World’s best-dressed nations -- and how to fit in
First impressions count. That, no doubt, is why few first dates take place in lederhosen.
For the traditional Germans among us, no offense intended. But there is something about a sharply cut suit, or a well-matched sweater-pant combo, that hits the style spots small leather shorts and braces can’t.
Of course in a Turkish steam bath even a pair of board shorts would be considered over-dressed. But that’s an extreme we needn't worry about here.
So which country has the best-dressed people?
Is it even possible or fair to evaluate an entire country on the sartorial whims of its fashionable elite?
Probably not. But that’s not going to stop us. And it shouldn’t stop you either.
Which country do you think has the best-dressed people? Let us know in the comments section below.
8. United States
The global reach of its style innovations has matched the geopolitical importance of the United States. From blue jeans and western wear such as checked shirts and cowboy hats to the preppy school and hip-hop street threads, casual American looks have permeated cultures from Columbia to Cambodia.
There have been many missteps along the way -- leather shoestring ties and Crocs to name two -- but at its best American fashion embodies a classic aesthetic that's hard to resist.
Big labels such as Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein are among the most copied brands on the planet. Their ubiquity doesn't mean that the Americans don't have some cutting-edge aces up their sleeves.
Marc Jacobs is rightfully regarded as a modern master while high-end labels such as Proenza Schouler, Zac Posen, Tuleh, Peter Som and Derek Lam are giving the European fashion powerhouses a run for their money.
Steve McQueen. It takes guts to wear khakis and cable-knit sweaters. It takes Steve McQueen to pull it off.
Slalom sweater dress by Marc Jacobs (women; www.marcjacobs.com).
Where to buy
For an understated yet hip New York look make for Steven Alan Annex (+1 212 343 0692; www.stevenalan.com) at 103 Franklin St. in New York where the eponymous curator/designer fills his stores with his own creations and judiciously selected items from the city's best up and coming brands.
The sun-kissed spiritual home of the body beautiful, Brazilians have traditionally been seen as one of the best-undressed nationalities. Yet while the classic barely there swimsuit/tight trunks and Havianas combo still reigns supreme on the beaches of Rio de Janeiro, a more subtle fashion aesthetic has emerged in South America's largest country in recent years.
The catalyst for this change was the advent of the São Paolo Fashion Week at the turn of the millennium.
Now, with the newer Fashion Rio taking place in the same fortnight, Brazil is boldly upping the ante when it comes to hosting extended ready-to-wear events.
The approach appears to be paying off with brands such as Pedro Lourenço, Osklen and Alexandre Herchcovitch beginning to make a mark internationally with their exuberant designs.
Carmen Miranda. Her fruit-laden hats and turbans brought Rio's joyous Carnival culture to a wider audience.
Where to buy
Alexandre Herchcovitch is arguably Brazil's foremost designer and the prêt-à-porter and tailor-made clothes at his store (www.herchcovitch.com.br) at Rua Melo Alves 561 are a highlight of a shopping trip to São Paolo.
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Fictional guitarist Nigel Tufnel may have once described his band mate’s girlfriend as "dressing like an Australian's nightmare" in the film “This Is Spinal Tap,” but the Aussie style sense is no longer derided.
The Australian look, which is at once casual and individualistic, is now emulated everywhere. The friendly climate, surf culture and strong outdoor aesthetic have all influenced Australian design.
Yet while a sense of playful informality rules, the refined lines at hip labels such as Minkpink and Camilla and Marc are a world away from the swimsuited and thonged image of popular renown.
Brands such as Camilla and Marc go for a “tailored casual” aesthetic a world away from the elasticized waistbands of board shorts. Other names to drop at the moment include Josh Good and Scanlan & Theodore.
Isabel Lucas. The Transformers actress rocks a vintage, hippie-inspired look perfectly suited to the perpetual Australian summer. Her favored brands include homegrown jewelry label Spell Designs.
Where to buy
At 100 Squared at Westfield Sydney (www.100squared.com.au), 11 emerging designers have been plucked from various market stalls and housed under one roof in a 100-meter-square cube.
5. United Kingdom
It's no secret that many turn to the Brits for style pointers.
From the approximation of Edwardian fashions by the Teddy Boys in the 1950s through to the smart-casual looks favored by bands such as Blur, Oasis and the Arctic Monkeys, British youth movements have mined a rich sartorial seam.
While it's possible to put other fashion hubs into defined boxes -- France (femininity), Sweden (minimalism) -- British fashion largely defies categorization.
It can mean anything from a timeless James Bond look courtesy of famed tailor Gieves & Hawkes, classic British brands such as Burberry, Mulberry, Fred Perry and Lyle & Scott, or the steady stream of innovative design talent that emerges from famed fashion schools such as Central Saint Martins in London.
Terence Stamp. British fashion was never more influential than at the height of the Swinging Sixties and nobody embodied the sharply dressed ethos more than actor Terence Stamp.
Vivienne Westwood Anglomania Accident Slim Pencil Skirt (women; www.viviennewestwood.co.uk); Barbour trench coat (men; www.barbour.com)
Where to shop
It's not exactly a British concept (it was the brainchild of Rei Kawakubo of Commes des Garçons), but Dover Street Market (+44 207 518 9689; www.doverstreetmarket.com) at 17-18 Dover St. has a distinctly London energy. Its six floors feature lines by a host of top labels including home favorites Alexander McQueen and Phoebe English.
