Finding Your Personal Style | Part One, Style Series

July 10, 2017

Everyone has a personal style.  Some people say, ‘oh, I don’t really have a style – I like a little bit of everything’, but that just isn’t true.  Think about it – if we like “a little bit of everything” we would love the taste of all foods, right?  Because if you even slide beets or cooked peas over here I will throw them back at you food fight style.  Try me if you don’t believe me.  I dare you.  Your funeral.

My point is that sometimes we don’t know what our style is because we often buy based on trends and what’s in style for the season, and because we often fill our closets with a bunch of crappy clothes that don’t fit us well and that we don’t like.  I did this for years, and it made shopping a terrible experience, and even dressing was no fun.

Somehow we go through a sequence of style changes in high school.  We are trying to find our own personalities and discovering who we are takes us through several bad fashion choices.  Like a lifelong episode of what not to wear.  Deny it if you want, but I went through some tough clothing times.

Let’s have a moment of silence for those times.

And let’s have another just for the 80’s tragedy they called fashion.

Now let’s promise never to revisit those times.  Ever.

Finding My Personal Style – But Not Really

This took many years for me – I was apparently a late bloomer in all things.  Although I floundered around choosing what I liked from the current trends of ‘Teen and YM magazines, I didn’t really have a defined style.  I wasn’t comfortable in my own skin for most, if not all, of my high school and college years, so I really just focused on classes, extra-curricular activities, and writing.

And yes, I just aged myself by admitting I read YM.  Who here remembers YM magazine.  Anyone?

What I did like was black, black, and more black; earning the ‘goth’ label for a while. #allblackeverthing  I loved combat boots, chains, converse, holes in my jeans, graphic tees, and large sweaters.  I wore purple and black.  Everyday.  And I liked my hair pulled back or all in my face – no inbetween.  Skulls, tattoos, rock music intrigued and entertained me.  But these were things that a christian young lady who was active in church just didn’t do.

Did you hear that sarcasm in my voice?  ‘I need to work on that’, she said, sarcastically.

So I didn’t.  Instead, I dressed the way that everyone else thought I should.  When I was at home, I wore the clothes my mom liked for me.  When I was at college, I wore only professional clothes to work and classes, and then whatever was popular in the stores and around campus.

Fast forward to after college… time to start adulting and looking the part…

What is Style?

The thing about style is that it isn’t just about what your sense of fashion is.  I’ve found that fashion isn’t even the first thing on the list.

The definition of style basically means the manner or way or how you do something – the technique, the method, your approach.  Style is distinctive.  It’s expressive.

I used to think of style as my fashion choices; but it really is much deeper than that.  It’s a reflection of our expression – the way we talk (tone, inflection, vocabulary), the way we walk, the way we smile, eat, sing, or whatever we do.  It is how we do what we do when we do; and how we express our thoughts, emotions, interests, and values when we do.  So it isn’t just what we wear, style is who we are.  That is why it is referred to as personal style.

You can’t nail down your personal style by taking a style quiz, or a personality test.  Believe me, I’ve tried.  And although they are quite fun to take, these quizzes can’t tell you who you are.  You have to know who you are; and you have to like who you are.

So before you can understand what your clothing style is, you have to know what your personal style is, and you have to like the person enough to wear clothes reflective of that person.

This took me a long time to get.  I can be a bit slow sometimes.

Finding My Personal Style – Almost, But Not Quite

Yeah, adulting.  ::long tired exhale::  And the life right at graduating and beyond.  We are pumped full of knowledge, and a little full of ourselves – fresh out of the classroom and into the workforce.  Many of us want to leave behind our college personas and pick up the professional one.  You know, the one that requires the nicer clothes and shoes.  We in Human Resources call that “professional attire”, and it is (in my humble opinion) one of the biggest ways we have failed our young workforce.

But that’s a different topic for a different audience.

The HR and ‘professional persona’ is a sensitive topic in the natural hair community.  Again, another topic, but for this audience.  Basically, the notion that has been traditionally accepted in the workplace is that in order to maintain that air of professionalism, your hair must also look professional.  And for females that means straight, pulled back, naturally colored, and naturally styled.  Oh no, hunty – not naturally as in ask me about my hair type of natural – I mean natural as in tamed.  You know, not messy.  You know, not nappy.  Yeah, you got it – not natural.  Isn’t that ironic?  And this unspoken expectation in the workplace is responsible contributes to a lot of the self-hate that black women harbor in regards to their hair.  This self-loathing reflects in their style, and in how they treat the people around them. #angryblackwoman #itsastereotype #notallofusareangry

Right, so back to style.

The workplace is also responsible for many false style-starts, as I like to call it.  We are young, we are impressionable, and we want to keep our jobs.  So we run out to purchase every suit and heel combo that we can get our hands on, forcing our personalities into clothing that does not speak for who we are as individuals.  And it is often a tight fit.

Me?  I hate suits.  But I purchased and wore them for years.  Why?  Because that is the expectation when you’re in the professional world.  You wear a suit if you want to be taken seriously.  I also dislike french manicures.  But I would ask for them whenever I went to get my nails done because loud nail polish is not allowed in the workplace.  It’s distracting.  Oh, and I loathe collared shirts.  Absolutely detest them.  But I suffered through the discomfort so I could look credible in meetings and at conferences.

For years I was just uncomfortable at work because of these ‘required but not required’ clothes; thinking that I could not advance or be taken seriously if I didn’t dress like professionals were supposed to dress, and the way I saw people dressing around me.  As soon as I got home, I would throw off all those clothes and put on what I loved.  In the evenings and during the weekends, my coworkers and colleagues wouldn’t recognize me at first glance if they saw me out in public because I did not look the way I did at work.

Finding My Personal Style – Nailed It

So fast forward again to present-day, much growner me.

Today is ‘make-up-words-with-no-regret’ day.

And yes I just made that up.

I have a style I can comfortably say is mine.  And not care what anyone else thinks about it.  Because it’s mine.  And it’s me.  And I am who I am.

More on that in part two of this style series; as well as some advice on how to figure out your style.  Until this, the takeaway from part one is:

“You define you. Therefore, you define your hair, your hair does not define you. You define your fashion, your fashion does not define you. You define your job, your job does not define you. And you define your style, your style does not define you.”

Go ahead, tweet this – you know you want to!

[bctt tweet=”You define you. Therefore, you define your hair, your hair does not define you. You define your fashion, your fashion does not define you. You define your job, your job does not define you. And you define your style, your style does not define you.” username=”AskMeHairBlog”]

How long did it take you to discover your own style? Are you still working on it?

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