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Bryan Sansivero

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Racked NY's Top 15 Stories of 2015

Catch up on our favorite longreads before the new year starts

Checking off your 2015 bucket list during your holiday break? Don't let the year slip by without checking out our top stories. We've got everything from one fitness devotee's aversion to studio-branded gear to the evolution of Afropunk to working as a matchmaker in Brooklyn in the age of Tinder, plus the harrowing tale of trying to make it into one of this year's most popular sample sales — and ultimately failing. It's the Year in Racked, here for your reading pleasure.

Racked is no longer publishing. Thank you to everyone who read our work over the years. The archives will remain available here; for new stories, head over to, where our staff is covering consumer culture for The Goods by Vox. You can also see what we’re up to by signing up here.


Max Touhey

An American Christmas Story

It doesn't occur to most of the millions of office workers and residents of the area that someone needs to install those iconic angels in the Rockefeller Plaza Channel Gardens, stack up the enormous red Christmas ornament pyramid across from Radio City Music Hall, hang the huge candy canes from the façade of 9 West 59th Street, or create many of the other iconic features both inside and outside city attractions. It also doesn't occur to them that those pieces need a place to live for the 10 months of the year that they're not being used — the sort of reverse equivalent of a retiree's condo in Boca Raton. That is where American Christmas comes in. — Brian Moylan

Getting your makeup professionally applied every day isn't totally insane

Sure, everyone has a secret pinboard filled with step-by-step photos on how to achieve Lauren Conrad's perfect beach waves and a YouTube beauty vlogger they prefer above the rest. But with tiny cartoons meticulously painted onto our nails, $150 balayage appointments to look like your color just grew out like this, and at least one co-worker you can grill for an honest review of hair lasering, the jig is up. We're vain, people. We're hella vain. And getting our makeup professionally done when, frankly, we have nowhere important to go will be the final frontier of it all. — Carlye Wisel

How Afropunk became a full-blown movement

"It was just like the mothership was calling me home. A George Clinton, Parliament/Funkadelic, awesome mothership....Fauxhawks, locs, piercings, studs, jean jackets with patches, and everything that I had seen the white kids do that I wanted to be a part of, but I just couldn't make that cross...I finally saw black kids doing it and owning it and making it their own. It was just everything that I ever wanted to be, but couldn't figure out how to be." — Shaunna Randolph, as told to Nikita Richardson

Bryan Sansivero

Erica Weiner and the uncertain future of Brooklyn's indie scene

As her aesthetic has matured into the realm of engagement rings, vintage-inspired diamond jewelry, and European antiques, Brooklyn's economy has changed along with it. And it's since become increasingly more difficult to find financial success as a jewelry designer. The question remains: Have today's young local entrepreneurs hoping to build an independent business from nothing but talent and sheer drive missed their chance?

"Now you're going to ask me questions about how to do it now, right?"


"It was so long ago," she sighs. "I just don't know." — Rebecca Jennings

Where I can meditate like the impatient New Yorker I am

With my eyes closed, I was free to fixate on every tiny sensation in my body. It was cold in the room, and I felt the cold on my biceps. I had eaten right before the session, and I could feel my stomach straining against the waistband of my leggings (come on, yoga pants, suck it in!). I could feel my shoulders slumping — the unfortunate result of sitting hunched over a computer for nine hours a day —€” and struggled to right my posture. But I was starting to let go, at least a little. As I breathed in and out, David's voice began to seem farther away, and there were brief moments where I wasn't thinking at all, I think. Rebecca Hiscott

I waited in that ridiculous Hermes sample sale line for eight hours

I feel the lack of coffee taking effect. To distract myself, I check out some of my line mates. There were seriously some of the most well-dressed women I've ever seen in one place. A constant parade of Hermès, Louis Vuitton, and Chanel bags file by as their handlers take spots at the end of the line. A street style photographer would have a field day capturing all of these outfits. "You'll have to spend the whole day here," says a woman as she walks by, a black Mansur Gavriel bucket bag swinging from her shoulder. It's a little past 11am now, and I had no idea how right she would be. —  Channing Hargrove

Driely S.

