How to Be a New Englander

From driving in the snow to underdressing like a pro, a native’s guide to the life skills, social graces, design gambits, revenge tactics, name-dropping stratagems, casseroles, idioms, boat knots, and decapod-crustacean hacks every New Englander should master.

Edited by Jolyon Helterman

how to be a new englander

Photograph by David Salafia


Okay, before you get all indignant, review your past few “special event” outfits. We’re betting the lot included something muted, shapeless, khaki, fuzzy, rubber-soled, and/or tied around the waist. Perhaps you also have a 5-foot cousin who refuses to wear even the most sensible pair of heels, or a captain-of-industry brother with a perpetual 3 o’clock shadow. Remember the arrogant young grad who showed up to her first job interview in corduroys? Right. That was you.

It’s complicated, because New Englanders both do and don’t want to stand out at the party. We want to be singled out for our wit, our intelligence. Maybe even our style, because we have that, too—we just don’t need to say it with sequins. While bespoke suits and snakeskin pumps may be fine for other cities, here we have tact.

There’s a subtle art to floating in just below the dress code. A fleece vest never says you’re above a particular crowd, even if you are. Opt for loafers where heels or wingtips might go, or, better yet, your favorite iteration of Converse sneakers. Use sunglasses as a hair accessory, or to hide where there is none. Keep them there all day. Roll up your sleeves, untuck your shirt, and forgo the statement bag for one of your countless boat totes, the utilitarian depths of which never cease to astonish. —Alyssa Giacobbe



Drizzly afternoons punctuate crisp autumnal days, which is why practicality dictates that you find rubber boots chic enough to wear when it’s sunny. Hunter for Rag & Bone rain boots, $295, Barneys New York.



Photograph by Hero Images

Photograph by Hero Images

The quintessentially New England mudroom is a reflection of us: humble, utilitarian, defiantly casual, and, yes, given to occasional bouts of chilliness. But there’s a fine line between unflashy informality and unbridled disorder. If guests’ first steps into your home involve forging a trail through a disheveled thicket of damp coats and sludge-smeared boots, it’s time to get your duck shoes in a row.

Even cosmetic improvements will yield visual impact—a wall-size mirror, a splash of color, a whimsical piece of artwork. But a cheery shade of carmine isn’t going to keep anyone from tripping over a treacherous backpack- scape. For that, you need hooks. Lots of them. A mudroom can never have enough. Hang them high, hang them low, hang them everywhere, and spend a few dollars for serious workhorses up to the heavy lifting. (I’m partial to Restoration Hardware’s “Grand Coat Hook” and the Mission-inspired “Twist Robe Hook” from Rocky Mountain Hardware.) Assign several hooks to every family member. Then put your stuff on them. Then put their stuff on them. And save the trailblazing for the other side of the door. —Bridget Samburg