We've often pondered what goes on inside NYT Styles editor Trip Gabriel's head. Like, when Stephanie Rosenbloom says she has a great trend piece on people holding hands, or some random freelancer pitches something about a hot new "underground" bar, does he just automatically nod, like a little Trip Gabriel bobblehead? We wonder, and we hoped we would find out this week, when he took the hot seat in the Times's ongoing effort at Editor Opacity, the Ask the Editor feature on NYTimes.com. So far, we're not sure if he's been editing the same section we've been reading.
A reader writes:
Q. While I always look at the section with interest, I sometimes can't shake the feeling that Style is defined by any two of a writer's friends with too much money and time on their hands. The "A Night Out With..." pieces, for instance, often suggest nightspots that most people couldn't poke their noses in if they didn't know the right people ... I don't get the sense from your section that anyone who lives paycheck to paycheck has Style. Does "Style," by definition, percolate downward from the upper class? And can it be affordable?
— John Dillon, New Haven
A. Thank you for your question. This is the kind of thing we talk about regularly in our department. Indeed, it can sometimes seem that the accoutrements of the stylish life — fashion, entertainment, destinations — as presented in Thursday Styles and Sunday Styles are expensive. Fortunately, there are many exceptions. A few quick examples: a Pulse column on Valentine's Day cards from $3; a Dress Codes column last week on stylish white men's sneakers included a pair for $40; and a Skin Deep column about the "cosmetics restriction diet" reported that all your skin really needs is a few products from the drug store under $30.
The bigger point, to me, is that what we call our Styles coverage is really not about stuff. It's not primarily about getting and spending. It's about people and their behavior, and I imagine I'll have more to say about that as this conversation unfolds.
Sigh, not really, though. Too many people asking weird style questions! Though we did learn this very informative fact about the Weddings pages, from the mouth of "society editor" Robert Woletz:
"We make selections primarily based on the couple's achievements, and we're always on the lookout for couples with entertaining stories about their courtships. We have space to publish only a small handful of the submissions, which rise and fall with the seasons. In May, June and September, we may receive 300 to 400 a week and only have room for about one in 10.''