So when I moved to New York I noticed an overabundance of beautiful people. Why so many? The question continues to puzzle me, and over the years I’ve developed several theories.


By flickr user Ed Yourdon

1. A certain percentage of the most beautiful people from all over the country move here to become yuppies. (The idea here is that there’s some correlation between beauty and either self-confidence or wealth and that New York draws more than its share of bright, ambitious young people from other parts of the country.)


By flickr user Professor Bop

2. Beautiful people move here to be/become actors and models, and a little leaven leaveneth the whole loaf.


By flickr user See-ming Lee

3. New Yorkers, or at least Manhattanites, are on average younger than elsewhere in the country, and young people are more beautiful. (This turns out to be false: the median age in Manhattan and in the U.S. is about 36 years. Maybe it’s just downtown Manhattanites and close-in Brooklynites who are younger? I don’t have the patience or the skills to go through Census data at that level of detail. Also, this theory doesn’t explain the beauty of many older New Yorkers.)


4. New Yorkers aren’t more beautiful than elsewhere; they just dress better. (Variation: They just have more attitude and fool you or intimidate you into thinking they’re beautiful.)


By flickr user Ed Yourdon

5. New Yorkers aren’t more beautiful; it’s just that in New York you see a lot more people on an average day (on the sidewalk, subway, etc.), and your eyes are drawn to the beautiful ones, so you make a bad estimate of the frequency of beauty here.


By Flicker user riacale

Other theories?

33 responses to “Beautiful”

  1. A White Bear says:

    For me, I think it’s a combination of a few things. People here are used to being in public all the time. Whether they dress better than they would elsewhere or not, they gain a certain kind of confidence and posture that says, “Go ahead and look at me if you want.” There’s something about that posture that is sexy. While there are certainly a lot of expensive-looking people in the city (models, generationally wealthy beauties) and they are definitely lookatable, NYC has also taught me that I find a wide range of people terribly attractive–skinny, fat, young, old, male, female, hip, dorky, rich, poor.

    Maybe it’s that we’re all living our private lives in public. It can make us a bit hard, a bit closed off, or it can make us all the more vulnerable, like every interaction is a split second from becoming sexy or romantic.

  2. A White Bear says:

    The other thing I’ve noticed is that my constant honeyspotting carries over when I visit other places. Perhaps there are indeed honeys everywhere, but I just wasn’t looking because it seemed rude! In olden times, when I had a handsome waiter in the Midwest, he barely registered because, you know, we’re all in public and it would be inappropriate to perv on a stranger. (This might also be gendered; in the Midwest, a girl might do some flirting, but that objectifying bedroom-eyes thing? Not done.) Now, though, I don’t have the same boundary issues.

  3. g.a. says:

    I don’t mind beautiful people — just the ones who are so into their own beauty that they can’t engage with the real world around them or even make eye contact. I also get a little tired of beautiful people being used to sell stuff. The sentries posted outside the loathsome Hollister store, for instance.

  4. g.a. says:

    I guess the Hollister models raise a variant on your #2: Capital brings them here. I mean, how much of a breakthrough job could that be? How well could it pay? Someone’s making money off it, but it’s not the kids standing outside in their swim trunks and nose cream. They’re just dreaming of making it onto a reality TV show someday and meanwhile keeping up on their reverse crunches while they wait.

  5. Rachel says:

    Hollister on Broadway and Houston is damn depressing. As for the beautiful people theory: maybe it’s just the numbers. There are a lot more people in NYC than just about anywhere else, period. A whole bunch of them are ugly…we just notice the beautiful ones more.

  6. lane says:

    we walk and are not fat. sorry, that’s harsh, but that’s the truth, people in new york are more stylish, they wear more black. they are hipper (in a provincial kind of way). they do more interesting things (outdoor sports excepted, outdoor sport people are also interesting and sexy, i.e. californians)

    true there are ugly people here, tons of them, but seriously they are more stylish here. WAY MORE STYLISH!

  7. lane says:

    oh, and i made david byrne laugh last week. i started a joke and he finished it. it was a bike joke, and he really really really cracked up! it was awsome!

    he and cindy (talk about the most beautiful 60 year old in New York!) were on bikes in Chelsea.

    New York is SO FUCKIN” AMESOME! (I tried to call Waterman to tell him this Byrne story but he was busy, so this will have to count as my mythologizing moment.)

  8. lane says:

    and last,

    BLACK makes anyone sexy. people in the states do not wear enough black.

  9. Dave says:

    The walking/not fat theory in 6 is one I forgot to write up when I was drafting the post in a sleep-deprived state last night. It’s plausible.

  10. Tim says:

    Beauty cultivates confidence because the beautiful attract consistent positive attention and reinforcement from a very young age. Cities are attractive to the beautiful because the beautiful grow tired of small-town admiration and need a larger set of admirers and a larger pool of potential beautiful mates. Moreover, moving to and surviving in a big city requires confidence, so the beautiful are better suited to city living.


  11. Tim says:

    P.S. This mathematical proof also works, but to a lesser degree, with intelligence.

  12. Dave says:

    Elegant, Tim.

  13. g.a. says:

    Is 11 missing a link?

    One thing that may be related to several of your theories: Urban life tends to be more performance-oriented than life elsewhere, due to the constant presence/pressure of an audience. You’re aware that you’re being watched, but whereas in small towns this often implies a pressure to conform, in cities it often means you need to stand out in some small way: bling, grooming, or a refusal to groom, etc. In cities the world is literally a stage. Then again, you go to Williamsburg and everyone stands out/nobody stands out — by looking like they were cloned from the same hipster sheep.

  14. A White Bear says:

    Williamsburg isn’t even remotely as awful as it was three-four years ago.

