The Cult (and Myth) of Personal Style | minimalism

Photo by Annie Spratt on

Sorry for the long silence everyone! Our semester break has been punctuated by a three-week long trip to visit loved ones and we’ve spent a lot of time in transit and having a brilliant time with friends, family, and brewers I’d personally begin to consider personal friends (well, okay, they were nice to us when we visited their breweries. That’s the same thing, right?) I want to write a lot about travels and my collected thoughts (of which there are many, one of the joys of travel is the time it allows for reflection- both self and otherwise-, and will over the coming weeks, but there has been an issue on my mind I need to shake off- perhaps for my mental health as much as for the mere observation.

Personal style. Whoever first thought to place those two words together like estranged bedfellows so long ago can surely be proud of the confidence, consumerism, and neuroses of people all around the world who, in search of what we now know as ‘personal branding’, set off to collect collages, Pinterest boards, and ideas of what they should aim to resemble and embody sartorially in their everyday lives. Now entangled lovers, the words ‘personal’ and ‘style’ typed together into Google bring up a whopping 146 million results. That’s one hundred and forty six MILLION.

As Tolkien wrote, “History became legend. Legend became myth.”

As someone who has been engrossed with the search for personal style since I was 18, I’m really the last person I’d expect to be declaring personal style as akin to a cult, and denouncing it as a myth. Although defining a personal style can be a non-conformist gesture, is it not still buying into the cultural ideal of image being everything? I spent so long thinking that if I could just tweak that, or just change this, then I’d find inner security and be as flawless as that oh-so-chic French girl in this or that movie.

It’s taken a long time, but last night I had an epiphany. It’s a pretty obvious one, but here goes anyway: having myself look how I desire to on the outside does not make me as a human. My joy and personality will shine through whatever I wear, and fixing the outside to make me look like an ‘Oh, I just woke up with this perfect bedhead and navy sweater’ Parisian who has a laissez-faire attitude to life will not magically change me into one. I will always be a slightly neurotic worrier who has more affinity for Russian than French, and who needs a good 7 hours sleep a night.

Last night I made a list of all of my things for Project 333, which happened to be too large a number for my entire wardrobe and also includes my whole jewellery collection, and this is where it began. Last night part of my nighttime conversation with my boyfriend went so:

“Will you still love me if I dress like a middle-aged woman?”
“Of course. Do you dress like a middle aged woman?”
“I don’t know, do I?”
“I don’t know.”
“Oh. Maybe I do. Oh well. I love you. Weltruste.”

It seemed like a sane thing to ask at the time (well, not entirely, but alost), but writing it now makes me laugh, and also makes me a little sad. It entirely encompasses how much I worry about my style and image. I lay awake and thought, came to these conclusions, and went to sleep, and this morning I woke up feeling a lot lighter.

Style is a great thing to play with. It’s a wonderful tool for expression and fun, for comfort and shocking, yet when it becomes a guiding factor in life, like most things, it can become harmful. By focussing on the exterior I’ve been diverting my attention from the most important things, like working on myself and liking myself and finding body acceptance, because for many people, (perhaps mainly women) having the perfect body to go with your perfect style is a goal.

In terms of clothes, and particularly minimalism, I now believe that having things you like and that suit you, and which make you happy, is the key to having any kind of ‘personal style’. I like my Dr Marten boots, my skinny jeans and neutral colours. Whatever catagory that puts me into in anyone else’s eyes, I have now decided to give not a single flying fuck. Maybe I’m boring, maybe I’ll attract some weird looks when I wear my wonky glasses: none of the fucks. I am done with the cult of personal style and its mythical status as the fashion holy grail. Now I’m going to focus on the things that matter to me more, like writing, reading, studying, drinking good beer, and watching Lost on the sofa with my boyfriend (yes, I’m aware I’m a decade and a half too late), and allow myself to have fun with clothes and make-up, rather than fit into any goddamn box.

One last thing: my boyfriend has no sense of personal style. It is not something he’s ever cultivated (as much as I tried to get him to over the past couple of years). Yet he is by far the most stable, productive, creative, and wonderful (okay, I’m bias!) person I have the pleasure of knowing. To him, everything I’ve just written is self-explanatory. Lucky bastard. Some of us, however, have taken a while to figure it out, and that’s okay, and if this can help anybody else see this perspective too, then it’s worth it.

Have a wonderful week everyone, and I’ll be back again soon! Feel free to discuss below, I’d love to hear your take on this issue!













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