3 Quirky Ways To Find Your Style
One of the biggest issues that come up for us creatives is style.
“Live by your style or DIE! Be unique or perish!”
At least that’s what all the urgent calls to “find your style” blasting through our social media feeds seems to suggest. What’s even worse? The advice is often paired (not countered!) with the seemingly contradicting “simply be you.” But what does either of these things really mean? Should you be stylish or just “you” (a.k.a lounging in pajama pants and drinking straight out the (milk) bottle)? How should you go about “finding” the style that simply is “you”?
As a designer and a copywriter (and joined branding team), we happen to take style and identity quite seriously. (As you might expect!) The problem with asking these questions about style, we think, lies in the perspective of the approach rather than in the goal. It’s like you’re being sent on a wild-goose chase provided with the wrong map. Good luck getting there!
So how should you approach style and identity in your biz? Here are 3 tips to help frame the issue better.
1. Style is like your life’s purpose: It must be LIVED, not “found.”
Reading an excellent article on finding your life’s purpose by Mark Manson recently got us talking about style. Mark suggests that “part of the problem is the concept of ‘life purpose’ itself,” and points out that when we ask “What is my life’s purpose?” what we’re really thinking is “What can I do with my life that is important?”
Asking what you can do—rather than what should you do—is a much better question for two reasons:
- It gives you both control and responsibility over your choices and
- It comes without all the weird baggage of the momentous “life purpose” you’re supposed to “discover” or die trying.
Life is not some big giant secret. You’re not some disposable napkin to be used for a specific purpose. Life is what you make of it.
And style works in a similar way too. Instead of asking yourself “What’s my style?” or “How do I want to portray myself?” ask yourself “Which way of communication do I consider important?”
Why? Because style really is all about communication. It’s about how you connect with others, with your customers, your colleagues, your family, your business partners, anyone.
Do you consider laughter an important means of delivering a message because it eases people and makes them open up? Or do you consider it inappropriate in “heavier” situations?
Do you like to add the sting of shock factor to pass your message across? Or would you rather be gentle and considerate? Perhaps your like whimsy and approaching important issue with a light attitude?
There are many styles in which to communicate your message (not only verbally but also visually). The way you dress, the graphics of your company, the words in your copy, the naming of your products—these are all connected to your style.
Which style you choose and how you communicate your story simply depends on which style you value most and which comes naturally to you. There’s no right or wrong question. And you can’t just simply “think” your way to your style either. You have to practice it.
Don’t sit around worrying about your style, chewing on your nails. (Bitten nails are never a good style!) Take action on the things you want to do or say and do them in a way that you’re proud of! That’s your style!
2. If no one was watching, what would you do?
David Leddick was one of the great stars of the 60s advertising scene, acting as the Worldwide Creative Director for Revlon which was a $40-million advertising account, back then! (Holy crap, that’s a lotta moolah!) So he knows a thing or two about style.
In his book I’m Not For Everyone. Neither Are You (which is a fun little book every creative should read on a lazy weekend) he has a chapter titled: “Fashion is where you dress for others. Style is when you dress for yourself”. Even more important than this observation? His note at the end of the short chapter: “P.S. One might replace “dress” with “act” in the subject line above, as well.”
Fashion is when you act for others. Style is when you act for yourself.
We often get carried away by what’s “in fashion.” It’s only human of course. We’ve all worn the nearly see-through leggings and the low-crotch diapers pants and the ultra-high platform hooker heels. You shouldn’t punish yourself for your fashion sins. But know when you’re doing something because it’s in fashion (like forwarding chain emails to all your contacts, or spreading silly memes, or posting cat videos—there was a time for all those and none of us thought we were being silly), and when you act from your own style.
Self awareness—or Knowing Thyself if you want to get fancy—is key in style. Don’t do things simply because it’s what you think your clients or critics or colleagues want to see. Do the things that you’d want them to know, to learn, to receive, to consider. That’s having your own style. Regurgitating someone else’s ideas with a bow on top, is not.
3. Stop caring.
Not as in, “stop caring about how you look and let your nails grow long and black and your hair go matted and your skin fall off your face” stop caring. That’s just doing yourself wrong! (And a little disgusting! Yuk!)
But stop caring about whether others approve or not. Style is not an objective issue, and expecting approval or applause for doing things in your style is like expecting approval or applause for being how tall you are. It’s not as if anyone disagreeing with your height (too short for what exactly?!) is going to change it. And your talent and artistic style? They’re not up for approval or applause either.
Coco Channel once said: “I never designed a good dress until I didn’t care anymore.” What she stopped caring about wasn’t her dresses, but rather how others judged them.
The wonderful thing about your creative talent is that it’s unique. The damning thing about your creative talent is that it’s unique. You can’t win. And you’ll never be happy or comfortable if you perpetually seek perpetual from others. Separate your emotions from your creative work, and face the world with style.
If everyone’s going to talk about it, at least let them talk about something you like!
So stop worrying so much about whether you have style or not. Of course you do. Everyone’s got style. Style cannot be construed out of thin air, it can only be cultivated and refined. The raw matter is there. Your job is working it. Keep doing what you love, and keep doing it in the way you love, and never give a damn about who doesn’t love it.
Here’s how David Leddick perfectly encapsulates the meaning of sense of style:
Style is more than simple self definition or a declarative statement of identity. Style is fun. Style is glamorous. Style is sexy. It is an exuberant embrace of life, through aesthetics. Like the plumage of some great gorgeous bird, style says, “Here I am, come play with me.
How do you play with your style? Let us know in the comments! And tell us if you have any fave steps or quotes for refining your style. We’re dying to know!