OPINION: Understanding your style outside the norm

Scott Rainey

Scott Rainey

Clothing and style have always been an interest and hobby of mine. After working at various men’s clothing stores, reading the “best” menswear essays, and attempting to put this collective knowledge together to enhance my own style, I have found there is a lot of room to grow and a lot of disagreement over what fashion and style is.

Many experts will tell you that you need your own style, that you shouldn’t copy someone else’s or that you shouldn’t follow trends. They will tell you that you should have a unique style, that you shouldn’t wear a brown belt with black shoes and that you shouldn’t go to class wearing shorts in the dead of winter.

A lot of this is excellent advice. Please don’t wear shorts in the winter. It gets cold at Kent State. Much of this advice, however, is misguided at best and judgemental at worst.

Style should always be personal, but that doesn’t mean it has to be unique. Plenty of people have similar styles, but their specific body shape, color preference, intent and sense of ownership over their clothes may be vastly different from someone who dresses the same way.

Two people who wear the same thing on any given day may have vastly different reasons for wearing those clothes and with their vastly differing styles, both look good wearing them.

Having a sense of ownership over your clothing should outweigh how cool and fashionable your clothing is. Wearing what makes you feel powerful, confident, attractive and comfortable is the ultimate goal here.

Yes, it’s important to have a basic understanding of style archetypes and what clothing looks good together, but once you have that down, it’s not about uniqueness — it’s about how you connect with your clothing and how it makes you feel while you wear it.

For Eric Deck, the founder of Smartly Dressed Style, a good article of clothing follows a loose rubric. The fit of the clothing comes first, its construction is second and “fashion” comes last. The principles of intentionality and context are the foundation of this rubric, and they should be the foundation for our style as well.

This means, too, that dressing well doesn’t have to be complicated, expensive or flashy. My favorite outfit is a pair of black jeans, black boots and a gray T-shirt. This is incredibly simple, and I love it.

These three articles of clothing all fit well and feel comfortable, they are made well, have held up over many wash cycles and they’re fashionable. To me, this is style. It’s basic, it’s not very hard to put together, it’s intentionally done and, in me, it creates a sense of control, confidence and relaxation.

Our sense of style should be a journey. It’s OK not to know what you’re doing at first. I didn’t know what I was doing for a long time, even as I was learning. Making mistakes is a part of the process, and learning as you go will yield better results and create growth in a way that no article or piece of advice can. If you’re intentionally wearing something you care about that makes you feel confident, you’re dressing well.

Scott Rainey is a columnist. Contact him at [email protected].