Iceland Mag

3 Reykjavik

Iceland Mag


An American in Reykjavik: Fashion-ably Late, My Incompetent Take on Icelandic Style

By Matt Eliason

  • There are many things that confuse me about Icelandic fashion including the fact that everyone's clothing seems a little too tight. Photos/Stefán Karlsson and Ellý Ármanns.

Breaking news from Reykjavik - this trendy Nordic country is so ahead of the curve regarding their fashion-sense, my outdated American wardrobe is almost back in style. After being heavily critiqued by my peers for wearing jorts (jean shorts) my freshman year of college (without the slightest hint of irony), it ends up I might have been a fashion genius all along. I have seen a resurgence in jean shorts amongst the local residences of Reykjavik, as if I am in some sort of space-time continuum that brings me back to my high school days. Now to be clear, I would personally describe my American fashion-sense somewhere between simple and clueless; however, peering through my incredibly incompetent fashion lens, here are some observations I have noticed about the appearances of your typical Icelander.


The Cristiano Ronald Haircut is totally in. I’m not sure if that is the actual name for it, but you know what I mean. The gelled come-over look on top with the back and sides of the head shaved down with a razor. This trend has mildly taken off in the states, but in Iceland, it appears as if it has become the social norm. Locals joke by calling it a "B5 haircut," which is named after the trendy late night bar that frequently accommodates this glossy come over style. I just got my haircut "b5 style" on accident, after attempting to communicate in broken English with my Icelandic barber. I told him, “just trim the top and the sides.” He said, “ok, I know what you want” and proceeded to just shave the entire back of my head despite the fact that, “it was not what I want.” $35 dollars later, I had a new hair-style and an unsatisfied look on my face that resembled the first time I was forced to eat Icelandic horse meat at the local diner. Despite my initial discontent, I have come to terms with my new dew, as a trendy Icelandic fashion follower. 


The crooked fleece zipper is frustrating to look at. I’m not sure if there was a zipper convention sometime before I got here to Reykjavik, but I still haven’t adjusted to the fact that a fair amount of the men I see wearing fleeces around the town, have a sideways zipper zigging down the front side of their garments. Aside from the fact that it looks incredibly uncomfortable, this drunk looking zipper is not a practical look unless you have a unyielding desire to show just your left shoulder. Some of the sweaters even have abnormally large buttons! That means you have to button all the front buttons up or else risk exposing your bare shoulder with the floppily side portion hanging off your body. I’m sorry, but for a man this is not a very flattering look. I refuse to buy into this trend.

Are we in America? The global reach of American sporting brands is on full display here in Reykjavik. However, I found Icelanders use the sporting apparel more as a fashion statement than an actual representation of what teams they support. As a Chicago native, I saw a guy wearing a Chicago Bulls hat, while I was out one night watching a world cup game at a bar. Just to make conversation I excitedly asked, “Who is your favorite player on the bulls, I´m from Chicago.” He responded, “Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen.” I laughed and responded, “Who on the current team do you like?” He looked at me with a blank stare and said, “I’m not sure, I don’t really watch the games.” He clearly had no clue about any of the players on the current team, however, he no problem rocking the Chicago Bulls brand out on the town. Similarly, I have seen numerous Brooklyn Nets hats and Miami Heat gear, despite the fact that the NBA is hardly mentioned on TV or in the papers with the exception of the NBA finals.


Icelanders are all about the skinny jeans. I don’t think I’m saying anything groundbreaking here, but Icelanders, like most Europeans, are all about the skinny jeans. I have yet to purchase a pair of these tight, skin strangling, pieces of clothing largely due to the fact that they look extremely uncomfortable. I know I am the “crazy foreigner” who enjoys allowing blood to circulate in my legs, but I’m not sure if I will ever be able to convince myself to squeeze into these miniature excuses for pants. The Icelander skinny jeans are so tight that I can only describe them as the American equivalent to female yoga pants. However, as I mentioned in the opening paragraph, I do appreciate the fact that jean shorts are coming back into style. I have a plethora of this classic, American, mid 90s, throwback apparel secretly hidden in the back of my closet in Chicago, so I’ll have to stock up the next time I go home.

Old School Converse Shoes serve as “going-out attire.” I’d say approximately 25% of all men walking around the town during a night out in Reykjavik will be wearing the retro look of Converse All Star high top sneakers. While you might find it weird that I am staring at everybody’s shoes, the frequency with which I spotted this largely extinct American shoe was instantly recognizable. Whether it’s because the sleek, narrow designed of the shoe matches the sleek, narrow design of everyone’s skinny jeans, or if it’s because high-top shoes provide a simple, yet authentic look to the faded garment of the Icelandic men’s fashion, these iconic American shoes illustrate the American pop-culture influence that can be seen popping up all over the Icelandic culture.

Buff Hat: The Icelandic buff is a hat worn by most local kids (and some adults) that resembles a Santa hat minus the white puff at the tip (pictured above with the two girls on the left). Due to the chilly climate found in Iceland, these buff hats can be found at virtually all times of the year. The buffs are usually made of cloth and can be easily thrown in the washer or dryer. This becomes an essential quality of the Icelandic garments since there are scattered rainstorms constantly forecasted in the capital, dampening the clothes of all individuals caught in the haphazard downpours. The buffs are adorable on kids, however, I have seen a few adults also wearing these interesting hats, which looks slightly less flattering. Regardless, I approve of this fashion statement because it provides a unique alternative to the standard skull caps seen by your typical American tourist.


Denim Overload: Similar to a Brett Favre wrangler commercial, Iceland has fallen in love with the faded look of denim. And its not just the jeans. Denim shirts and jackets are the norm for Icelandic guys looking "to get their fashion on" during a late night out on the town. Combine their love of denim with the plethora of bearded men roaming the streets, and  you get an authentic Icelandic look that truly reveals the Viking spirit. Now as a fashion-challenged American male, I can't believe the incredible amount of money the average Icelandic guy spends on his wardrobe. I could be generalizing, but it seems like the average Icelandic male spends a significantly larger portion of their paycheck on fashion related items than your average American. I am content with a couple polo shirts and a pair of (non-skinny) jeans. Icelanders are determined to make a statement with their fashion, which entails staying current with the popular trends. As one of my co-workers states regarding Icelandic fashion, "The more ridiculous and trendy, the better."

Final Thoughts on Icelandic Fashion. Looking good and dressing well seems to be an important part of your typical Icelander's day-to-day life. As a footballer for Þróttur Reykjavik, I can attest to the post-match struggle amongst my teammates for the prime real estate in front of the mirror. And there is nothing wrong with the idea of a man caring about his looks, even though I don't completely understand it, but the significant time and money spent on clothing and fashion products is mind-boggling to me, and is something I will never care to understand or replicate. So I guess the next time you are out in Reykjavik and see a guy with loose fitting jeans and a boring white polo shirt, you will know who it is!

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