So much has been said about Sex and the City: The Neverending Story, so we’ll keep it short and sweet. Whether you’re mixing up cosmos and shining up your Manolos for the SATC 2 premiere this Friday or writing off the whole enterprise as a bloated parade of materialistic caricatures, you’ve got to admit that the exploits of these four fictional females have deeply affected the social and cultural landscape of New York. Let’s take a look back at how the show has changed life in Manhattan for the better—or worse.
The series introduced the masses to names like Fendi, Dolce & Gabbana, Prada, and Hermès—designers that had previously outfitted only the elite, yacht-lounging few. Meanwhile, the rise of diffusion lines in the early 2000s made these coveted fashion names available to every New Yorker with a Discover Card and a dream. Now, recession be damned, we all live in labels. Even the hot-dog-cart guy!
In the not-so-distant past, people used to order alcohol in a relatively straightforward manner: A gin and tonic. A whiskey and soda. If you were feeling sort of crazy, a margarita. Then Carrie and Co. tossed back their first round of Cosmopolitans and changed bar culture forever. Now there’s a rainbow of specialty drinks, infusions, and flavored spirits to choose from—many ending with the suffix “-tini” despite bearing no resemblance to the original, dignified martini.
Restaurants as Brands
A certain type of grandiose, calculatedly cool New York restaurant served as a backdrop for the series and the first film, and subsequently flourished: SushiSamba, Tao, Pastis, Buddakan. The rise of these post-millennial mega-eateries turned dining out in Manhattan into a theme-park experience, and spawned sister restaurants from the Las Vegas Strip to the Galleria Dallas and beyond.
Give credit to the series for positioning gay culture as utterly, unaffectedly mainstream. The girls go to gay clubs, Carrie and Charlotte have gay best friends, Samantha befriends transvestite hookers. Further, gay people are portrayed in the same status-obsessed, lovelorn, and quip-happy light as straights: equality through double entendre. The gay-marriage issue has gained momentum in recent years—and there’s a gay marriage in the film sequel. Seize the Zeitgeist!
Post-9/11 Retail Binges
There’s a war on, everybody shop! The great orgy of post-9/11 spending was heartily encouraged by the show. The girls took advantage of any excuse for a retail opportunity, whether it be heartbreak, unexpected pregnancy, or, yes, terrorism.
When Sex and the City launched in 1998, cigarettes were shown to be a vital part of a glamorous New York existence, from Mr. Big’s Cuban cigars to Carrie’s ubiquitous Marlboro Lights. While Carrie eventually kicked the habit, and New York City’s smoking ban took effect in 2003, you’ll still find slurry quadrants of smoking girls talking loudly outside Manhattan’s many watering holes. I’m no social scientist, but there’s probably a correlation.
For 12 years, viewers have been bludgeoned with shoe puns and shoe close-up shots and endless montages of shoe shopping. This has slowly seeped into the cultural consciousness: If you’re a certain type of woman in New York today—the type of person who thinks of herself as “fashion forward”—shoes are the status symbol of choice. Not handbags, not wristwatches, not even engagement rings—it’s all about the Loubs.
This posh, pastoral coastal getaway used to be reasonably exclusive, but as fast as you could say, “Nina G.’s Hamptons Hoedown,” every New Yorker was jumping in a rented Benz and heading out to a summer share. Over the course of the early 2000s, the Hamptons became less country club and more “up in da club,” influenced, no doubt, by the flashy antics of our Jitney-hopping heroines.
Giant Brooches, Designer Fanny Packs, and the “Carrie” Necklace
At one time or another, all of the above could be spotted on women all over the streets of New York. The concept of the “statement accessory,” passionately championed by mass-market fashion magazines and style-makeover shows, was pioneered by SATC’scostume designer Patricia Field and her, um, distinctive vision.
Brunch is huge. It’s an unstoppable, mimosa-drenched force of nature in New York. And we have to tip our feather-bedecked mini-hats to Carrie, Samantha, Miranda, and Charlotte for convening so regularly to discuss their orgasms or lack thereof during the late-morning hour that they single-handedly created a new institution for enjoying the overpriced eateries of our fair metropolis. Cheers!
Heather Wagner is the author of Happiness on $10 a Day and Friend or Faux. She will probably see Sex and the City 2, but only on an airplane. After two drinks.