Meaning of Style

I got in trouble with my peers in high school. My cool punk friends stopped by one afternoon, and discovered my record collection.

Why I had punk friends, I’m not sure. I guess I made one friend in that group and eventually hung out with his friends too. He had a band (The Suburban Punks, so there was no genre confusion) and when we went to hear them play Kinks and Sex Pistols covers, we tore our shirts and fastened them with safety pins.

But horror of horrors, I had an Eagles album. They grudgingly approved of 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.

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High school cliques are downright legalistic about music and clothing style. Having moved three times, it was on my radar more than most kids’. Looking back I see a girl dressed in 90’s grunge before her time. When a sparkly purple New Wave friend sneered at my flannel shirt and moccasins, I didn’t bother trying to adapt. By the end of high school I’d embraced my own style, and reaped the rewards when it went mainstream in my 20’s. God I was cool then!

My personal style has again left the mainstream, at least for this decade. And I’ve learned more benefits to adapting as it comes into play in everything from buying a car, to remodeling projects, to the work I do in graphics. Style is big big business for kids and grown-ups alike, but what is it really?

At age nine my daughter got quizzed on her “style” in tween books and on websites. Are you a Brainiac? Supergirl? Tomboy or Girlie-girl? Fitting in to some imaginary grouping makes her school with 1000+ kids seem a little more manageable. I also went to supersized public schools, and when my little girl asks what style I think is hers, I tend to say a little of this, a little of that. And I remember my Eagles album in tenth grade and wonder, should I encourage her to adapt her personal style for the sake of fitting in more comfortably?

Grown-ups ask ourselves the same thing every day. iPhone or Galaxy? Chunky highlights 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 serif font in this modern ad layout? It really depends on our goal.

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 at Echo and the Bunnymen is coming to mind) when you’re the “new kid” and want to keep shock value to a minimum. A nod to a current trend or two, I am resigned to think, is often advisable.

I’m fine with the fact that I’m a derivative artist today, merging status quo popular “styles” with a small dash of quirkiness for standout value. Since the Big Bang it’s really all been derivative, anyway. 

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