I’m Moving, Do I Need a Wardrobe Makeover?

We tend to think first about temperature when deciding what wardrobe items will work best in a specific geographic location, but environment and context play an often unacknowledged, and possibly even more meaningful, role in shaping our sense of what to wear.

The colors, architecture and materials in which we live seep into our psyche almost unconsciously, along with the pace and value of a city. They are as influential when it comes to our sense of personal style as any influencers. They are the background to our everyday camouflage.

And you thought camo was just for the military? Pshaw. It’s for the urban (and suburban) jungle, too.

That’s why tourists are generally so easy to spot, even if they aren’t waving around a camera or a map: They stick out because their dress is out of place. Literally.

So what does that mean for someone moving from New York to Los Angeles?

It means the difference between gray concrete and glass, skyscrapers and yellow cabs, and sun, low-slung buildings and cars. It means a change in balance between outdoors and indoors. It means, said my colleague Lindsey Underwood, who made the same journey during the pandemic, that “life feels less like a runway here.”

“There’s a lot more casualness around style, and really everything, in Los Angeles,” she said. That may seem like a cliché, but clichés exist precisely because they are so generally true.

The good news is that adaptation requires only a few select substitutions. Ms. Underwood recommended saying goodbye to the idea of all black — “I feel like an alien when I dress like that” — and trying to work in some colors inspired, perhaps, by the natural environment: blues, greens and sandy tones.

Similarly, Rachel Zabar, the founder of Rachel Zabar Vintage and another New York-Los Angeles transplant, said that for every J. Crew or Brooks Brothers button-down, consider a James Perse T-shirt.

Then, rather than a suit jacket, think “something along the lines of the Aviator Nation 5-stripe zip-up hoodie,” she said. And, she added, “because L.A. is so much more casual, both footwear and accessories are where men will step up their game.” That does not mean wingtips and Ray-Bans, however. It means limited edition or vintage.

She recommends checking out Undefeated, a popular “sneaker boutique,” where men line up down the block for limited drops and rare vintage one-offs, and Hye Optic, run by two generations of Lebanese émigrés, where “the father has been stockpiling glasses since the 1970s, and they have an entire room devoted to vintage eyewear.”

Indeed, Ms. Zabar said, vintage “is baked into the lexicon of Los Angeles fashion for both men and women.” It’s one way to give new meaning to feeling like your — well, old self.

Every week on Open Thread, Vanessa will answer a reader’s fashion-related question, which you can send to her anytime via email or Twitter. Questions are edited and condensed.