  15. Rachel says:

    Yes, also due to the fact that you’re not expressing yourself with a flashy car or a perfect front lawn or a three-car garage or whatever. You wear your status on your body–that’s at least one of the reasons for fashion. People (grownups, at least) anywhere else don’t care where the hell you bought your hoodie.

  16. Rachel says:

    That said, your theory #1 is spot-on. NYC is a beauty magnet.

  17. Rachel says:

    “Your” in #16 being dear Dave, of course, and “you” in #15 being the hypothetical Williamsburg hipster. Man, I need some afternoon coffee.

  18. g.a. says:

    Williamsburg isn’t even remotely as awful as it was three-four years ago.

    Meaning the Vice magazine conformity has subsided? Was it the recession? I confess I haven’t gone there in three or four years …

  19. J-Man says:

    Oh, you silly New Yorkers! Everyone knows that people in California are MUCH more beautiful than east-coasters!

  20. swells says:

    I know, right? What is this post even about?

  21. g.a. says:

    Especially the ones in Silver Lake and Echo Park who dress like New York hipsters and hope, someday, to make it there?

  22. autumn says:

    I was going to be Westerly in my comment, but then I walked outside and was reminded that Silver Lake is sadly much like WIlliamsburg in the cut from the same cloth style hipsterness. Los Angeles tends to group clones into neighborhoods. It makes for sadly uninspired people watching but I think it begs another theory.

    In NY, people of all ages, styles, countries, monies and inspirations are mixed together on the street, in public transit and at the park. Exposure breeds cross pollenization and inspiration thus breeding more interestingly styled people. I would argue that even those that don’t consciously think about it subconsciously participate.

    Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and the wider the range of what the beholder can deem beautiful, the more people they can count as lovely.

  23. lane says:

    20. the problem with CA is you never SEE anyone.

    everyone is driving all the fu**in’ time! seriously, new york smashes you up against so many brands of cool in a day it’s mind bending.

    like othodox jewish teens in their wide hats and black suits. some of the coolest looking people in ny. you might have them in CA too, but you don’t see them in packs looking like some movie set in Lansky’s Lounge.

  24. Scotty says:

    I’m thinking that since NY is such a painfully wonderful place, you all assume that everyone who lives there is beautiful. I take as a case in point the people in your photos:

    The guy in photo 1 is okay, but certainly not “beautiful.”

    The woman in photo 2 is pretty, but she’s feeding a meter, which leads me to believe that she’s not a New Yorker – maybe she’s even from Jersey.

    The guy in photo 3…okay, he’s beautiful.

    The guy in photo 4 is nothing special, and his shoes clash with his shirt.

    As for photo 5, I’m wondering where the “beautiful” people are in this one.

    And photo 6: they’re cute, but beautiful? Plus, they’re on the steps of the MMA (right?), which means that they’re probably tourists.

    If you really wanted to post photos of beautiful New Yorkers, you should’ve started that picture of a bearded guy holding a lobster from last week. Now that guy is beautiful!

  25. swells says:

    The guy in photo 4 is the most beautiful of all!!! And obviously, I really agree with (the second paragraph of) Autumn’s comment here, not J-man’s, but I do like the overall reminder of how beautiful people can be in general (and usually are), and okay, the more diversely mixed the sample, the more eye-catching and pleasing.

  26. J-Man says:

    Lane, you obviously have never been on Beverly blvd. (AKA “the Yid Grid”) on a Friday evening.

  27. N says:

    Lane, we see people all the time. We club, we see bands play, we rollerblade, and hang out at the beach. We practice yoga and play sports outdoors. We care about fashion, and some of us dress very well. We are more relaxed, that’s all. There are some very beautiful people in LA, but so are there in every big city — London, for example…I personally prefer intellect over looks though.

  28. A White Bear says:

    Dave’s taste in girls is debatable, but the men are nice. All white, though, which misses out on the extreme diversity of non-white hottness available.

  29. J-Man says:

    Tchya! Aren’t there any black people in NYC?

  30. Dave says:

    I was faking it on the women, I admit.

    Kidding. Only one person in the final pic is supposed to be beautiful.

    I noticed after I’d posted that there were no black people or much other ethnic diversity, and that sucks. The pictures were gleaned from a few quick keyword searches in flickr, and the only street photos of beautiful people I found were of white people. Should have looked further, though.

  31. LizardBreath says:

    Mmm. I’m a crazed NY chauvinist, but I wouldn’t have said we had more beautiful people than anyone else. (Actually, a ghastly Texas friend of my uncle once said of NY after his first trip here, “I never saw so many ugly white people in my life.” I think he was offended by the existence of short people with dark hair.)

    I’m with everyone who says that if NY has anything, it has a really wide range of possible physical types and cultural styles, so people-watching is more rewarding because there’s more variety than in other places. I always feel kind of bad about my sartorial schlumpfiness — I like the entertaining street scene, but I don’t feel as if I’m adding enough spectacle to the city myself. A more public-spirited person than I would dress better.

  32. GetReal says:

    “Beautiful” is such an overused word these days that has basically has lost it’s power. As we all know, beauty is so subjective, and no, I don’t consider empty-headed yunnies with squeaky whiney, nasal voices who share the same vapid, clone faces as “beautiful” in the slightest. They’re a dime a dozen on the streets, all mirroring each other with no real individuality. That is not “beauty” but pathetic imitation. A true beautiful individual is rare, and that is reflected inside, not by repeated Botox injections and the pod people fashionistas who life for fashion week. These are the ones destroying the Manhattan we used to know and love.

  33. Buffy says:

    If I could move my forehead, you would see how angry your comment made me!