The ABCs of Jersey Style

In case you haven’t noticed, New Jersey is the new black.

Although reality TV is suddenly saturated with all things Joisey—Real Housewives of New Jersey, Jersey Shore, Jerseylicious, Jersey Couture—Jersey’s climb from red-headed stepchild to golden child has been years in the making. What, you think Snooki started this? No, loves. It wasn’t Snooki. Or The Situation.

Drea de Matteo as Adriana La Cerva. Photo: worldcupblog.org.

It was Carmela. And, more than Carmela, it was the fabulous Adriana La Cerva. Ah, the highlights. The hoops. The boobage. The gum-chewing. Who can blame Chris for loving Adriana? She will always be my Jersey pin-up girl.

You see, Jersey style (and a love of all things Italian-American) infiltrated the collective American subconscious years ago. You can blame it on The Sopranos, which, incidentally, I loved. Ever since Tony made his last walk to the mailbox, we’ve all been jonesin’ for that Jersey grit. For that fantastic fakery that is just so bad, it’s good. Jersey Shore is The Sopranos without the gats, felonies, and Dr. Melfi. It’s all T-and-A, ego maniacal guidos, and fake nails as far as the eye can see. I freakin’ love it. Who needs The Hills when we’ve got Jersey?

My own little homage to Jersey style (and recent exposure to Jerseylicious) got me thinking about the elements of Jersey style that both horrify and fascinate us. Me, I can’t get enough of it. As a Greek-American, I can identify with Italian-Americans—the only difference between us is the tongue of our motherlands. I don’t know if it’s because those Italian-American princesses work the quintessentials of femininity to a spectacular degree, or because they take no prisoners and take no s***.  Either way, this phenomenon deserves a proper dissection, from A to Z, baby. Well, almost.

Elements of the Jersey (life)style:

    • Animal prints. Leopard, cheetah, tiger, zebra…all of the above. Animal prints have some kind of magnetic attraction for Jersey girls. Don’t believe me? Just watch an episode of Jerseylicious, where you are likely to spot ALL the girls in a scene in some sort of print.
    • Balls. Yes, I wrote that. One of the most important aspects of both male and female Jersey style. Somehow, everyone in Jersey got an extra, heaping helping of hubris, which equates to bigger, brassier balls. Which is always better for boardwalk brawls.
    • Cleavage. Woe to the Jersey girl who was born with less than a C-cup. No worries, though. Daddy will buy you a pair like JWoww—anything for his princess. Then wear that new rack like a necklace, honey.
    • Dresses. You don’t see guidettes hitting the town in capris and sensible shoes. You want to snag a guido, you wear a dress. A short one. With five-inch heels. Guidettes know better than to think a guido is going to be interested in sweet little kitty. Hence the animal prints. A tiger needs a tigress. Grrrrrr.
    • Extensions. Big hair isn’t big enough. It needs to be long and big. And then longer and bigger. And blacker. Or blonder. Jersey girls like extreme beauty.
      The guys of Jersey Shore. Photo: Jeff Daly/PictureGroup, MTV.
    • F***. As in the F-word. Sorry, but this is a critical piece of the Jersey vernacular and attitude. Can you really see Tony Soprano saying “fudge,” or a guidette lambasting the tart who tried to seduce her guido with anything less?
    • Gym. You saw this coming, didn’t you? The first piece of G-T-L, which was made famous by The Situation. This is the one piece of guido brilliance that I also wish extended to some guidettes. Let the record show that the Jersey Shore boys have got this one right.
    • Hair. Big hair, specifically. What, you thought teasing died with ’90s minimalism? Wrong. For the true art of the tease, one need only see a guidette freshly coiffed for a night out. We’re talking big hair that is truly gravity-defying. Also see Extensions above.
    • Jewelry. Jewelry is to Jerseyites as tofu is to vegans—a key element of life. Hoops that rival Saturn’s rings. Gold and crosses. Pavé. Chains so thick you could tow a car with them. They always put another piece on before leaving the house. Anything and everything but pearls.
Snooki of Jersey Shore. Photo: Emily Shur/MTV.
  • Kleinfeld. All guidette bridezillas make the trip to Kleinfeld Bridal in NY for their gowns, because Daddy’s money is never an object. Designer fave? Pnina Tornai. Style? Corset back, lots of cleavage in front.
  • Laundry. The last piece of G-T-L. A good one too. I’m sure the bronzer and glitter lotion rub off on everything.
  • More is more. This applies to bling, cleavage, hair, muscles, alcohol, drama, what have you.
  • Nails. As in acrylic nails. No guidette is complete without acrylics. The thicker the better. And French manicured, of course.
  • OTT. Over-the-top. Goes hand-in-hand with more is more. Jerseyites do it bigger, better, louder, and harder. They take OTT to a new level.
  • Product. As in hair product. Gel, mousse, spray, all of the above. Big hair takes a lot of product. So what if you’re going to the beach.
  • Rock out. The later, the better. Snooki, on the experience in Miami: “Miami definitely has a lot of good clubs, and so does Jersey,” she said. “The only thing that’s good about Miami is they’re open till 6 in the morning. Jersey closes at 2 a.m., so that kind of sucks.” (Source: mtv.com)
  • Salons. For hair, nails, tans, whatever. The success of the independently-owned American beauty salon can probably be traced to its Jersey-born clientele. For Jersey girls, especially, a non-negotiable expense.
    Tracy and Olivia of Jerseylicious.     Photo: Style Network.
  • Tantastic. The most important element of G-T-L. Actually, to say a tan is requisite is a bit of an understatement. We’re not talking sun-kissed skin. Jerseyites aren’t happy until they are baked within an inch of their lives. White skin is for Anglos. Not Italians.
  • Unapologetic. There was never a more unapologetic bunch. Curiously, under all the fake hair, nails, tans, boobs, etc., are people who seem to be very true to themselves. They don’t care if you think they’re tacky. They don’t care about Ivy League schools and propriety and all that. They are what they are. Like it or not.
  • Vanity. It is impossible to imagine a more vain bunch. Guidos and guidettes are nothing if not obsessed with their looks. This is not necessarily a bad thing. We obviously all revel in witnessing Jersey vanity; we must love wondering at the artifice of it, or we’d all be watching Real Housewives of Omaha.
  • Wildness. Guidos and guidettes don’t censor themselves, ever. From Jagerbombs, to vajazzling (Google it), to hot tub hookups, theirs is a no-holds-barred existence. And what happens in Vegas—or Jersey—definitely does not stay there.
  • X-rated antics. Mmm-hmm. All that G-T-L isn’t for Mass. It’s for the things that happen that necessitate Mass—and a liver cleanse—by Sunday morning.

