Finding Style in Trial and Error
You can’t get it right if you don’t first get it wrong.
It’s been said that if you fall off your bicycle, you should get back on and just keep riding. I understand that the larger metaphor-for-life was initially instituted to depress the plague of discouragement, but I also understand that the euphemism has prevailed because as humans, we have historically demonstrated that we learn from our blunders. Steve Jobs was pushed out of his own company in 1985 only to return in ’96 and eventually render every other business in the history of work obsolete.
Naomi Campbell famously fell to her ankles (no, really) while walking in a Vivienne Westwood show in 1993 but that’s frequently overlooked. And I failed my road test four times before I became a professional race car driver.
But when considering style, why does it always seem like if you’re not consistently “getting it right,” you don’t have it. There’s a saying that goes, “style can’t be taught,” which has been underscored by a comment Anna Wintour once made — “either you have it or you don’t.”
If this is true, it means that the ability to style is an inherent quality that a man or woman possesses. And if that quality is inherent, the supposition is that like with blinking, or with breathing, there’s no learning — from blunders or otherwise — to take place. Frankly, though, who’s to say that if you are one of these ostensibly lucky gene carriers, you can’t come into a few snafus along the way? Especially, I might add, in this golden era of pics-or-I-never-wore-it.
I guess it always boils back down to Instagram.
Last month I watched hundreds of comments rake in regarding a photo I posted of an outfit which included a blue bralette-style crop top and high waist burgundy satin shorts. The responses were mostly respectful but almost universally against the look. I called it the Obamacare of Selfies, primarily because most people hated it (and I understood why), but because I created it, I stood really firmly behind it.
The following day, I posted another photo (a full green look), which received glowing reviews — some even from the commenters who just the previous day told me I had “zero sense of style.”
It occurred to me then that to say style is inherent is fair but it is also vaguely flawed. This is chiefly because personal style is deep-rooted in opinion. Not everyone is going to agree but this is precisely what makes it personal (and often too, compelling). Is it a coincidence that the second photo was the one that received the positive feedback? Maybe, but it might also be a nod to my testing the trial and error formula and understanding what could have worked and what didn’t.
Much like writing, style is a muscle that needs to be trained in order to function as the best version of itself. Sometimes it works better than you knew it was capable of performing while other times it feels kind of weak. As a result, it can often let you down but there is an ultimate, baseline understanding that it’s always there and that it’s yours. Sure, it constantly needs to be challenged in order to continue operating successfully but what doesn’t?
Don’t wait for the bike to tip over. Throw yourself off that shit and see what happens.
Oh! By the way! I’m not really a professional race car driver. I do have my license, though.