What Is Personal Style? AKA the 2020 existential crisis
2020 has been a helluva year so far. Australian wildfires, Coronavirus, riots, elections, and a general sense of impending doom… if you’re anything like me, you’ve spent a good chunk of the year holed up at home. Working from home. Socializing from home (yay for internets!) Basically turning into a full-blown hermit. It can be a little intense at times, even for the strongest of introverts. That said, there are some definite perks as well. One of the biggest has to be the comfy clothes. No need to get all dressed up in uncomfortable work attire.
So as a fashion designer, this got me thinking about personal style. We all have a “look” that we like to present to the world. It shifts depending on the situation we’re in; school, work, social events, formal events, etc. Some of us are more simple, practical when it comes to style, but if you’re reading this, I am guessing that you’re someone whose sense of style is a little… extra. I mean, you’re reading BLKGLOW’s blog after all.
The question that’s been chasing me lately is; what does personal style even mean if we’re not around other people? Usually, we dress a certain way in order to present an image of ourselves to the world. So what happens to that identity when the outside world grows distant? Do we “let ourselves go” in a fashion sense? What does that even mean? I know that the term connotes something negative, but what if we reframed that concept?
What if “letting yourself go” actually meant freeing yourself from the expectations of the rest of the world? Like, I think most of us got really excited during lockdown about not having to put in the effort to look a certain way every day. But in my experience, the rush of being able to chill in pj’s and sweats every day has a limited shelf-life. I was working from home “before it was cool”. So if you aren’t enchanted with the idea of hanging out in sloppy comfy clothes every day, but there’s no need to get dressed up for a “day job” in the traditional sense, then what’s left?
I think that this pandemic has left a lot of us questioning the status quo. Even when life is able to go “back to normal”, a lot of us are going to question just what “normal” should mean. How many jobs have we discovered can be done effectively from home (at least half of the time anyway)? So when we don’t have to dress up for others, the question becomes, how do we want to dress for ourselves?
It reminds me a little of a part from The Matrix, when Neo enters the simulation for the first time and notices his clothes are different. It’s his “projected self image” The way he imagines himself in his head. Mind you, the whole aesthetic of that film is very “late 90’s techno goth”, but the principle is solid. Somewhere in our subconscious is an image we have of ourselves that exists only for ourselves.
If you think about it, there is a different version of “you” in the mind of every person you’ve ever met. They may not remember you, but who you are and what you represent to another person does not fully encompass every experience and every aspect of your personality and what makes you ‘YOU™”. Even those closest to you like your best friend, your spouse, your parents, your siblings… everyone has a limited sense of who you are.
When you take this into consideration, you start to understand that there is an element of playing a role that happens constantly in your day to day life. Even when it’s subconscious, you are playing into some kind of image that others have of you. With this in mind, the concept of truly exploring your full self and what it means to you is actually kind of terrifying. But if you’re ready to take that ride, it’s actually pretty cool.
Of course, this internal exploration doesn’t mean that you’re necessarily going to end up wearing some kind of psychedelic post apocalyptic nomadic monk costume. In fact, you might only end up wanting to make a couple of simple tweaks to your “look”. At the end of the day, we communicate through archetypes and metaphors, which means that you actually probably have a pretty solid self-image hidden somewhere in your brains. I doubt that too many of us are going to come out of COVID-19 wanting to be nudists all of a sudden.
Look, it may be a bit disappointing, but I don’t actually have the answer on how to figure out who you are and how to express it. So if you’re coming to the end of this article and going “What is this BS clickbait?!”, I apologize. I can offer a couple of tips for you though:
1. Think of all the archetypal roles (good and bad ones!) that you feel like you represent. Maybe you’re part hero, part introvert, part father figure, part rebel, part slacker, part loyal to a fault friend, part manipulator… you get the picture. The point is, figure out the biggest elements of what you feel makes you “YOU™ ”
2. Once you’ve got your broad list of personality archetypes, start listing off what those things “look like” in your mind’s eye. Maybe there’s a specific haircut. Maybe there’s a garment you associate with it. Or a certain combination of garments. Or maybe a color scheme. The point is, once you have that idea, you can play with different combinations of things.
3.Go bananas. Seriously, try out new combinations of things. 2020 is a terrible year for a lot of things, but in a broader sense, it’s also a fantastic opportunity for us to explore and expand ourselves.
I guess that's it. This year has been so confusing on so many levels that I feel like it's the perfect opportunity to harness a "screw it, let's do it" attitude. So introspect away my darlings! Dive deep and find your inner self. Maybe it'll even offer a little inner peace.