Style » Fashion

The Look: Miami’s Nightlife Style

by Steve Weinstein
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Friday Nov 1, 2013

On a recent trip to Miami, walking into the Shelborne (one of the South Beach Art Deco oceanfront hotels that have turned this section of Miami Beach into an international playground), what should greet me but two of the most magnificent specimens, God and Gold's gift to the world. Clad only in underwear that give new meaning to the term "briefs," they were posing on the staircase for a photo shoot, perhaps for the "fashion issue" that appears periodically in the local gay magazines.

There probably aren't too many other cities where most people casually walk by two men in underwear without a second glance, a gaggle of open-mouthed young female tourists excepted. This is Miami, after all, where the matrons bring out the furs when the temperature drops below 65 degrees.

With more skin exposed than any other major American city, the natives know how to mold their bodies into chiseled perfection. And they don't mind showing them off. Why not? Bodies that buff are like a couture dress: It doesn't do the wearer any good sitting the closet, where no one can see it.

Gay and straight, male and female, the universal look in Miami is light and comfortable. Less is definitely more. This ethos carries over into the gay clubs of South Beach and the big rooms on the mainland, just over the MacArthur Causeway.

Where White Rules

This makes packing for an action-packed weekend like the White Party (benefiting Care Resource, South Florida’s oldest and largest HIV/AIDS service), which will once again take over the town during Thanksgiving Weekend, easy. Leave the steamer trunk in the attic; a few well-chosen pairs of shorts, T-shirts and lots and lots of bathing suits will see through every event from pool parties to late-late nights on the dance floor.

Of course, you may need extra room in your suitcase for your pair of angel’s wings, glitter vest or other knock-’em-dead outfit for the main event, where white rules. Trust a veteran of nearly a dozen White Parties: Wearing a color to this party will make you stand out, but not in a good way.

All that said, Miamians justifiably pride themselves for living in one of the world’s fashion capitals, where models outnumber factory workers. That carries over into the clubs. If most guys are dressed similarly, in board shorts or workout shorts and a tank top or light tee, that doesn’t mean they haven’t taken care about which pair of shorts and which tank.

Miami’s Nightlife Style Evolution

"When I first started," veteran club local club promoter Hilton Wolman said, "it was all the ’clone look.’ Everybody was in jeans and tank tops. It’s true that Miami is more casual than a lot of other cities, but people these days are trying to look more individualistic."

It may be a T-shirt, but "they’re spending a lot more money on that shirt," Wolman noted. "If you look across the dance floor, you no longer see everybody looking the same."

Wolman has noticed a trend toward more prints, especially animal prints. What may be more surprising is what you won’t see. "You’d think you’d see neon in Miami," said Bruce Horwich, owner of Creative Male, a popular men’s clothing store on in Miami’s Design District. "But you don’t see many bright colors."

The look in this, one of the most sophisticated cities in the world, leans more toward the nexus of cool, dressed-down urban sophistication. Think more Don Johnson and Philip Michael Thomas in the iconic TV drama "Miami Vice" and less Midwestern tourist gear.

Tasteful, however, means anything but drab. Many club goers like classic Bermuda shorts, in madras and other patterns. Not to worry: Even the Bermuda shorts in Miami are often shorter and tighter than the preppier version.

Similarly, gay men tend to favor shorter board shorts than their straight counterparts. Horwich sells the ones with less pockets and a more streamlined (read: tighter) fit from companies like Whittal & Shone as soon as they arrive in the store. Likewise, the gym shorts, from gay favorites like Andrew Christian or Pistol Pete are, well, shorter here, less surfer dude than sexy stud. Blue with a side stripe, usually but not always grey has become the color du jour for gym shorts.

The shortness of all of these styles allows them to be worn lower. This not only serves to focus attention on the tight, trim waists and defined six-packs that are as common in Miami as a gut in most of the rest of the country; it also coyly reveals that you’re designer underwear costs as much as a tailor-made dress shirt.

Strap It On - Your Tank, That Is

As for your shirt, during the brief time between arriving at the club and tucking it into your waistband, Horwich pointed out that tanks are "not so much ’wife beater’ but muscle shirts with much smaller straps over the shoulders." Some are close to a tee shirt with the sleeves oh-so-artfully cut off; others are open at the armhole, sometimes with small openings up the side, or nearly open all the way down, the better to show off those well-developed trapezius muscles.

One trend that seems to be picking up steam is words. Here as elsewhere, the outsized hip-hop-style baseball caps (worn to one side, of course) predominate, often with one word (either a flashy term like "chill" or something gayer like "boy"). I’ve noticed more of those short shorts above covered with print. If most of the words are unreadable, it sure is fun getting close enough to try to decipher them.

The baseball caps, Horwich observed, come with one distinctive local spin: they are often embellished with bling, either embedded jewelry or even spikes. Jewelry, especially necklaces, has made a comeback on local dance floors, most of it inexpensive, which allows for several choices when coordinating an outfit. Thanks to the city’s large Cuban-American population, dark Panama-style fedoras remain a staple headgear.

From head to toe: In footwear, sneakers rule, with high-tops growing in popularity. Leave the flip-flops in the hotel room and the boots back home.

Finally, no discussion of the local gay club scene would hardly be complete without a shoutout to the bathing suit, which is to Miami what sport coat, slacks and rep tie are to Boston. Yes, you can wear swimwear at night. Just be sure it’s cut boxer style (Speedo cut is fine for daytime action like pool parties and Muscle Beach). It should be short, but not so short it rides up the backside.

And do I even have to tell you that it can’t the same one everyone saw you in earlier that day at the 13th Street beach?

White Party Week
Nov. 27 - Dec. 2, 2013
Miami Beach, Fla.

Steve Weinstein has been a regular correspondent for the International Herald Tribune, the Advocate, the Village Voice and Out. He has been covering the AIDS crisis since the early '80s, when he began his career. He is the author of "The Q Guide to Fire Island" (Alyson, 2007).


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