What is Style?

What is style? Answer: Steve McQueen.

What is style? Put simply, it is the way something--anything--is done. There are no limits to how something can be expressed, designed or presented, whether that thing is a story, a staircase or a stiletto shoe.

You can't avoid style; it's impossible to do something without doing it in a certain way. Even the ingredients on a ketchup bottle are typed in a certain font and size, placed in one location and not another, perhaps with some euphemisms to disguise unsavory ingredients.

Every style expresses or amplifies an outlook on life, even if this outlook can't quite be put into words. To understand a style, you have to understand something of the mood, philosophy or aesthetic tendency behind it.

The Dictionary Definition

Style (noun)

  1. a manner of doing something: an understated style.
    • a way of building, painting, writing, composing, etc. characteristic of a particular period, place, person or movement.
    • a way of using language.
  2. a distinctive appearance.
    • a particular design of clothing.
    • a way of arranging the hair.
  3. Elegance and sophistication: An understated look with plenty of style.

(transitive verb)

  1. to design or make in a particular form: He styles himself as a male Madonna.

Source: The Oxford American Dictionary

So you see that style is much more than how you wear your clothes or your hair. A building, a poem, a painting, a fork, a voice, a chair, a car, a movie and a movie poster all have style.

On this website, we only cover style of dress and grooming. But now that you understand style, or at least its dictionary definition, you're much better prepared to create your own.

Style v. Fashion

A vintage fashion illustration.

Fashion fades, only style remains the same.
--Coco Chanel

This title is a bit misleading. There's no war, or lawsuit, between these two words. But there is a difference, even if their dictionary definitions are nearly identical. In today's usage, fashion is almost always used to describe clothing, especially clothing trends; the "fashion industry" refers to retailers, designers, and fashion media (journalists, models, photographers) who sell or promote clothing.

Fashion also means the popular style at a certain place and time. Something "fashionable" conforms to one or more popular norms; something "stylish" has a nice composition and flair. Though fashion may be used as a synonym for style ("in the Dutch fashion") it connotes popularity or trendiness.

That's why we cover "1920s fashion" and not "1920s style"--the latter subject deserves a doctorate, not a few pages on a website!

If you're still don't understand, I highly recommend Kinowear's article, "What Is Style? (A Deeper Analysis). Jae is a good writer, and he clearly outlines the relationship between inner and outer expression.

Moving Forward

Now you understand what style is, it's time to explore the deeper relationship between what we wear and who we are. The articles below will guide you and give you food for thought.

On Enjoying Your Style. A brief overview of the purpose of this website.

A Lesson in Style. A fun, five-minute thought exercise to help you understand the nature of style.

Style and Personality. What about you is expressed through your clothes? Can you "fake it 'till you make it"? Nope! Find out why not.

Conformism and Style. Understand how others shape and influence your tastes.


Return to Enjoy Your Style's home page.

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