To understand style is to grasp the motivation behind the utilization of one look before another.
Expanding further, if one takes inventory of their closet, they’ll likely see patterns emerging regarding their purchasing habits. Each item found to conform to the image the individual is looking to put forth will be considered invaluable. The items in the closet all hold true to an overarching theme.
The purpose of any thoughtful clothing purchase is to advance a persona the purchaser finds pleasing. This is their motivation.
Assuming that this, at the very least, has some degree of partial truth allows for the hypothesis that personal style is the culmination of a three-tiered process that begins as an examination of societal position, moves towards the construction of goals, and ends with the implementation of a style that’s representative of those goals. It’s a medium for self expression that aims to alter or maintain external perceptions pertaining to the individual.
This is, admittedly, a perspective that politely declines to take into account the fact that eliciting a particular feeling occasionally supersedes the compulsion to pursue an established goal. For instance, as noted by my co-founder, a person may choose to wear sweatpants over chinos due to the feeling of comfort that comes from donning an immensely pleasing pair of sweats. This decision certainly isn’t in line with the goal of being considered sartorially conscious, but the desire for comfort in that moment overwhelmed the otherwise dominant goal.
However, that’s not the focus of this thought.
When dressing in the morning, whether consciously or not, a person has an understanding that the clothes they wear, or the manner in which their hair is styled will impact the way that other people form thoughts about them. Those other people are reacting to visual messages dispatched by this individual. I’ll refer back to the point above about the three-tiered process of finding a personal style. When the understanding expressed just above becomes conscious, one can transition into the second part of the process, or goal construction.
Let’s create an avatar to run through our process.
Greg, seen above, is a university student in the Northeastern United States. He’s from California, so this environment is foreign to him, and he’s learning to adjust and establish a recognizable identity among his peer group.
Greg realizes that he’s a tad out of his element. Perhaps his West Coast background leaves him a more relaxed character than his native classmates. Let’s also say that Greg is a good-looking gentleman with a friendly disposition.
These attributes and circumstances have dropped Greg in a very particular situation. If aware of this situation, Greg is in a very powerful position. Having pinpointed his location on both a scholastic and social scale, he can now identify where he’d like to go from here. It would conceivably be very difficult to construct a map for the purpose of finding directions from one location to another if Point A is not yet identifiable.
Him possessing the location of Points A & B provides him the ability to engineer goals that will lead him from one to the other.
Goals to facilitate said transportation can manifest themselves as varied style choices. His style selections are used to influence the people around him to accept his desired persona as a truth.
If style is used as a way to implant a manufactured thought process in the minds of others, then the management of personal style is the controlled manipulation of external perception.
This is all wonderful for the short-term alteration of perception, but my thought is that all of the above work would be fruitless without much larger goals guiding Greg’s actions.
All of his efforts, or his preparations have led him to a myriad of opportunities. The access is the end goal.
When Greg has identified how he’d like to be regarded, does so successfully, and uses that perception to mingle with those who provide access to what Greg is really seeking, he is successful.
In summary, the relationships are linear. The overarching goal influences the desired perception that will allow for access to the goal. The desired perception is achieved by thoughtfully selecting what to wear, or when to wear it. These selections are the manifestations of goals that eventually lead to the perception. The goals are reliant upon the information one has gathered and synthesized regarding their position in the moment.
Style is an advanced stage of expression that falls on the map of goal-oriented behavior. It’s the midway point between situational understanding and goal achievement.