The Displaced Nation

A home for international creatives

International dictionary of Chics

Chic: it’s the je ne sais quoi element of style. It’s hard to pin down, but you know it when you see it: Jackie Kennedy had it; the Kardashians not so much.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines chic as:

“Elegantly and stylishly fashionable.”

while Urban Dictionary’s most popular definition is:

“A classy, sophisticated manner, much like Audrey Hepburn. It is classy, glamorous, without being a pushover, and without being flashy. It’s an element of class.”

Not many of us can emulate the style of Audrey Hepburn or Jackie Kennedy, but as it’s desirable to be considered “chic”, sub-definitions have sprung up. Eco Chic, for example, means wearing eco-friendly fabrics such as organic cotton. Other types of chic are, frankly, oxymoronic. Heroin chic, with sunken cheeks and dark circles under the eyes? Prairie chic, with flat caps, and aprons over jeans? Would Jackie and Audrey have endorsed these looks, and if so, would these ladies still bear the tag of “chic”?

But no matter. It seems that any look can be “chic” merely by using the word as a suffix.

So today we’re bringing you a list of chics as they relate to the international traveller. Some are genuine, the invention of fashion designers and stylists. Others are homegrown; variations of Displaced Nation Chic.

Beach Chic

The title of a 2006 article by Times fashion editor Lisa Armstrong, Beach Chic is the class of accessories to be worn with a bikini, such as kaftan, hat, and fake tan — subtle, of course, so as not to make the wearer look like a WAG.*

*Wife or Girlfriend of footballer. Most of them seem to have missed the memo about trying to be like Audrey Hepburn after her transformation by Professor Higgins, rather than before.

Carousel Chic

That interim look after your luggage failed to make its way to the baggage reclaim carousel and instead is taking a 10,000 mile detour. A combination of making do with whatever emergency items you had packed in your hand luggage — if you were smart, you’d at least have put some spare underwear in there — plus hurriedly bought clothes at a local, cut price store. Colors you wouldn’t normally choose, styles that aren’t as flattering or well-fitting as those currently in your wanderlusting suitcase. T-shirts that run and shrink in the wash. Shoes that skin the backs of your heels because they didn’t have exactly your size, but never mind — it’s only for three days, isn’t it?

First Class Chic

Based on the sleep outfits issued in the first class section of flights. Baggy pyjamas that are too wide and too short. Towelling slippers that are too long or too short, but always too wide. For maximum effect, when putting these items of clothing on, place a kitchen chair in a shower cubicle, shut the shower door, and get changed in there.

Kiss-Me-Quick Chic

Named after the British seaside tradition of souvenir hats, Kiss-Me-Quick Chic involves anything with a place name on it. Hats, mugs, cushions, T-shirts, teddy bears, umbrellas, towels, tote bags, dinner services. Not only your person, but your entire home can be chic in this style.

Marzahn Chic, AKA Lichtenberg Chic

I found this on Wiki, and am not convinced the writer isn’t having a joke:

“Refers to the clothing style seen in some eastern and northern parts of Germany. It is composed of sweatpants or tracksuits, basecaps and running shoes. Commonly in bright colors like neon pink or yellow.”

I’m rechristening it “Ali G Chic“.

Nikon Chic

The style of a certain age in busy tourist attractions. Nikon cameras slung around necks, with shiny tracksuits (unisex), slightly short, beige trousers and short-sleeved checked shirt (men), or pastel polyester trousers — preferably peach or aqua — and crocheted or loose-knit top. All-white, brand new Reeboks are mandatory.

Parisian Chic.

Anything to do with Paris. You can have Parisian Chic even if you’re not French. Kristin Scott Thomas lives in Paris, and apparently she has it. Beware of crossing into the Kiss-Me-Quick genre, though. Eiffel Tower necklaces, for example, unless they’re Tiffany (yes, Tiffany does one) in which case you might be able to pass them off as Rich Girl Chic.

Relo Chic

The-shipment-just-arrived look. Upturned packing cases making do as bedside tables and coffee tables. Cardboard wardrobes holding all your clothes because this house has no closets. Because of its recycling nature, Relo Chic is a close relative of Eco Chic.

And lastly — with apologies to ML Awanohara —

Seen The Elephant Chic

Kind of like Kiss-Me-Quick Chic, but more subtle. It tells visitors to your house that you’re a traveller, without (literally) spelling it out. African masks on the walls, miniature Buddhas, wall-hanging prayer rugs. The beauty of this chic is you can have it without actually travelling. A quick visit to the Amazon (website, not river) should do the trick.


STAY TUNED for next week’s posts!

Image: Retro Girl Travel – courtesy of sattva/

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Image: MorgueFile

15 responses to “International dictionary of Chics

  1. Helena Halme (@helenahalme) March 29, 2013 at 10:47 am

    Funny, thank you! This put a smile to my face on a cold, cold Good Friday in London.

  2. ML Awanohara March 29, 2013 at 1:50 pm

    Like Helena, I was LOLing until I got to the part about “seen the elephant” chic. How did you know I had African masks on the walls of my NYC apartment, as well as miniature Buddhas and wall-hanging prayer rugs — and that I got most of it on Amazon? JUST JOSHING!!!!! 🙂

  3. wanderingeducators March 29, 2013 at 5:35 pm

    Hilarious! I love it. Seen the Elephant!

  4. Laurel- Capturing la Vita March 29, 2013 at 10:39 pm

    Sadly, I think I have mastered Carousel Chic. Ugh.

    • Kate Allison April 5, 2013 at 11:07 am

      Carousel chic I can cope with. It’s when the toddler’s favourite stuffed toy goes missing along with the clothing that things start to get difficult. I speak from experience here :-/

  5. WorldsWaiting (@worldswaiting) March 31, 2013 at 1:28 am

    My flat exposes me as a bit of a seen the elephant chic kind of girl. All my mismatched treasures are travel finds though!

  6. Pingback: about the lady chic | the lady chic

  7. Michelloui April 5, 2013 at 10:00 am

    What a perfectly clever, funny post! Not sure what my chic is… Probably a combination of Seen-if-not-the-elephant-then-other-fairly-cool-things chic and Need-to-do-the-laundry chic (which is really similar to carousel chic).

    • Kate Allison April 5, 2013 at 11:05 am

      Yes, when you start convincing yourself that, for example, paisley actually goes very well with plaid, it’s probably time to find a washing machine!

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