New York, London, Paris and… Madrid?

If you’re coming to Madrid with the intention of getting in on that relaxed Spanish vibe, you may want to think again. This is a city that never fails to contradict stereotypes and expectations, and nowhere more so than in the world of fashion. “Effortless” is not a word you would associate with the madrileño sense of style, and for good reason: the more imperious of Madrid’s fabulously-dressed older ladies would probably be horrified at the notion of looking like you hadn’t tried at all.

Madrid fashion subscribes to the idea of having a “style uniform” more than any other city I’ve seen: you can expect to see the older, wealthier ladies of this city in long fur coats and finely-tailored jackets, while their male counterparts tend to resemble a well-dressed Oxford tutor, with tweed and pocket square stealing the spotlight. For younger women, tall boots and trench coats are an absolute staple, their sleek long hair providing a generational contrast to their grandmothers’ aggressively set dos. Don’t even think about turning up without a collar – looking smart is essential for all genders – and remember that the key is in the details. Whether it’s a brooch that’s been carefully chosen to match the colour of a hand-bag, perfectly-done nails, or a stylishly-looped scarf, attention to the little things elevates these looks from standard to stunning.

However, not everyone agrees that Madrid is an intrinsically stylish place. Whether it’s because it isn’t particularly “cool” to have senior citizens as your fashion icons, or whether the younger generations are fighting to make their voices heard over the older, richer elite, those who work in high fashion, like designer and blogger Noelia Bennardo (pictured), don’t consider the supremely elegant ladies of the affluent Madrid district Salamanca to be truly representative of madrileño style, and thus still feel Madrid is inferior to places like New York and Paris. “I would like [our style] to be as well-established as in other cities, and it’s gradually getting there. Fashion shows and events like Madrid Fashion Week are gaining more and more ground.” Noelia feels that Madrid is heavily influenced by more prominent style capitals like New York, claiming that “trends [here] wouldn’t be what they are without taking inspiration from more fashionable cities”.

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Whether or not this is true – younger madrileños are notorious for their obsession with Anglophone culture, occasionally a symptom of “greener grass” syndrome – it is hard to ignore the staunch pride visible on the faces of the more senior folk dressed to the nines as they gallantly stroll down the Calle Serrano (nicknamed the “Golden Mile”). And as much as the younger generation distances itself from the conservative older dressers, moving towards casual looks, this refined instinct never quite disappears: as her photos show, even the critical Noelia admits she enjoys “combining [sportswear-inspired looks] with smarter pieces, which come together to create – yes, I suppose you could call it my own Madrid style.” It’s hard not to be taken in by the attention that goes into dressing here: the looks you receive on the metro when dressed nicely are far kinder than those you get when you’re in your uni hoodie with messy hair. Still, the advantage of a visible sense of style means that it’s easy to become a part of it, if you so wish, and there is no more sure-fire way to feel at home in a new city than to tap into its aesthetic. Refined, elegant, proud: Madrid is just getting started.

Noelia blogs at www.noeliabennardostyle.com. Photos used with permission.