TREND: UnFashion

There is fashion — the whirlwind of media, models, and marketing that spins endlessly — and there is style. Fashion is a huge machine that is largely fueled by the mass production of uninspired garments. Fashion is an industry, a culture, a monster of its own continual reinvention. Somewhere within that world is a tiny spark that makes this all worthwhile. That little glimmer is style.

But style itself mocks the whole game. Because style, unlike fashion, is simple and enduring. It is about inspiration, panache, and poise. It is the intersection of humor and self-respect.

This young man sums it all up better than I can. He is a sophomore from New York City studying chemistry here at Cornell. His outfit is unremarkable to someone looking for fashion: cargo shorts, bright red polo shirt, slip-on sneakers, backpack. But if it’s style you are looking for, this is it.

Style is about successfully communicating personal thoughts into public sartorial displays. These shoes are a good example. These were his own Tae-Kwon-Do competition sneakers that he hand-painted with Asian motifs when he retired from the sport a few years back because of injury. He was hoping to commemorate his time learning martial arts by bringing his utilitarian footwear into everyday dressing. The silhouette could pass for Puma or similar track shoes, but the coloration is surprisingly bold and graphic, with a different color block from every angle.

His normal black backpack also reflects his quietly bold personal style, with a big white plush shark tucked in next to his leather Bible, both for good luck and wisdom. What I so appreciated about this Fashionisto was his unassuming, low-key approach to making strong little statements with his clothing. Again, he hits that point between self-respect and humor, bringing in playful touches here and there, but keeping everything appropriate for his body and lifestyle. This is not college fashion, this is college style.



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