A modern matchmaker on true love and Tinder

"I'm a little bit in love with all my clients. That's why I picked them! I get about 200 emails a day, and pick nine girls and nine guys that I think are amazing. I work with them for six months, and they date until they fall in love. Some people fall in love with the first person, other people fall in love with the seventh person, and some people go on 72 dates. And then, some people think they want a relationship, but they don't actually want a relationship. It's really interesting." — Amy Van Doren, as told to Rebecca Jennings

Why I'll never wear fitness studio-branded gear

The real reason it irks me is because as much as studios want you to believe it, your club is not a workout family. It's a business. The more gear you buy, the more they make off you, so of course they want to make you feel included, especially when you pony up $48 for a crop tee. Being a loyal customer means you fork over a lot of your money, and doesn't tossing more on top of that to brag about it kind of make you look like a sucker? I'll promote a perfect dance class by word-of-mouth, but I'm not paying money for the privilege to do so on my upper body. — Carlye Wisel

Inside the monogrammed, monetized world of NYC's preppy bloggers

Not everyone is angling to be the next Man Repeller. There's a small but flourishing subset of personal-style bloggers who nix Isabel Marant and Céline in favor of country club staples by Lilly Pulitzer, Brooks Brothers, and J. Crew. In their pearls and polished Ferragamo flats, they look like they'd be more at home in Williamsburg, Virginia than Williamsburg, Brooklyn. And yet, their blogs — ”often patterned in shades of pink and green and touting monogram logos — €”are thriving like a Vineyard Vines boutique in Palm Beach. — Casey Lewis

Driely S.

A treehouse grows in Brooklyn

One-room living is the bane of many New Yorkers' existence, but while some studio-dwellers use a bookcase as a makeshift divider or contemplate installing a Murphy bed, Terri Chiao took one look at her high ceilings and saw treehouse potential. The architect-slash-designer enlisted her art school pals to build two freestanding structures in her Bushwick loft:€” €”an enclosed platform, reachable by staircase, and a pitched-roof cabin. — €”Caitlin Petreycik

Walking 28 miles around the island of Manhattan in a single day

We stopped a bunch of times to stretch, to sit down. My friends got tired, and I couldn't blame them. How I motivated myself, how I always motivate myself, was by picturing my next meal. We'd been told to pack food, and I'd dutifully brought some snacks, but my thoughts were, "I'll be damned if I'm going to walk that many miles and eat anything less than a feast." I was sure there'd be somewhere good to stop. In reality, lunch ended up being a hot dog from a hot dog cart and ice cream from an ice cream truck. Neither are known for their energy-boosting properties. — Heather Schwedel

Personal shopping isn't just for rich people

I pictured personal shopping as something only women like Linda Rodin and Iris Apfel do, women who already have uniforms that need only minimal tweaking over the years, women who get away with saying "darling" unironically. But as a personal shopping rookie who recently took the plunge, I can admit that I was wrong. Why? Two reasons: First, it's free. Second, it's far less intimidating than you might expect — the stylists are there to help you, whether you're on the hunt for a wedding guest dress, need a complete wardrobe overhaul, or you're an actual infant (yup, €”that's happened). — Rebecca Jennings

Bryan Sansivero

The ins and outs of latex fashion

Adept at handling both the experienced wearer and the novice, The Baroness knows how to gently guide customers through their purchases. "When someone is coming in for the first time the first thing I ask is, ‘Where do you want to wear it?' If you're going to wear it for your boyfriend in bed, we're talking about an entirely different outfit." If the answer is more wardrobe-oriented, she suggests one of her classic pieces, like "a short,tight skirt or a knee-length skirt in black, because we're in New York and we all wear black." — Ilise Carter

How to Spot a Fake Handbag

Reminder: Just because a bag comes with an authenticity card doesn't actually make it authentic —€”counterfeiters fake those, too. In fact, you should always be wary of authenticity cards when buying outside of a brand's official store: Louis Vuitton and Hermès bags don't have them, but fakers will lure unassuming customers with them anyway. — Laura Gurfein

The picture-perfect pencil shop that makes writing cool again

"I am positive that you will enjoy writing with a pencil. You just forgot what it feels like. Pencils are considered the thing that you're allowed to write with before you can use a pen in school, right? A lot of people deem it childish to write with a pencil, and we're here to remind people that pencils can be really pleasurable and really nice. And I think a lot of people also just haven't written with a good pencil."   — Caroline Weaver, as told to Sonia Chopra