Here it is: the finale of my series “How to Think About Style.” Today, we’ll cover how to build your own personal taste into the personal style we’ve developed in Part I, Part II, and Part III

New to the series? Get caught up with earlier articles at the links above!

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Last week, in Part IV of this series, we discussed the psychological origins of taste to help you understand the outsized pull of your personal desires. We then cultivated our personal tastes through the “inspiration album” exercise to gain a better idea of what we like. Part IV then concluded with some ways to mitigate deleterious outside influences in order to authentically express yourself.

In this article, we’ll apply the knowledge we developed last week to the buying decision with the goal of constructively building your personal taste into your style, the style framework we discussed in Parts I-III. The result: a wardrobe cemented in style, but tailored to your unique, individual preferences. 

Sound good? Then let’s begin.

Same as before, it’s as simple as putting the style framework before your impulsive tendencies. When it comes time for the final decision, emotion-driven personal taste is irreplaceable. However, to avoid disappointment and clothing waste, there are a few steps to consider between taste-driven interest and actually buying a garment. Checking that the object of your true desires would actually mesh with the wardrobe you’ve developed is the single best way to channeling your impulses into clothing that supports you looking your best. Following the order of posts in the series, think about the following next time you find something you love:

One: does it fit?

If it doesn’t fit, stop here. Bar none. Nothing else matters.

Remember the definition of fit: garments that are cut to a body type that complements a designer's vision. Both of the above outfits fit.

Remember the definition of fit: garments that are cut to a body type that complements a designer's vision. Both of the above outfits fit.

Two: what contexts does it fit?

This is an economic argument, plain and simple. As a general guidance for buy/don’t buy, the intensity with which you love something is indirectly proportional to how versatile it is. Unless your admiration for that printed outerwear burns white hot, you should probably pass.

Left: versatile if conventional. Right: lovable, but fit fewer contexts.

Left: versatile if conventional. Right: lovable, but fit fewer contexts.

Three: does it complement your wardrobe’s color palette?

Be honest here, and don’t play in hypotheticals. This one specific piece in isolation won’t springboard a wardrobe revamp unless you’ve specifically thought about – and planned – said refresh. If you’ve got a closet full of earth tones, there’s an outsized chance that the saturated pink blouse you loved on the mannequin will be relegated to “I always feel like I should wear this more” status once you take it home.

Both outfits above demonstrate wardrobe integration: a bolder statement piece complements the palette worn, and so, looks really goddamn cool. Zigzag Nike Blazers = grail tier.  

Both outfits above demonstrate wardrobe integration: a bolder statement piece complements the palette worn, and so, looks really goddamn cool. Zigzag Nike Blazers = grail tier.  

Four: why do you like it?

If you’ve passed all the above criteria, the final step is considering your attachment to the good in question as a whole. Do you like the graphic? The message? The brand? The perceived social benefits you’d get from being trendy or cool? And more importantly, why?

Full disclosure: I bought Nike SFB's because of this pic of Shia LaBeouf. I didn't hesitate, either - seriously, this photo is crispy.

Full disclosure: I bought Nike SFB's because of this pic of Shia LaBeouf. I didn't hesitate, either - seriously, this photo is crispy.

At this step, any hesitation means death. You can rationalize yourself into anything with enough time. On the contrary, a pass here means a green light so bright that even Gatsby’s ghost couldn’t miss it.

Finally, make the purchase decision. Scan, swipe, click, Bitcoin, whatever - just buy your perfect garment already! The universe demands it.

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While it may sound esoteric, going through this due diligence ensures that your clothing is something that you categorically prefer, and more importantly, that it could be incorporated into the wardrobe you already have. The process of identifying your taste through the creation and analysis of inspiration albums, adjusting for the influences of your environment and the advertising it contains, then finally applying the style framework to your shopping decision leaves you with a personal style that’s distinctly your own.

Written out, this routine is anathema to the fun and flit popularly associated with fashion. One final note: this exercise only sucks at first. With practice, every single piece of the above becomes reflex. The irony of calling this series “How to Think About Style” is that following my advice will eventually turn you off of discretely thinking about style: the same way F1 drivers don’t actively think as they hit 6G turns, you too will develop instincts related to your personal style.

With the thoughts contained in this series as a base, those instincts will be allowed to develop in a way that’s true to who you are – not towards the false sunlight of celebrity endorsements and marketing influencers. Many well-dressed people will even disagree with some of the methods explain throughout, claiming divine inspiration rather than any sort of anti-romance as Draconian as (gasp) thinking. I’m here to tell you that this is either an ignorant lack of meta-cognition ("that's cute") or willful packaging of fashion’s image to a gullible public ("this is cute #sponcon). Or, if they're a Kardashian-Jenner, perhaps it's both.

Point being: don't listen to them.

As I said in Part I of this series, fashion is merely the visible ends of the personal style framework in action. By explaining some of the fundamentals of style then walking you through some strategies to augment those fundamentals with your own individual personality, I hope to have at least shone on a light on a subject that’s all too often left in the darkness: how to build a truly authentic personal style.

Before long, you won’t be tripping over fit advice as you try on this season’s outerwear. Instead, it will be instinct; the swish of a hanger; the thrill of discovery; the satisfaction of effortless style. Dressing well in a rush will be as easy as oversleeping an alarm before 9am lab. You’ll even look great doing it. Best of all, it will be wholly and uniquely yours.

Over the past five weeks, we’ve learned how to think about style: now, go out and do it. Thanks for reading.

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That's the series. Did you enjoy the piece? The concept of the series? Anything you think I could clarify or otherwise improve? If you have feedback, please leave a comment below or on my Facebook page here.

New to the series? Racked by nostalgia? Or even just want a refresher? Ceck out Part I: How Clothing FitsPart II: Context, Inside and OutPart III: Color Palettes, and Part IV: Cultivating Personal Taste here on the blog. Until next time.

 

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