The newest season of Jersey Shore debuts on MTV (in the U.S.) on July 29, 2010.

68 comments

  1. OMG I had the biggest girl crush on Carmela! I loved it when all those Jimmy Choos fell off the back of a truck and Christopher came home with them for her but they were in the wrong size. Epic.

    Hilarious post, V; i can’t wait for the new season of Jersey Shore to start!

  2. This is very cute. I grew up on the Jersey Shore in the 1980s and 1990s, and while our suburb was a far cry from this (plus I was too body shy to try anything like this as a youngster), but there were definitely some elements of this lurking in the background (like “the new kid” Alan, who moved from Northern Jersey, had a Jersey accent so thick we couldn’t understand him in thurd grade).
    I also really liked your Jersey shore tribute outfit. My fave place on the JS, Asbury Park, is more punk then Italian princess, but as one of the most open minded beaches in NJ, it’s got room for all kinds! Yeay for my home state.

  3. Love this. One of your best posts yet. ‘Jersey Shore’ is soo different from ‘The Hills’- like chalk and cheese. Here in NZ the shows are shown together and it’s like going to another country .

    1. Like chalk and cheese? I lived in NZ for a bit and that’s one I never heard! Haha – love it!

      And great post, V. I can’t believe I never made the Sopranos/Jersey Shore connection! I used to watch it every Sunday night at my best friend’s house since I don’t have HBO.

    2. March…

      I bet. I tell you, American programming these days is DEEP. The thing about The Hills is they’re all “like” and so vacant and pretentious—but I still had to watch. I like that the Jersey kids are balls-out and real. At least they’re not trying to be something they are not.

  4. Great post! I myself am from Jersey. You hit the nail on the head with Adriana. She was the epitome of the Italian American Jersey Girl. I myself am Puerto Rican and live in a mostly Hispanic area. You could say the “style icon” of our neck of the woods was more Jennifer Lopez in her JLo days. ; )
    http://www.poolovesboo.blogspot.com

    1. Hi Erica, thank you! I could see the JLo effect. Adriana was a fantastic character, wasn’t she?! I just wish she’d had more screen time. Thanks for commenting!

  5. You are full of pith:
    ” Big hair isn’t big enough. It needs to be long and big. And then longer and bigger.”
    “Jewelry is to Jerseyites as tofu is to vegans—a key element of life.”

