Does Asheville still have its own distinctive style? That’s the question we’re pondering in this week’s issue of Mountain Xpress. As the city has grown and prospered, how has the gritty charm and offbeat culture of the Paris of the South evolved? And as 2 million visitors flock to our mountain metropolis every year, what effect does the presence of all those out-of-towners have on the mix?
Style has many dimensions, but one of the first that comes to mind is the personal aesthetic expression of those who live, work and pass through here. While many base their hairstyles and clothing on expediency and what readily blends in, others use their look to tell the story of their values, identity and passions. From African braids to punk regalia to bright-colored cycling togs, people-watching on Asheville’s streets offers a kaleidoscope of variety — though these days, you have to look for it, swimming amid the mundane.
Beyond the trappings of its inhabitants, our city prides itself on its architectural heritage, with an evocative mix of art deco masterpieces like Asheville City Hall and the S&W Cafeteria glistening alongside a supporting cast of turn-of-the-century brick buildings. In our residential neighborhoods, arts and crafts bungalows coexist with rambling Victorians, punctuated by midcentury ranch houses and the funky slant-roofed dwellings popping up in areas like West Asheville. As more new buildings join the old, who guards the legacy of Asheville’s built environment, and are we defending the city’s architectural birthright fiercely enough?
There’s hardly an aspect of our town that doesn’t leverage a stylish presentation to set itself apart, from the settings where Asheville’s restaurants, bars and breweries offer up sustenance to the always evocative offerings of the arts and entertainment community. We hope you’ll enjoy this celebration of Asheville’s style and join with us in carrying forward an appreciation of the varied expressions that make this place different from anywhere else.