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Style Culture


Style is a very individual thing. We all have one, and what motivates our style is as different as we all our individually.

Style can be expressed in a number of different ways – by the clothes we wear, the cars we drive, the neighborhoods we live in and the way we interact with people. Style is always an external thing. We may have our own style of doing things, but that’s not our style – at least, not completely.

Basically, style boils down to two goals; do you want to attract attention to yourself, or deflect it away. Those with loud, obnoxious styles are in the former group. They drive cars that can’t be ignored – sports cars, big SUVs, big trucks, Hummers – and are often outgoing and gregarious. They dress provocatively, either in a sexual fashion or in a humorous way – with t-shirts that say outrageous things, or big, bold colors.

Some of us prefer not to be the center of attention so we drive cars that blend in with the crowd – sedans, mini-vans, and so on. These are people who are quiet, often shy, and tend to hang out on the periphery of a room. They dress to disguise perceived flaws in their bodies, weight issues or just plain un-self-confidence. These sorts prefer earth tones and muted colors.

Much of what dictates our style is our confidence in ourselves. Those of us who are comfortable in our own skins will lean towards the first group; those of us who feel like we don’t quite belong our in the second group.

Of course, there are many sub-groups within each group. There are those to whom money is a guiding factor, for example. In the first group, they will be brash risk-takers who will often be willing to cut corners to get what they desire. In the second group, they will be hard workers who will put in the effort to get the right kind of degree, then get a job where they can work their way to the top. There are risk-takers in the second group, but not often; people who don’t have confidence in themselves will rarely have confidence in their own decisions, so they’ll rarely take risks unless backed into a corner.

There are also those who actually belong in one group but appear to be in the second. Some of the Type A personalities, as we like to call them, try to avoid calling attention to themselves, whether because they have achieved a certain level of fame and want some privacy, or they are trying to avoid notice for whatever reason. People who achieve fame almost always belong to the first group – those who abhor attention will tend to avoid professions in which attention is a byproduct of the job.

There are also those in the second group who may appear to be outgoing and flirtatious, but really believe themselves to be unattractive and try to use sex as a means of validating their attractiveness to their preferred sex. They almost always wind up in abusive relationships because deep down, they don’t believe they deserve any better.

Some people choose a style because they want to achieve a sense of belonging. Often people who don’t want to be noticed will try to blend in with their surroundings; that may mean dressing in a way that everyone is dressing. After all, if purple hair became the fashion statement of the day and the majority of people dyed their hair purple, those who don’t want to stand out will dye their hair purple too. Sometimes, style is merely in the perception of what is popular.

When we are young and I mean teenager-young, we haven’t developed our styles yet and we tend to make our style whatever blends in with the group we most identify with. As we grow older, some of us will create our own style regardless of what people think; these people are called individualists and tend to be frowned upon by the masses, at least here in America. Belonging is a very important cultural aspect of our lives here, and people who don’t fit in are regarded with suspicion.

That’s just fine with some. In fact, they revel in the distrust of others; it validates their need to be themselves and in the process, attracts attention. In a sense, these people have a lot of the first group in them, but often they are a small but significant group of people who really don’t give a damn what others think of them. They are sort of a cross between group one and group two; essentially they don’t mind the attention but they prefer to be left alone.

Then there is a fourth group, the one I like to think I belong to. My style is to be comfortable with my own skin but eager to improve myself not just physically but mentally and emotionally as well. For me, personal growth is the motivation for most of what I do, and there are plenty of people like me. I’m not particularly interested in fashion; I dress comfortably but that doesn’t mean I don’t like to look good. I’m flirtatious and outgoing with those in my circle, but reserved with people I don’t know well. In a sense I’m a bit bipolar – I like attention but I don’t like seeking it out, so a lot of people will look on the surface and plug me into the second group, but those that know me put me directly into the first group. I suppose to a certain extent, that’s the type of thing that doesn’t really matter much in the end.

But in a way, it does. We tend to judge people based solely on their style; after all, our style tends to inform the way we present ourselves and how we look is how others perceive us. While for the most part we all want to be perceived as attractive and will do at least the basics to look presentable, there are those in the third group who frankly don’t care and won’t even do that. Some of that can be attributed to laziness but in a very real sense it can just as easily be a challenge thrown out at the world – like me if you dare.

Our styles define who we are to a very real extent and we all spend a great deal of our lives cultivating it. Some in the sense of looking for the most efficient ways of attracting attention, others to finding a place where they can feel they belong. We find things to do that pass the time and help us define ourselves; some of us do that through online socializing, gaming, exercising, hanging out in bars and nightclubs, or through any sort of hobby be it needlepoint, stamp collecting, hang gliding, attending the opera or blogging. For many, it isn’t so much the activity that defines us so much as the socializing that comes with it.

That’s the rub of the matter. Humans crave the company of others for the most part; we need it to validate ourselves. Of course, there are always those who are exceptions – Greta Garbo wanted to be alone, and so she was and that seemed to make her happy. However, the rest of us choose to seek out the company of others, be it to validate our attractiveness or even to validate ourselves as humans.

The last thing that makes up our style is our actions and the way we treat others. Some people use others for their own needs and discard them when their needs are met. Others form deep, strong friendships with a very few and tend to stick with just them. Still others like as many people around them and reach out as much as possible.

Some people treat people with civility and dignity; others let their passions overrule that and say whatever is on their mind without thought or reason. Some people treat others with hostility and distrust; others are open and trusting of everyone.

For my own part I tend to be a big believer in the Golden Rule – treat others the way you would like to be treated. It’s the Rule that informs things like common courtesy and good manners which tend to go out the window with the anonymity of the Internet informing our actions these days.

But the main thing is that your style is your own, and nobody can tell you that it’s good, bad or indifferent – it’s yours, its part of who you are. We can change our styles, sure – that’s part of what growth and change are about. We can rarely change the perception of others however, so even if we change our styles, the opinions of others who are acquainted with us tend to rarely follow, slowly if at all. The main thing about style is it tells people who you are. Be aware that you are sending the message out that you want others to receive, but otherwise be yourself. After all, you’re pretty damn awesome!

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