There is an undeniable development in the man’s world of today where style is becoming an intrinsic part of our daily lives. It’s not just men’s fashion, but a collective notion of aesthetical thoughts, ranging from interior design to watch making. Of course, the most evident developments are in men’s fashion where the earlier androgynous revolutions in the haute couture are finding their way into our closet: the silhouette is tightened, the look is sensualised and traditional craftsmanship has regained its epicentral position in the regards of both designers as well as consumers. There is a need to style our environment, to define a look and translate it to our surrounding and ourselves, whether this is a passing trend or a new landmark for the modern man.

It is beautiful to see an elaborate vision of style immaculately translated. The result in this case is a perfectly balanced picture with synergy between its different elements. One of the best examples is undoubtedly designer Tom Ford’s director debut “A Single Man”; a crafted picture with a consistent aesthetical vision. Another good example is Hedi Slimane’s haute-couture oeuvre where beauty is found, created and translated from the smallest design detail to the pinpoint construction of the runway set. The result in both examples is the achievement of perfect beauty.

The discussion around style, its meaning and definition is common and the tired, sometimes blatant use of the word in today’s magazines and blogs might dilute its significance. But there is a great lesson to be learned if one is willing to dig deeper, to breakdown the term and reconstruct its stripped elements for a clear, primitive understanding. Especially if you’re an artist and/or working in a creative business, defining what style is may offer a helpful, basic departure for your work process. But before we can answer the question of style, we first need to free the term from its pure sartorial connotations (style is not just about fashion and accessories) and understand it in a broader, general perspective. Furthermore, it is important to note that the analysis of this article departs with an objective definition of the term; style in this article doesn’t mean stylish. So the question remains: what is style?

A search for beauty

Style is about arranging. From fashion designers to architects to creative directors and tasteful consumers, the creation (not the adoption) of style is a process of production, selection, arrangement and presentation; a process that generally consists of two components: a natural, artistic vision or feeling (irrational) and a deep knowledge in and experience of the specific domain and of life in general (rational). It is the rational element, one’s knowledge of textures, materials, combinations, traditions, techniques, etcetera, and the experience therein that enable an immaculate translation of the natural, irrational, artistic vision.

In this regard, one can interpret style as a total, multi-disciplinary work, where a magnitude of artistic output meet to create a single look, an extensive, but unambiguous and consistent communication to the audience. It is the creation of the perfect picture that requires little to no effort to be grasped. Interpreting the above in more aesthetical terms, one can say that Style is a conclusive answer to a search for beauty.

Tom Ford’s A Single Man carried a legion of details that together drew the picture that the director probably envisioned. From the silhouettes of the cast to the photographic arrangement of the interior; it all made perfect sense. The same could be said about nearly all of Woody Allen’s movies and drawing the line beyond the realm of film we see spotless renditions of style in retail (Abercrombie & Fitch store, Fifth Ave, NYC), in opera (Robert Wilson’s “Der Freischütz”) and video games (nearly all Final Fantasy games).
Whether it is creation or selection, finding and creating beauty is an ever-evolving, layered process. Evidently however, for style to be translated, it needs to be created first and to create style, one needs a thorough (temporary) conclusion of what is beautiful. One should not miss the point that style is style because it is unambiguous and to achieve unambiguity, all elements of the communication need to be consistent.

So what does this mean in practice?

For those who are in the process of understanding (their) style and creating a comprehensive look through their work or through their expressiveness, the above theory can help put things in order. Human beings are complex beings with many, sometimes paradoxical needs, wants and tastes, which are furthermore ever-evolving and influenceable. In trying to translate what we think is beautiful to an unknown audience we naturally define ourselves through the result of our work. Style is created once the totality of that work is consistent. Sometimes we succeed therein effortlessly and sometimes we fail, because either we’re still searching for our definition of beauty or we lack the experience and knowledge to translate our vision.

My personal learning from the above is that until one finds such an answer, the focus of the work in general or the arrangement can shift from the bigger picture, the overall look and feel, style, branding, to the individual piece of work. Understanding that for style to be created and perfectly translated, one needs an extensive self-definition of beauty exposes that a shortfall therein means that one is still searching. Reassured, the focus of the work can then solely and entirely shift to making the next individual piece of work an answer to the search for beauty. The artist will just have to trust that the bigger picture, if there is any, can or will be consistent because the source of the work is one and the same.