I was confronted with style trouble in high school on the day my cool punk friends stopped by and discovered my record collection.
Why I had punk friends, I’m not sure. I guess I made one and eventually hung out with his friends too. He had a band (The Suburban Punks – no genre confusion) and I prepped to hear them play Kinks and Sex Pistols covers by tearing my shirt and fastening it with safety pins.
Imagine the horror – I had an Eagles album. They grudgingly accepted The Cars. But The Long Run? Heart Greatest Hits?! Thereafter I could tag along, but it was understood – I wasn’t really one of them.
High school cliques are legalistic about music and clothing style. I changed high schools three times so it was on my radar more than most. Looking back I see the girl dressed in 90’s grunge before her time. A Bowie-esque New Wave friend sneered at my flannel shirt and moccasins, but I didn’t bother trying to adapt when by the end of high school I’d embraced my very own style. (And reaped the rewards when it went mainstream in my 20’s. God I was cool then!)
My own style has again left the mainstream, at least for this decade. I’ve learned the benefits to adapting in everything from buying a car, to home remodeling, to the work I do in graphics. Style is still big big business for kids and grown-ups alike. What does it mean, anyway?
By age nine my daughter was getting quizzed on her “style” in tween books and web sites. Are you a Brainiac? Supergirl? Tomboy or Girlie-girl? Fitting into some imaginary grouping may make her school with 1000+ kids seem more manageable, and I knew the drill at supersized public schools. When my little girl asked what style I thought was hers, I tended to say a little of this, a little of that. Remembering my Eagles album I wondered, should I encourage her to conform her style just to fit in?
Some of us grown-ups ask ourselves the same thing. iPhone or Galaxy? Chunky highlights, hombre or natural? Love this granite counter-top, but granite is so over now and we need to think resale value. Can I put natural grain in a modern kitchen? Use a traditional font in this trendy layout?
In trying to attract people, be it new friends or clients, we often adapt. We’re lucky when inserting a bit of our personal taste is attractive to the folks we want. But we keep the quirkiness to a minimum (pink striped pants to see Echo and the Bunnymen is coming to mind) when we are the “new kid” and want to keep shock value to a minimum. A nod to a current trend or two, we are resigned to think, is often advisable.
I’m fine with being derivative in my work, merging status quo popular styles with a small dash of personal quirkiness for standout value. Since the Big Bang it’s all been derivative, anyway.