After 150 years of unremitting squalor with bursts of wild creativity, and about 5 minutes of unrestrained excess and glamor, the Bowery "style" is now priced to sell and spreading out across the country. Here's how it happened.
In November 2007, Hamptons boutique Blue & Cream moved to the Bowery and soon debuted the Bowery Hoodie for $140:
In April 2008, John Varvatos moved into the former CBGB. He sells the Bowery Boot for $698, Bowery Sunglasses for $375, and Bowery Fit jeans for $198.
In February 2010, J. Crew unveiled the Bowery Pant for a relative pittance at $98:
photo: EV Grieve
In July 2010, Rag & Bone moved to Houston--it's not even on Bowery, just slightly off--but they still manage to sell the Bowery cargo pant for $240:
So far, Bowery-branded clothing has been putting up the big numbers, hauling in some major cash. But now, in a grand example of trickle-down fashion trends, Old Navy (also not on Bowery) has started selling the Bowery Bombers sweatshirt for $19.50:
What are the Bowery Bombers? Were they really established in 1948? And what is the meaning of the number 32? The answers are: Nonexistent, No, and Nothing. But I sort of like the Old Navy shirt, as it baldly and unpretentiously reveals the meaninglessness of all the luxury-level Bowery-branded clothing items that preceded it.
In only 4 years, the fashion industry has managed to do its part in changing the meaning of the Bowery, a meaning that held strong in the country's consciousness for a century and a half. Now, in shopping malls, outlet complexes, and "retail-tainment" centers all across the country, from Orlando, Florida, to Wenatchee, Washington, "The Bowery" will mean something very different to countless bargain shoppers and back-to-schoolers.
What will it mean? Only time will tell. But when the tour buses begin disgorging folks in search of $5 "My Mom Visited The Bowery and All I Got Was This Lousy T-Shirt" t-shirts, well, you'll know how it all came to be.