Are We Witnessing the Death of Personal Style?

By Alexandra Smith, Chief Culture Editor

In an era of influencers and fast fashion apps like Project September and Stitch Fix, what does it mean to have “personal style?” While Leandra Medine of Man Repeller argues in her article “We’re In It: The Era of Personal Style — but What Does That Mean?,”  that “trends are dead” and “no longer do members of the upper echelon dictate what we want to wear so much as they do respond to our hankerings,” I tend to believe that our access to social media and the lifestyles of the rich and famous actually make it more difficult to express your individuality through your wardrobe. In fact, the abduction of streetwear trends by brands like Vetements or even Gucci, which are then executed by influencers like Bella Hadid, commodify the individuality that people we see walking down the street express through the way they dress themselves.

No one event represents this more than the rise of the Kardashians. Can anyone who’s even vaguely familiar with the show forget Kim’s style in the year 2007? Her closet was undoubtedly full of Ed Hardy hats, Juicy Couture sweatsuits and Herve Leger dresses—actually, there still may be a few of those in there. Fast forward to the AK (after-Kanye) years; she dresses in full monochrome, subtle jewelry, and sneakers. Even though you can’t blame someone who’s been in the spotlight for 10 plus years for taking a little bit of time to discover her own personal style, Kim herself has even said that her “vibe” changes like the weather. And she, along with her sisters, are arguably the biggest influencers on the planet.

In case you think that influencers don’t actually “influence,” Forbes reports that 92 percent of consumers trust an influencer more than they trust an advertisement and $255 million is spent each month on influencer marketing. Major companies are shelling out millions of dollars to get people like Kendall Jenner to post, or merely be seen in their clothes. This eerily reminds me of the “Mean Girls” line, One time I saw Cady Heron wearing army pants and flip flops. So I bought army pants and flip flops.”

Now, contrast that with a person like Solange, or a fictional character like Carrie Bradshaw. They quite literally wear things that you or I wouldn’t even think of. Pieces of clothing are put together without an underlying anxiety about whether or not this is something that was more in style two months ago. Carrie Bradshaw’s idgaf attitude about what the girls on Instagram are wearing is exactly the reason she’s an icon. Here, Leandra Medine and I are on the same page:

When Carrie Bradshaw shows up at a janky wedding dress shop in a button down shirt tied into a crop top with a gingham skirt and a matching belt fastened around her bare waist, no one knows if that outfit was determined in 1999 or 2016,” explains Leandra. “And that’s because she lives the look.

So even though no one wants to dress like a mom who hasn’t updated her wardrobe since the mid 80s, for the rest of 2017 and beyond I am going to try to forget about the trends and just “live the look.”