How Instagram Ruined Personal Style

This is an edition of the newsletter Pulling Weeds With Chris Black, in which the columnist weighs in on hot topics in culture. Sign up here to get it in your inbox every Thursday.

This week’s Pulling Weeds is inspired by GQ’s new 59 Dos and Don’ts for Getting Dressed Right Now.

Real personal style died with the rise of Instagram. Plenty of people still look great, but the barrage of inspirational images, ease of consumption, and overabundance of trends and styles (often quickly duplicated by fast-fashion giants) have changed the landscape. We are now focused on “pieces”—buying the one, often high-dollar item—that will make us feel good and give us the instant gratification we need. But style, as I see it, takes years to develop and refine. The guys I admire often kept it classic, staying within a particular lane that worked for them. Bryan Ferry wasn’t wearing flared Levi’s, Glenn O’Brien wasn’t strolling Bond Street in Gucci slides, and when Liam Gallagher experimented with his famous long white parka and other heady looks, he pulled them off through sheer confidence and commitment.

Look at a few dozen pictures of these guys, as I have, and you’ll see that what they ultimately aspire to is consistency. Knowing and being comfortable with yourself—and being able to telegraph that through personal style—is easier said than done, but we should all strive for it. Start by setting guardrails, boundaries, limits. Not everything is for everyone. Appreciating something and wearing it are two different things. I think Jacob Elordi looks great carrying a Bottega Veneta purse to the gym. But he is 6’5”, a very famous actor, and he is not governed by our rules. Self-policing will help prevent missteps. If you think something might be over the top, ask a trusted (and stylish) friend who will keep it real with you. You can experiment without taking it too far and find what works for you.

Logos are, more often than not, the enemy. We have become obsessed with the logos on our clothing because we think it shows our wealth or taste. Walking around as a billboard is never great, but it’s even worse when it costs a small fortune. The age-old rule of not letting the clothes wear you comes into play here. “Quiet luxury” was a fake trend spawned by people who liked a television show too much. You can wear beautiful, simple clothing and make a statement, but it should be a subtle one.

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