The point is that fashion is the armour to survive the reality of everyday life,” said the late street style photographer Bill Cunningham. “It’s all here,” he continued. “The best fashion show is definitely on the street.” This is the place where the far-flung concepts and fantasies of the catwalk are brought, quite literally, to life. Our style choices live, breathe and are influenced by our own lives, our daily activities and the unspoken — but understood — dress codes of our neighbourhoods.
Nowhere is this perhaps more pronounced in Australia than in Sydney. The city hubs, nooks and villages swing from gritty and grungy to prim and polished in a matter of kilometres. Inhabitants of a particular area can be identified by their preference to a particular print, jean silhouette or even simple grooming cues.
In our exploration of Sydney style tribes, we’ve observed some similarities among dwellers of particular areas. While these are of course not hard-and-fast rules, it doesn’t hurt to understand the locals and their sartorial predilections, whether you want to fit in or stand out.
Perhaps you identify with Bondi’s breezy balance of athleticism and shows of skin? Maybe you’re more at home with Marrickville’s laid-back lumberjack-meets-rocker. Read on to find out where you stand in Sydney street fashion.
Paddington: downtown debonair
This eastern suburb of Sydney is known for its boutique bars, institutional restaurants, famous inhabitants and a long-celebrated history as a precinct for Sydney fashion with its boutiques lining Oxford Street towards Glenmore Road’s intersection.
As a result of geography perhaps, Paddington style setters are highly in tune with their urban-chic sense of style. Drawing on a mix of both local and international designers, residents favour sharp tailoring from the likes of Givenchy, paired back with edgy, distressed denim or soft, cashmere sweatpants from brands such Frame or Paige. A low-heeled loafer, from Derek Lam for instance, or a Givenchy tote keeps the look luxurious with a low-key finish.
Marrickville: low-key grunge
As the alternative centre of the Inner West, Marrickville is at first glance a sleepy, off-the-grid suburb by day, concealing a bustling nightlife of multicultural restaurants, live music and markets.
Locals, in keeping with their pub-going, live music-enjoying pursuits, tend towards plaid, denim shirting, leather pinafores and ankle boots. Look to the collections of Saint Laurent and Miu Miu for inspiration as well as the likes of Alexa Chung and Cara Delevingne for their easy-going street wear sensibilities to channel this area’s relaxed Sydney street style.
North shore: collegiate chic
Encompassing the suburbs between Chatswood and Hornsby, Mosman to North Sydney and Lane Cove, the North Shore covers a lot of territory. However, there is one consistent and defining feature of this wide berth of dwellers: a sense of polish that leans toward preppy as the main identifier of this Sydney style tribe.
Reference put-together style icons who favour Breton stripes, Bassike trench coats and Tod’s totes to blend in with the locals in their luxurious Sydney fashion. Try soft, cashmere sweaters from Jac & Jack and Equipment silk shirts with cropped, smart jeans, finishing with Repetto ballet flats. Sydney blogger Sara Donaldson loves her Equipment shirts; note her talent for elevating this wardrobe basic into an elegant yet edgy aesthetic.
Surry Hills: normcore
Although within striking distance of Sydney’s central business district, Surry Hills boasts a culturally vibrant village bustling with boutiques, bars and cult eateries. Residents are economically and culturally diverse, though unified in their love of normcore style.
Labels such as Acne epitomise the Sydney street style here, particularly in its throw-on dresses finished in fine silk. Add Alexander Wang’s leather jackets and trousers to the list as well as the finishing touch offered by Vans shoes in pristine white worn with a Saint Laurent wool overcoat during the cooler months.
Bondi: breezy hipster
Despite being built around Australia’s most famous beach, Sydney fashion according to Bondi locals tends towards sleek and glamorous. Echoing the active, outdoorsy nature of its residents, the style is athletic, featuring a sport-luxe edge with a relaxed attitude.
Dion Lee’s skin-baring silk dresses (to show off toned arms and the results of many green juices) work well with a flat Givenchy sandal. Dropped-armhole singlet tops are also favoured as well as a midriff-baring styles worn with distressed, high-waisted denim. Throw on your mirrored Linda Farrow sunglasses and you’re ready to mix it with this Sydney style tribe.