Alaska is a men’s state. It is the last frontier. This statement also applies fashion wise. When you visit Alaska you may understand that there is hardly room for fashion and style except for closed rooms or short commutes. It is not just the cold. It is the beauty, harshness and vastness of the land.
When you drive out of Fairbanks towards north there is not only just that one road northward – the Dalton Highway, but it will turn into an unpaved road after Livengood and after 30 miles or so you will not have any cell phone contact and need a satellite phone. It is the haul way to Dead Horse and the oil fields built in the 70s for the pipeline. When you drive that road you will have the pipeline sometimes to your left sometimes to your right, sometimes it is under ground, but you just drive up to the source.
You cross the Yukon on a wooden slippy bridge that slopes downward with the pipeline to the side. There are some containers on the left of the road on the other side of the Yukon with a huge parking lot with a couple of trucks. A restaurant in a container somewhere in the middle of nowhere with furniture that looks like a random collection. In the container souvenir store, one can buy a keepsake T-shirt of having crossed the Arctic Circle despite at that place one is still south of the Arctic Circle. The ad says that this is the last place where to get it. And it is the only place to buy some sort of clothes since Fairbanks.
After a burger and a coffee, it goes back on the bumpy muddy road again. When passing the Arctic Circle I was even more disappointed than when I (still as a European) saw the Niagara Falls for the first time. It is not a European type tourist attraction – read shops and cafes – at all. There is nothing, but a sign to take a photo. No clothes to watch and foreigners’ fashion to adore.
After hours of being further shaken by the rented 4-wheel car, one gets to Coldfoot – what an inviting name – and there you have to fuel as there is nothing to fill your tank for the next 240 miles (400 km). The fuel price rips a big whole in the credit card. One buys a coffee as for the coffee the same applies with respect to availability (and price). While sipping the coffee I read that old fashioned pin board – just because of being bored as there is nothing else to look at – with the suggestion to visit the northern most white community behind the Arctic Circle – Wiseman.
Later when driving further north through taiga to the left and right with a creek here and there and the pipeline as a guide I wonder why people still use pin boards instead of pinterest. My husband punches the break because in front of the car a partridge mom decided to cross the dirt road walking with her kids. We continue driving being shuttled by the ripples in the road. No car since more than half an hour came from north. The motor roars louder now that we climb the Attigun Pass. At 4739 feet (1444 m), I look down and wonder what this might be when I would have to drive this pass across the Brooks Range in winter with a truck and trailer full of natural gas. As if it wasn’t enough that on the ascend we hardly could see 20 yards (~20 m) when we passed the clouds.
We pass the last tree. Gently rolling plains turn into plain flats. No counter traffic since an hour. A caribou. The pipeline to the right. I start counting caribous, we pass a musk ox herd of 14. 30 caribous. We can see miles in the dry cold air only a pingo blocks the view to the left. The haulway and pipeline turn around the pingo and so do we. My husband punches the break and I stop counting caribous. In front of us is a huge herd of caribous using the haulway to migrate south!
What a great reward for 3 days of driving with fear. As a style and fashion blogger in my vacation outfit with a Lauren Ralph Lauren polka dot, paisley cardigan and striped cardigan as jacket to protect me from the chilly air, I feel totally out of frame, but at the same time totally in line with the beauty of nature. And I think that fashion and style in Alaska still faces unpaved roads ahead.
Upon our arrival in Dead Horse – a container town – I was looked at like a ghost. Everyone was in some sort of overalls with warm sweaters. They were all men except for one woman. But she blended well in in the fashionless sea of old overalls – or was that the fashion? I realized that container store at Yukon Crossing was the last place to buy a T-shirt and Fairbanks was the last place to buy some fashion.
What do you think about the fashion situation that I found in northern Alaska? Did you expect such a fashionless situation? Let me know by email, I am curious.
Photos: G. Kramm (2014)
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