The Lowest Common Denominator of Style
Updated: May 11
Months ago, when I told my son the name of my blog, he just looked at me and said “I don’t get it!
I thought it sounded pretty clear. But to be honest, as someone who just needs to get dressed everyday, there are times I feel like I don’t get it either. Maybe it’s been a “can’t see the forest for the trees” kind of thing. If that’s the case, I’d like to step back and look at the forest. We can always go back to looking at the trees later.
So, when you’re trying to understand what having style means, where do you start? I think it's been stumping me because I make it too complicated. There's so many different kinds of trees in this forest. I get distracted and lose my way. What is this forest that I always seem to get lost in?
While on vacation, my husband and I were on an airport shuttle sitting across from a group of women who were talking about style. I heard one of them say, “I don’t have time for style, I just want to be comfortable!”
My ears perked up when I heard what they were talking about. I couldn’t help but sneak a quick glance. She was in jeans, sneakers, and a hoodie. Yep, her look was all about comfort. She appeared to be in her mid forties and was a busy mom on a girls weekend trip.
Her comment really stuck with me. What was she saying style was?
1. Not something she had
2. Not something she had time for
Years ago, I complimented a friend on the bright and cheery top she was wearing. It was a happy kind of shirt. She told me that she always asks for Marshall’s and TJ Maxx gift cards for her birthday and Christmas. Whatever she received was her clothing budget for the year. Then she laughed and said in bemused disbelief, “Are you saying you like my style, Jen?!”
I did! It was so….her. Fun and cheery. Bubbly and happy.
My friend thought that style was:
1. Not something she had
2. Not something she was doing “how it should be done”
Here were two women who were getting dressed in their own unique way and yet neither one thought they had “style”. One thought that a desire for comfort and having a lack of time meant she couldn’t attain it, while the other assumed that limited resources and places to shop excluded her from it as well.
These two women have helped me see one way you can think about what style is. It's like finding the Lowest Common Denominator.
2. Doing X
3. To get Y
Yep, it’s true that style is more complicated than this, but in the most simple way possible, this is what’s going on. We can look at a lot of things we do in this way. So, right off the bat, it makes me realize that style is something we do, so that tells me it’s a verb.
What also jumps out is that style is something we make. It’s what we get for our “doing”, so it’s also a noun.
(Betcha didn’t think we’d be going back to the stuff of Math and English lessons here 😜)
And last but not least, there's a “you” in the equation. The one who does the doing and gets the end product:
1. You are very much involved in this process whether you approach it with a lot of conscious effort or not. You just can’t take “you” out of the equation. That tells me that style and all that it means is a unique practice and has a unique outcome. Your style won’t be quite the same as someone else’s! Let's expect that.
2. “You” means all of us! All that’s necessary to qualify for this is the need to get dressed. So, no matter who you are and how you do it, you do style and you have it too. Like me, you may still be trying to figure it all out, but whatever you have going on right now that isn't perfect doesn't mean you're somehow disqualified.
I've been embracing the idea that I can actually do this because I have been doing this!
I hope that will give you the confidence that you can too :)