    I loved the Sopranos. Good show with GREAT writing. Kinda like this blog.
    I wouldn’t raise an eyebrow if I see this article again in IFB’s Links ala Mode. Great post!

    1. Oh, that is a HUGE compliment Bella! Thank you! That show was brilliantly written. I am so flattered.

      We’ll see what happens with Links a la Mode. I did submit this, but you never know. Fingers crossed! I am excited that I have some work being featured on IFB tomorrow, though. Stay tuned.

  6. This post is a hot mess and I love it! I’m always trying to channel my inner Jersey girl and I love the loudness of Jersey Couture. My favorite Joisey girl by far is Wendy Williams! She has the big boobs, wig crypt and leopard print! How you doing?!

    1. HAAAAA! Thanks Fajr! I know there’s definitely a wee bit of Jersey girl in me. So glad you enjoyed this. Thanks for dropping by.

    1. Mish, now THAT is fantastic! I mean, not peeing yourself, but the idea that it’s that funny…that was exactly the point. To have a little fun!

      Thanks for your comment…I’m so glad my readers appreciate my warped ramblings from time to time!

  7. I could not stop reading this post! This is hilarious and just plain genius. I am so glad you went there. To be honest I’ve only seen one or maybe two episodes of Jersey Shore but on Wednesday I’m settling in for a gym, tan, laundry and balls marathon! xx

    1. Oh, you’re so sweet! I’m so excited that everyone got a kick out of this.

      What…there is a marathon?! What the hell rock have I been under? i need to back away from the blog! Dude…a G-T-L-balls-a-thon! Wooot!

  8. OMG! This post is fantastic. I personally dont love the Jersey Shore kids and all that non-sense but do love Sopranos of course and a guilty plesure is the real housewives of NJ. The style is really like nothing else in this country that is for sure. I am from the Philadelphia area and constantly my accent is mistaken for a northern NJ accent because of the reccent popularity of this culture. Great post 🙂
    xoxo
    KC
    http://www.letterstobetsy.com

  9. An absolutely hilarious read! Jersey Shore has been my biggest guilty pleasure and I think you’ve summed up the aesthetic culture perfectly (and hilariously)!

  10. Oh my gosh, I need to print out this guide and hang it on my wall. I LOVE ‘Jersey Shore’ because it’s like a giant train wreck.

    So excited for July 29th!

    This post is amazing.

  11. Ok, I hate to admit this, but I have never seen Jersey Shore…… but after your fabulous post I am going to!! Hope you are having a lovely week. xxx

  12. I’ve never watched the jersey shore but I’m SOOOOO looking forward to the new season! And there will most certainly be animal prints in my fall wardrobe as a slight tribute to the Snooks! haha Great post!!
    xo M

  13. LOL I love this post, very informative for the ignorants like me off all things Jersey 😉 I have only heard of Snooki and her pouf but to be honest she reminds me of an sunburnt female oompa loompa!

  14. Ivana, Beth, Daria, Jasna, Monique, Lady Noix—Thank you all so much for your comments and kind words! Glad you liked this post!

  15. I never thought of it like this – but you’re so right jersey is dominating pop culture right now! I’m partly to blame, I can’t get enough of the jersey shore or the real housewives on NJ. That being said, I’m not ready to backcomb my hair and don the leopard print quite yet…

    xoxo, Ashley

    1. Thank you Christina! Adriana rocked, I agree.

      Love your blog…looking forward to exploring it. Glad you found me here and on Twitter. Following you back!

  16. Alright, Jersey Shore hasn’t really arrived here in Germany yet and since I rarely watch TV the whole internet talk about Snooki and The Situation made me go bonkers because I felt like the only kid who doesn’t know about the newest it thing. So yesterday I finally took the plunge and watched the whole first season online. There were times when I was so embarrassed I had to pause the video and go away from the computer, but overall I couldn’t stop watching. It’s my newest guilty pleasure.

    1. HAAAAA!!!! Gotcha! See, it’s totally addictive. I’m glad you checked it out…gotta love the Internet, right? Thanks for outing yourself here. We’re all with you, babe!

  17. LOVE this post….as a Jersey Shore girl…(literal jersey shore..like I hang out at Karma when I have a night out)…..I can appreciate it all…Sopranos was a classic.
    Although the jersey reality show stars are NOT like the majority demo…there are definitely characters like that here…the funny part is they ALL hail from up north and staten island….the jersey shore year rounders are way more laid back and have ALOT less tit, hair and tan action.
    Thoroughly enjoyed this post.
    C

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