Essay on Style

You Can Get Away With It
Recently I've noticed a phrase people have used to describe me when people comment on my dressing. They say "you can get away with it", "you can pull it off" which intrigues me. It's almost as if I've sneaked past some fashion rule that will be found out eventually.
Since I don't follow trends anymore this intrigues and baffles me. Surely I'm not doing anything anyone else wouldn't be doing. I buy the clothes and put them on, simple!

Are people saying I have confidence that they don't have? Or are they saying it's really ugly, but because it's you, and I like you, I'll say it looks good?

I've been reflecting recently on the concept of style versus dagginess (as we say in Australia). Immediately my mind goes to what I call the epitome of dagginess... wearing socks or even stockings with sandals...Ahhh! Crossed fingers to ward off the devil!!! :-)
But when I think more carefully, I realise there are instances where people can "get away with it". Mainly I narrow it down to wearing socks with closed toe sandals seems acceptable to me. Also if the sock is a cute ankle sock with ruffles or frills, it seems OK. 

This is a very contentious topic with Bushy, because he can't see anything wrong with it, and I've always adamantly abhorred it. So much so, he has given in, still without understanding it.  So this morning in the midst of my musings and realising how muddled my reasoning is, I butted out of his wardrobe. He now has carte blanche to do as he likes. Let's see what ensues...crosses fingers and holds breath!

Stylish people seem to be those whose clothes are an embodiment of their personality, their personhood. They don't let the clothes wear them, they wear the clothes. I've been avidly devouring the site Style Like U which has this philosophy. See also Natalia's post Style as expression of you, not you as expression of style.
But if I say this, maybe Bushy wearing his socks and sandals is his innate style, and I shouldn't object to it.

Have you noticed how often women control a man's wardrobe, whereas the reverse would be considered domestic abuse?! Is this because we are given more opportunities to explore and so feel we have more of a finger on style and fashion? But if my reasoning stands, a man can't be stylish if his wife is dressing him, if it doesn't come from within. A man in work clothes doing a job he loves can be more stylish than one dressed to the nines, if he feels uncomfortable.

Can someone be stylish if the clothes are beautiful, but just aren't them? I know I've seen people in clothes that are trendy, but because they are not reflecting their own person, can look daggy.
But following trends doesn't mean everyone who is trendy is daggy. Sometimes the trends do match the innate sense of the wearer.
I think following trends can just make the world seem a more boring place. Just people saying, "Look at me, I have a lot of money as evidenced by my clothes on my back."

I also hate the term "on trend" which stores and magazines proclaim loudly. Like they have been given permission to wear these particular clothes by the fashion police.
They see it as a great compliment to give someone. Does it mean they are in touch with the world, clued in somehow? To me it means following the crowd.

How does this differ from cultural garments? Ones worn by traditional tribes. Does this mean if the whole tribe wears the garment it isn't reflecting the individual wearer and therefore they aren't stylish? Or is their personhood reflected in their belonging to a tribe? As evidenced by tribes of teenagers who wear the same gear, for example. Are they seen as stylish, or just fashion victims?

I think the desire to find your ethnic roots could be driven by the same motivation as the desire to dress alike within a subculture, e.g. goth. Its the drive to belong, to feel in touch with others, to speak a similar language. Therefore they are expressing themselves...and therefore stylish?

I do realise the usefulness of a uniform. It becomes a sort of label, a shorthand to identify a person's job or rank. It irons out individuality and presents a neat, united front to the world. But even within uniforms you find individual traits in those who desire to exercise it. I had a friend who wore a uniform but always wore individual lively socks. Uniforms can make someone who loves to express themselves, feel stunted and stifled, and this is a way to manage that.

Change and Gender 
I think my style has changed over the years, and my ideas of what I find stylish on others has changed as well. How does this differ to trendiness?
Is it because one is driven from within, and our changing knowledge of self, versus being imposed from outside in a more superficial way?

My style has changed according to my gender discovery. I was a fairly feminine decorative dresser, with long earrings, and drapey scarves. Then I went through my male gendered phase wearing male clothing exclusively, and now I feel comfortable in my combination male/female outfits. This may change over time, but always is driven from within.

Conformity - Aspergers and Genderqueer
And here we come across my individuality or idiosyncrasy. One of the great blessings of Aspergers is the disconnect from the crowd. I can see things others can't because I'm not connected in to the zeitgeist. I see things at one remove, and have no pressure on me to conform. Or if I do, I refuse to entertain it.

And so we wander back into gender territory. I also refuse to entertain the pressure to wear gendered clothing or decoration. To me its just one big candy store, and I can take my pick according to my own individual innate taste.
Wouldn't it be a fascinating world if we all could feel so free?

Self talk
I think I'm also going to have to rethink my own use of stylish and daggy, when describing myself.  I have to apply these terms correctly to myself, and cut myself some slack. See post title Dress and Dag. If the outfit arises from my own desires, and is what I want to wear during a given activity, can I call it daggy? If I constantly call my outfits daggy, am I having a go at myself? Putting myself down?

Such a big topic! One I will be exploring all my life I'm sure. But these were a few (!) of my thoughts today.

