Sunday, June 08, 2014
an evolutionary concept
‘Fashion condemns us to many follies: the greatest is to make oneself its slave’
A few hundred years ago when Napoleon Bonaparte said that he had no idea I’d be using it as the basis for a discourse on personal style. Poor guy. As if being exiled wasn’t enough.
I’ve been thinking a lot about personal style lately. About what is means, how you figure it out and if it is absolutely necessary to have. And I’ve probably raised more questions than answers. But I think that’s kind of the point - I will explain that, stick with me here.
I'd like to be all positive and say that there are no regrets or mistakes in my sartorial life; that I’ve somehow managed to hone a style that is without error. But in reality, sometimes I look at something I wore two weeks ago and wonder what I was thinking.
With that in mind, what does personal style actually mean? Like one of those fashion terms that gets bandied around often, it appears like it has some deep meaning but when you really consider it, isn’t it just a subjective term? And given the definition of subjective - being based on or influenced by personal opinions, tastes and feelings - isn’t the notion of style (personal or otherwise) not deeply rooted in opinion?
That being the opinion that is intrinsically attached to the idea we have of ourselves. Surely how I feel about my life, my body or my bank balance has some impact on my opinion of style? And furthermore, surely my opinions on a plethora of sartorial questions, like prints, bold colours or pastels, double denim, vintage - the list is endless - impact my personal style? Which brings us back to subjectivity, again.
So if so much of our personal style if made up of our personal opinions, it should be easy to figure out, right? As simple as ticking the box that best describes you and then making yourself comfortable inside that box - whether it be high-fashion, grunge or minimalism. If only it were that easy. How many of us could tick two or three or a dozen boxes?
And now it becomes clear that figuring out your personal style is about a lot more than identifying with a predetermined style of dress. And that’s where I discovered that, for me, personal style is an evolutionary concept - not a static one.
It’s evolutionary because so am I. In the sense that I am always growing (mainly older) and having new experiences and discovering new things, all of which impact my opinions on the world and consequently on my idea of style. Which kind of means that within any attempt at personal style, there must be trial and error; there must be change and experimentation and regrets and mistakes.
Perhaps because of the idea of personal style being evolutionary, I’m not convinced it should be something we should chase, that it should be something we should desire over anything else, sartorially speaking. Not that I’m adverse to the idea, I’m just increasingly reluctant to give it the weight it has historically been given.
Which ties in nicely (almost as if I’d planned it) with Napoleon and his talk of follies and fashion. Because in placing ourselves on the seemingly never-ending road that is the path to personal style are we not committing a great folly, by making ourselves a slave to the idea of personal style?
More questions than answers, I know. But as I said above, I think that might be the point. In the sense that by posing and attempting to answer questions we are evolving, we are learning and growing and moving and circling around the idea of style in a wholly organic way. Which might just be the best way.