Icelanders like to consider themselves progressive and more often than not that is the case.
We are quick to pick up new trends and customs, and often adapt them to local produce and conditions. International cuisine is no exception from the rule and a fine example is the use of Icelandic produce at local sushi restaurants.
Personally, I am not a fan of sushi; to me, the notion of eating raw fish with its naturally salty flavor is a little off-putting to my taste buds.
I have been encouraged to give it a proper go but I know my likings and dislikes too well to pay heed to the well-intended encouragement.
A new restaurant in town, Sushi Samba, is pretty much the only sushi place where my taste for succulent Icelandic lamb and beef is satisfied while my niece, sisters and mother can enjoy the first-class sushi I am told they serve.
The combination of Latin churrasco “grill” and sushi is symbolic of the melting pot of culinary influences enriching the city.
In fashion we’re also quick to pick up new trends, albeit not as quick as we like to think we are, and sometimes we take it a step too far, at least to my taste.
One of the worst mistakes a person can make in my view is to wear thin leggings as if they were skinny jeans, with the butt cheeks exposed.
Then it’s the mistake of wearing a really short skirt on a windy day. As it blows in the wind, again, butt cheeks pop out.
I am one of those subconscious people who wear short leggings underneath a skirt so I may enjoy a casual walk in the city without worrying about over-exposure, a necessary fashion accessory in the land of excessive wind.
Most of us, whatever our descent may be, develop a style of our own as we mature in years and by the time we hit our thirties, we have seen a trend or two come and go, and know our bodies well enough to know what is flattering and what is not.
A popular color to settle on is black. Icelanders, women in particular, are particularly fond of the black overall look.
If you were to enter a party on a Saturday night and look around, you might notice quite a few women wearing black from head to toe.
Also in the professional scene, the color black is prevalent.
My husband and I disagree where it comes to black. I have a hard time acknowledging it as a color; I see it more as a non-color.
My hubby, on the other hand, loves the color black. To him, a black dress is the epitome of elegance and to work he will sometimes wear all black.
Of late, I have tried to open my mind to the idea of black being an actual color in the world of fashion, not just a depressing shade for sad occasions or formalwear.
After all, under the right circumstances it looks stunning and with the color and pattern selection available in the world of tights, I can make it work.
The Icelandic women in my family are making an exception when they buy happy colors outside the neutral scheme, but in my case it is closer to being the headline of the month if I choose a black dress instead of a floral favorite.
I don’t mind white and beige; beige in particular looks lovely with pale pink. But for most women I know, black is the color of choice and often worn with beige or white or a subdued shade of a livelier color.
I sometime wonder what all this means, and I see it as symbols of the conservative in the liberal of us.
The attraction to dark colors is the conservative side. Just look at the parliament. Its members wear black ensembles with the occasional white or beige appearing under a jacket or two. Even the ties are black.
And that in room where an atmosphere of tranquility is created with the use of blue and green walls and flowing curtains, blue as the sky.
It seems to me the conservative black is the force dominating the room, expelling the joy of color enriching the surroundings.
Putting my literature degree to good use, I’d say this is symbolic of old Iceland, the Iceland that is stuck in the past where industrial production and practicality reigns the market.
The currency debate is the most recent example in which pride stands in the way of progress. Imagine if Ménilmontant, one of Paris’s arrondissements, had refused to use the Euro and continued to use the old Franc.
Our taste for sushi and tendency to adapt “new” cuisine shows our adventurous side, but even so, we get stuck in the notion of making it as Icelandic as possible with local produce.
Back to clothing, since the rise of the recession, I have noticed that more and more Icelanders are experimenting with colors in their fashionable exterior, some extending that choice to more drastic changes in their own lives.
I take it as a sign of change in a society torn by the conflicting conservative exterior and liberal spirit. We are stepping out of the safety zone, e.g. practicality, to the spirit of liberalism where quality supersedes quantity.
If I were to believe in the notion of New Iceland, I would say wearing bright colors is the very symbol of its birthing stage.
In a way, we are embracing a new structure, a new hierarchy. Fashion designers, photographers, graphic designers, musicians, actors and writers have turned their passion into a successful career, and for many, business is booming.
Bands like Of Men and Monsters, director and actor Baltasar Kormákur, and fashion photographer Saga Sig are but a few success stories.
Novelists are reaching out to Amazon for publication and young talented people are creating their own opportunities. Just this year, a group of young, all female architects and graphic designers started an ad agency in Reykjavík.
The Iceland I know is in touch with its artist’s heart and the recession has brought out the best in Icelandic culture.
Yes, life is hard these days with endless rise in petrol and grocery prices, never-ending bickering in the parliament and the incessant waterfall of rage.
Perhaps if the authorities introduced bright colors to their black ensembles, its members might become contaminated with the artist’s joy and settle their differences in a lighter mood.
The gloom of the black night is on the verge of extinction now that spring rides into town with the iridescent glow of summer not far behind, and we should all jump on board.
The future looks bright for our little island in the north.
Júlíana Björnsdóttir – [email protected]