'Til next time, keep creating (from within),
Jazzy Jack


  1. Really profound thoughts on style. Those who don'y pay any attention to their style i think they miss on so much fun they can have everyday. I feel I agree with your philosophy and I find your style theatrical as in you tell a story with what you wear. You want to unite different pieces and tell your story and this is a kind of art. I feel an artist, too as i arrange my outfit of the day.

    1. Thanks Kelly. You understand! Yes, I do feel clothing is part of my artistic expression, and I am a performer, so not surprised it comes across as theatrical :-) I feel your joy as you express your creativity in your outfit of the day. Thanks for stopping by!

  2. Good to see you expressing yourself so eloquently .D

  3. I think what people mean when say things like that to you, is probably that you look so comfortable with your choice and confident, and if people know you (or "feel" your personality), your choice makes sense to them at some level. We often compare ourselves with others in one way or another, so another side of it is perhaps "YOU can pull it of, but I can't"...

    So many subtopics here, yes? I agree with you that for groups and subcultures it's a feeling of belonging. That is probably also true about fashion bloggers - the following trends thing. They like feeling of belonging to the club so to speak.

    I am also not a follower. I enjoy getting to know other people and I can get inspired by them, learning from them. But I cannot and don't even want to simply copy because I think something looks successful on someone else. I pretty much always do my own thing.

    I also would like to add to your wonderful post that we all have a creative side. Some people express themselves in cooking, writing, teaching, even accounting can be approached creatively! We pick those areas which matter to us for one reason or another and create in those areas. And when something doesn't matter to us personally that much, we sort of letting it just be there without much creativity. And it changes over time too.

    Thank you for the mentioning! Hugs! :)

    1. Yes, that is true, we all have a creative side. But some people have shut it down for whatever reason or don't even recognise it. I'm always sad when I hear people say they are not creative. Often I have to point it out because it has been stifled over time, or they have put "creative" in the box of art, music, or writing. My creative side is well expressed but much to some people's amazement does not extend to cooking! :-)

  4. Great post Jack! I found myself nodding my head as I read it. I just commented today to Angie/Kelly Roy that I think personal style is like a signature. I agree with what Natalia said about what people mean when they say you can get away with it but they can't. I think what they are often saying is that they like it on you, and see that it suits you but it would not suit them. Not suiting them doesn't mean they don't appreciate it on you. Sometimes there are other issues involved when someone says that, often to do with their own body image. They may believe they are too old, too young, too fat or too thin to wear something.

    I also thing that females or people who outwardly appear female to the rest of the world are better able to publicly express their flexible gender through clothing. A female can wear men's clothes and be considered simply eccentric or stylishly into menswear. A male wearing a frilly dress in public is possibly in physical danger. I think it's great that you are going to leave Bushy to dress how he chooses, even if he does things that you think are faux pas. That takes great insight and strength I think because many women attempt to dress or complain about the clothes of their husbands. My ex could dress himself just fine but he always wanted me to shop with him and help select his clothes. When we separated he sought out a female friend to do this and help him look more up to date. Once he owned the clothes he knew perfectly well how to put them together on his body. I suspect that having a woman help select his clothing felt like a form of craing and nurturing to him.
    Not everybody dresses to express creativity. Some people dress to express that they couldn't be bothered with clothes. I have a female friend who wears baggy jeans, black sneakers and plaid flannel shirts year round. She may add a sweatshirt in colder weather. She has carried the same purse for the past thirty years. Clothes are to cover your body and keep you warm in her mind. she has other things she wants to think about. Her daughter loves clothes and enjoys dressing nicely. She completely supports her daughter's perspective and shops for her or with her.

    You mentioned uniforms mainly in the context of something one wears to work, but I have noticed there is also the use of the term uniform applied to personal style. Someone might ask, what is your personal uniform and by that they mean what is your go-to style. The answer is often something like, 'I usually wear skinny jeans with boots' or 'I am most comfortable in a vintage maxi-dress.' For people with a very definable style like that, their preferences get called their uniform. I suspect my uniform is skirt and sweater.

    What a huge topic. Just come on over for coffee and we can chat about it for hours!

    1. Thanks for your additional thoughts! Yes, I have noticed the use of uniform as shorthand personal style. I forgot about that. Not sure I have one, but because of Irritable Bowel Syndrome, I hardly ever wear belts on my waist and always wear flats! I know, I would love to chat with you on many topics :-) but at least we have this forum.

    2. Perhaps your style can be called colourful layers. :-)

  5. What an interesting essay! Really enjoyed reading it. I think when people say that "you can pull it off" they mean that you really feel comfortable in those things you wear, that the look reflects your personality and is good on you. But they are different from you and would perhaps feel awkward wearing those clothes and so they "can't pull it off".
    I don't usually tell my husband what to wear but he does like to ask my opinion. And if I don't like something he would not wear it. Mmm, except for one leather jacket that I really hate but he loves it so much that ignores my opinion in this case :)


If a topic has special significance for you, or touches you in some way, I'd love to hear your story! I will return the favour and we will gently touch hands across the miles...or kilometres :-)