Someone once said that style is a form of limitation. By this, I
take it to mean that Lady Gaga probably wouldnt do well on a
camping trip in her raw meat dress or one of her spacegirl suits
because her style has placed limits on what she can do in a
practical sense - like canoeing or pitching a tent.
Similarly, the goth duo of Kynt Cothron and Vyxsin Fiala featured on
this seasons Amazing Race made for great TV. But in practical terms,
they were given second chances and unfair opportunities to catch up
over and over again because theyve opted for a dumb & dumberer
lifestyle that works well in the tightly confined, suburban cocoon of
the goth world, but doesnt take you very far in the real one.
Most of us probably dont think much about our sense of style. We
hammered out our fashion sense during our late teens-early 20s and
stuck with it, tweaking our hair or clothing as we grew up (another
term for got more boring).
Yet style is a force that makes the world spin round, and this being our
annual Spring Style issue, were here to pay tribute.
Style matters. When theres a drop-off in retail, the bad news sends
the stock market plummeting and people lose their jobs -- not just here
but all around the world. On the other hand, a gritty new underdog
style is helping to lift Chrysler -- and hopefully Detroit -- out of
its doldrums. The payoff is more jobs.
Style fills the 400-800 pages of Vogue each month with whimsical
outfits that few women seem to wear outside of teenage proms. But the
prom dress industry rakes in more than $1 billion per year, selling
frocks ranging from $150 to $3,000.
One‘s personal style can lead to stereotyping: If you see a guy in
leathers with a bandanna doo-rag tied around his head at a rock bar,
you might imagine that hes into metal and has the Best of Iron Maiden
on his iPod. Meanwhile, the guy with the Life is Good t-shirt was
probably dressed by his girlfriend and digs the jam-band scene. But
experience shows that neither may be the case... Maybe they‘re both
rocket scientists and classical pianists.
On the other hand, style has been called the dress of thoughts
because we use it to make statements about who we are. A person with
lots of tattoos and piercings seems to be saying, Ive given up on
trying to establish a career in an office or as a professional, but I
can still be somebody by drawing lots of edgy designs on myself.
When I see a man tricked out in full biker regalia with all of the
skulls, chains and demon iconography, I dont see a tough guy; I see:
a.) a fun-loving guy who‘s playing dress-up, like a kid playing pirate;
or b.) a deeply frightened individual who is wearing a fetish outfit in
hopes of keeping what he perceives to be a scary world at bay. A person
who needs to belong to a gang to feel safe.
Yet even innocuous styles can be controversial. A New York Times
article, “Why Can‘t Middle Aged Women Have Long Hair?“ lit up the blogs
last fall by calling attention to what women say about the sensual side
of themselves when they opt for short hair cuts in middle age. Movie
stars and models almost universally opt for shoulder length hair or
You cant hide your style. Here in Northern Michigan, we can spot a
tourist walking down the street by subtle cues: the pastel shorts, the
too-nice shirt, the new sneakers.
On the other hand, not having any style at all is a style unto itself
and can be a form of camouflage. The “glass of water“ style. Why is it
that John Hinckley types and captured serial killers often look like
clean-cut choirboys in the Dexter mode? Boston Strangler Albert DeSalvo
gained entry to his victims homes by looking like a regular nice guy.
Speaking of camouflage, some of the meanest men I ever met affected a
preppy, well-groomed style that concealed a hatred for women. They
were highly attractive individuals in the Ken doll mode whod be the
first choice in any eHarmony dating lineup until their unfortunate
partners got to know them beyond the depths of skin deep.
Personally, I wear my hair long even though it tends to look like hell.
I grew it to honor my sister who died young in order to make a Locks
of Love contribution. Then I had some fanciful idea of being in the
same hair club as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. Lately, I
keep it long because my wife likes it that way and because I enjoy
getting a haircut about as much as a cat likes a cold bath.
Other guys like to shave their heads. Great. Vive la difference, sez
I. If everyone looked like a hippie, a skinhead or a Ken or Barbie
doll, wed have the makings of fascism. Variations in style remind us
that its good to be different and to be respectful of others.
So, study our Spring Styles insert and indulge yourself. Go out and buy
yourself a new outfit, hairdo or tattoo. You deserve it, and youll be
doing the heroic work of keeping our economy afloat.