A Lesson in Style

Photo by Candida Performa.

This simple thought exercise is a powerful lesson in style, and how it affects our feelings and perceptions.

You're walking down the street, when you see a good looking person. S/he looks smart, confident, happy, someone you'd love to get to know.

Do you smile?

Do you start a conversation?

Now, consider what you'd do--and how you would change--under the following circumstances:

  1. You're wearing a pair of old pants, an oversized shirt with a stain on the front, and ratty running sneakers. You haven't had a haircut in six months. You didn't wash your face that morning, or brush your teeth.
  2. You're coming back from a party, or a wedding, and wearing a "dressy" outfit that doesn't quite fit right. Your hair is done up, but it feels stiff. You don't feel, or look, like yourself.
  3. You're wearing a well-fitting dress shirt, slacks, and dress shoes. You just had your hair cut, and it looks great; someone complimented it just the other day. You showered and shaved that morning, and whatever bath products you used are still subtly wafting off of your skin. If you're wearing makeup, you're only wearing what you feel comfortable in.

Tinkerbell hasn't sprinkled any magic dust. Your bone structure, weight, muscle tone, zits, scars, and so on are the same in each scenario. So are hers/his. But which scenario would lead you to talking to Ms./Mr. Gorgeous? If s/he brushed you off, would you react differently?

Now imagine the scenario reversed. You are walking down the street, looking your best, when you see someone heading the other direction. They smile at you and ask you a question.

Do you stop and try to initiate a conversation?

Do you volunteer to help them?

Do you smile?

Cute boy crossing by Bob Bobster.

How you feel depends, to a large degree, on how other people treat you. When your outfit flatters you, when your hair looks nice, when you're clean, people tend to treat you better, which makes you feel better. When you feel better, you enjoy life more, and enjoyment shows. Thus, people want to be around you more. It's a feedback loop.

Somebody reading this is thinking "But that's not fair!" They feel shortchanged by their lack of looks or lack of funds. They embitter themselves over human nature; and in their bitterness they unconsciously make themselves less attractive. This lesson in style feels like a punishment; and they punish themselves. Another feedback loop.

Style is, as I've elsewhere described, an expression of your personality and philosophy. But even the sweetest, funniest person will make a bad first impression if they look sloppy or messy, for the same reason that the best poem in the world will not be read if it's on the world's worst myspace page.

This is your lesson in style: when you enjoy your style, when it flatters your body and your mind, you'll feel more comfortable with yourself. And other people will feel more comfortable with you. It's that simple.


Related Reading:

Style and Personality.


Woman on street photo by Candida Performa. Cute boy crossing photo by Bob Bobster. Both used under a CC Attribution license.

"Lesson in Style" is part of our What is Style introductory series.

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