The Lowest Common Denominator of Style
Updated: Apr 30, 2020
Welcome to the first post of 2020 for Making Sense out of Style :)
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 style is, 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?
A couple of years ago, 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 of the many ways you can think about what style is. I'm calling it the Lowest Common Denominator view:
2. Doing X
3. To produce 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, it's a behavior. This tells me it’s a verb.
What also becomes clear is that style is something we make. It’s the outcome of our “doing”. It’s the product of our doing. So, it’s also a noun.
(Betcha didn’t think we’d be doing Math and English language class here 😜)
And last but not least, let’s consider the “you” in the equation. The one who does the doing and possesses 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 highlights that style and all that it means is a unique practice and has a unique outcome. It’s ok that 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.
So, the lowest common denominator view actually gives a lot of insight into what style is about. There is a lot to unpack here! I hope to come back to this another time and build on some of these ideas.
Until then, let me know what some of your takeaways are. I've been embracing the idea that I can actually do this because I have been doing this! So can you :)