Aesthetics Should Go Out of Style

Why we shouldn’t limit ourselves to being one thing

Ever since I can remember, I was a girl who loved her magazines. I started out with the American Girl and Discovery Girl magazines when I was in elementary and middle school; then I graduated to Seventeen and Teen Vogue the moment I became an official high schooler. A common theme of the fashion portions of these magazines were to put names to certain styles of dress. Back in the day, most of us were only aware of broad categories such as “Boho”, “Preppy”, “Sporty”, “Girly”, or “Edgy” (it’s giving me Spice Girls wannabes). Naturally, you’d feel compelled to identify with one style as you developed a sense of fashion.

But as social media took over the lives of us Gen-Zers in the 2010s, it became almost crucial to the maturation process that in order to establish an identity, you had to pick from a list of pre-determined aesthetics that dominated different corners of the internet. It was especially important to those who enjoyed expressing themselves through fashion and style.

I, along with many others, agonized over what aesthetic fit me best. I thought that I needed to identify which one I was quickly so that I would have a solid sense of self moving forward in my life. But as a mutable Pisces and a young person with too many great choices, I often bounced around from aesthetic to aesthetic. I understood that as I grew up and changed, my style would as well — but still, being on social media made me want to present myself in a perfectly identifiable package…a brand. I believed that doing so would make things easier for me in the long run when it came to my identity.

Not only is branding ourselves completely unnatural, it’s also limiting and unsustainable. Brands can’t really change up the essence of what they are, even as culture evolves. But trying to keep that up as a normal person can be stressful because then you start to feel like you aren’t allowed to change your style and interests on a whim. Where’s the fun in that?

Aesthetic choice extends beyond fashion choices these days, which adds to the stress. This is because committing to one aesthetic often means changing the way you decorate your private living space, the media you consume, and even the people you associate with. Aesthetics have become a full-on lifestyle choice that a lot of young people internalize and can take very seriously.

I know that identifying your aesthetic via easily Pinterest-able phrases like “cottagecore” or “y2k” can be convenient and fun. It’s incredibly interesting how these different internet characters have come to materialize out of the minds of young adults and teenagers. But there’s always the side of things where it all starts to get a little stifling. Like everything on the internet, the aesthetics dilemma is a double-edged sword.

Allowing ourselves to fluctuate and change — to be humans rather than brands or hollow aesthetics — is probably the most interesting style choice we could make nowadays. We’re all multifaceted and ever-evolving, especially when we’re young. Perhaps embracing this nature could unleash a new level of creativity within internet culture.

Personally, I think it’s more fun to dip into all kinds of fashion trends and interests to cultivate our own unique styles, ones that are unequivocally ourselves. That’s what any trendsetter or style icon in history has done.

Plus, [teen magazine writer voice] you’ll never be caught wearing the same outfit as someone else — a faux pas if I’ve ever heard one!

Needing some fashion inspiration beyond your Pinterest feed? Check out my post 5 Fresh Style Youtubers That Make Dress-Up Sound Fun Again here!

writer, poet, + tarot reader. I write personal essays, poetry, and whatever else I feel like. get to know me on Twitter: @autumnj4nelle

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