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Few nationalities take dressing up to such gleeful extremes as the Japanese.
Previous generations may have wallowed in conformity, but youth fashion in big cities like Tokyo is the antithesis of the graceful lady wrapped in a kimono or the workaholic business suited salaryman.
Playful and often provocative, Japanese street fashion draws on a whole raft of influences -- both international and traditional -- to create looks that have transcended the boundaries of hip districts like Harajuku to take catwalks and high streets all over the world by storm.
Styles include "lolita," an updated take on Victorian-era clothing and "oshare kei," a punkish style characterized by bright colors and different patterns.
Elements of these have been exported as a result of the success of homegrown brands such as A Bathing Ape, Uniqlo and, perhaps most notably, Commes des Garçons.
Rei Kawakubo. The creative force behind the Commes des Garçons label, Kawakubo -- with her black uniform and severe bob -- is an avant-garde fashion icon.
Flannel long sleeve tunic from Uniqlo (women; www.uniqlo.com); Skull Face T-Shirt from A Bathing Ape (men; www.bape.com)
Where to buy
The flagship outlet of Japan's most famous label, Comme des Garçons (+81 3 3406 3951; www.comme-des-garcons.com), is located at 5-2-1 Minami-Aoyama.
For more refined Japanese style try Xanadu (+81 3 6459 2826; www.xanadutokyo.jp), a boutique that stocks some of Tokyo's chicest designers.
The French royal court became the arbiter of style for the rest of Europe in the 17th century. It arguably still is, although today's fashion aristocracy are not the heavily powdered courtiers of Louis XIV, but the bright young things at houses such as Vuitton, Dior and Givenchy.
Indeed, it's not just the rest of the continent that takes many of its leads from Paris -- it's the entire world.
Foreign stars such as Marc Jacobs (United States), Kenzo Takada (Japan) and Alexander McQueen (United Kingdom) all saw a move to France as the logical way to further their careers.
The birthplace of haute couture -- unique custom fitted clothing -- French fashion can be too precious for some tastes.
New designers such as Yves Andrieux and Vincent Jalbert, however, who use recycled army fabrics and antique embroideries in their jackets and bags, are re-injecting some cutting edge.
Eva Green. The former Bond girl favors 1930s- and 1940s-inspired silhouettes like high waists and structured shoulders that evoke the classic designs of Coco Chanel.
Where to shop
The streets around Avenue Montaigne and Saint-Germain-des-Pres are peppered with designer labels, but the Rue Charlot area in the Third Arrondissement is the current hip spot in Paris.
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Un-demonstrative yet completely assured, the Swedish style sense has become the latest in the long line of successful exports from the Scandinavian nation.
Whereas the country's original breakout phenomenon, pop group ABBA, complemented their melodic nous with outlandish satin loon pants and facial hair, the appeal of Swedish fashion rests in its stylistically clean, minimalist notes.
This utilitarian approach to fashion has spread like wildfire across the globe. Sweden's most famous brand, Hennes & Mauritz (H&M), now has more than 2,300 stores in 41 countries and its tie-ins with designers such as Stella McCartney and Roberto Cavalli have set the standard for collaborations between high-street and high-fashion brands.
Smaller labels such as Cheap Monday and Acne meanwhile are also rapidly attaining global reach and influence.
Lykke Li. The breakthrough pop star epitomizes the Swedish "less is more" fashion ethos.
Where to buy
Stockholm's hippest store is the Acne flagship (+46 8611 6411, shop.acnestudios.com) at Norrmalmstorg 2. For bargains try the Acne Archive (+46 830 2723) at Torsgatan 53, where past seasons and press samples go for up to 50 percent off.
More on CNN: Insider guide -- best of Stockholm
Italy's modern synonymy with style began in the 1950s. Gucci became the jet set's label of choice with icons such as Grace Kelly and Jackie Kennedy Onassis rarely seen without one of its handbags.
Meanwhile, on the beaches of the English south coast, sharply dressed Mods in tailored Italian suits showed how to cut a dash during a scrap in their clashes with leather-clad Rockers.
Europe's kinky boot continues to fly the flag. Houses such as Prada, Miu Miu and Armani are legendary, while fashion conscious folks across the world strive to inject some trademark Italian "sprezzatura" (studied nonchalance) into their look.
With two cities -- Milan and Rome -- among fashion's big five, the world still looks to Italy for pointers, which is good news for emerging designers such as Carlo Contrada and Gabriele Colangelo.
Gianni Agnelli. One of Italy's greatest industrialists, the impeccably dressed Fiat magnate was also a worthy standard bearer for his nation's fashion sensibility.
Miu Miu bag (women; www.miumiu.com); tailored blazer from Zanetti with pocket square (men; www.zanetti.com)
Where to buy
Italy's fashion capital, Milan remains the place to shop. Try Gianni Campagna (+39 02 77 88 11, www.campagna.it) at via Palestro 24, where Karl Lagerfeld and Valentino go for their handmade suits -- prices start at €3,745 (US$4,884) -- or the historical Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, home to Prada's flagship store.
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