51 The Subjectivity of Style

Eliza Jane Stamey

I dedicate this chapter to my mother Liza Stamey. My mother has inspired my personal style my entire life, because she is so unique and interesting. She is creative and a resourceful interior designer. My mother’s style is a representation of her attitude on life and her thoughts of beauty. She is not motivated to conform to trends because she knows who she is and she shares her identity in everything she does, with confidence.

Keywords: Versatility, Subjectivity, Attitudes, Expression


“Real style is never right or wrong, it’s a matter of being yourself on purpose” (Boyer). The term style is defined as a “particular manner or technique by which something is done, created, or performed” and “a distinctive manner or custom of behaving or conducting oneself” (Merriam-Webster 2021). The subjectivity of style is complex and unique to each individual. Style has always been important to me because I am very interested in fashion, art, and writing. With new trends emerging every day, it can be difficult for individuals to express their style because of the influences of social media and the pressures of fitting in with a certain group. Style is a form of self-expression, that displays an individual’s attitudes and thoughts.


I argue that style is subjective and that style should not be criticized for being right or wrong. The subjectivity of style allows each individual to express their personal feelings and tastes through how they behave. Style is unique to each person and should not be uniform. Whether it is writing style or one’s style of fashions it should not be dictated by anyone but an individual’s own preferences and opinions. The subjectivity of style is rhetorical and persuades individuals to stand out because innovation begins with thinking and acting outside of the box. Style is celebrating individuality which makes our world interesting and beautiful.


The popularity of social media today has changed our society’s concept of individuality. With filters and photoshop, the pictures all begin to look the same. The influx of similar posts creates a sense of normality. Outlets such as Instagram and Tik Tok display trends with encouragement for everyone to join in. In my opinion, the idea that similarity should be normality destroys individuality and the beauty of style. Everyone has different thoughts, feelings, and aspirations. Without these differences there would be no innovation and our world would be very dull. I believe that social media outlets can have a positive impact on the expression of individuality if used authentically. Trends will come and go, but nothing is as interesting and unique as one’s style. Social media should celebrate the subjectivity of style rather than encouraging people to conform to similarity.


Different definitions of style help to prove its subjectivity. In the article Elements of Style, Lun discusses how humans perceive styles. “The human perception of stylistic similarity transcends structure and function: for instance, a bed and a dresser may share a common style” (Lun 2015). In this example, the term style is employed to describe the similarities between two different pieces of furniture, the style of the furniture is important to the artistry of its appearance. Each different style is unique and beautiful but styles can begin as a form of imitation. Looking for inspiration in other art forms and written works to help shape one’s personal style is beneficial. Finding inspiration from existing materials and adding one’s personal thoughts and feelings can lead to a discovery of one’s subjective style.


Style is a form of self-expression and that is why subjectivity is so important. In The Craftmanship For Writing, Frederic Taper Cooper says, “For style is nothing but the ability to express one’s thoughts in the best possible way” (Frederic 2021). Cooper defines style profoundly. In this example, Cooper is referring to the definition of style in the terms of writing. Cooper also states that “style is the establishment of a perfect mutual understanding between the worker and his material” (Frederic 2021). I appreciate the way Cooper describes style because he demonstrates that style is all about an individual’s thoughts and how that individual relates to what he is doing. I think Cooper’s definition of style is what social media users should employ. Expressing one’s original thoughts in the best way possible and sharing one’s style with one’s community and friends through social media.


Style is subjective and expressive and should not be uniform. In the article, The Role of Style versus Fashion, Shipra Gupta discusses the difference between style and fashion, “A style, unlike fashion, reflects people’s long-term identities, and is true to the wearer. Style, similar to slow fashion, is not about responding to the latest trends. It resonates with more personal meanings and reflects one’s attitudes and lifestyle. Similar to slow fashion, style is not the time or quantity-based but is quality-based” (Gupta 2019). Gupta demonstrates how personal style is in comparison to fashion and trends. Gupta emphasizes that style is about ‘long-term identity and truth’ which is important to keep in mind when shopping. Trends are only popular temporarily, style is long-lasting and a form of personal expression. Popular trends on social media flood the minds of our generation and create a false sense of normality. Social media, when used correctly, is an amazing outlet to express personality, thoughts, and experiences all unique to each individuals’ style.


Style is not uniform but it is also restricted to one construct. In The Status of Style, Goodman expands on the constructs of style:

Obviously the subject is what is said style is how. A little less obviously, that formula is full of faults. Architecture and non-objective paintings and most music have no subject. Their style cannot be a matter of how they say something, for they do not literally say anything; they do other things, they mean in other ways. Although most literary works say something they usually do other things too. (Goodman 799)

I think Goodman’s explanation of style in architecture and non-objective painting is extremely important to note because style does not only relate to words said. Goodman explains that style is how things are said but also how things are done. I appreciate this expansion made by Goodman because it demonstrates the versatility of the term style and how important style is in everyday life. This emphasis on the versatility of style is important to me personally because I have struggled with finding my own writing style over the years. After all, I spent most of my education focusing on famous writers and mincing their work. Through imitation, I have found what I enjoy and dislike, which has helped me to form my personal style and display how my style is present in my writing, fashion, and art.


Gupta’s expansion of the term style shows the subjectivity because he calls attention to the individuals’ attitudes and lifestyles. In, The Status of Style, Goodman explains that style is found in writing, art, and in other places that have no subject. Goodman displays the subjectivity of style while explaining the term uniquely. In, The Role of Style versus Fashion, Gupta points out that style is about identity, quality, and truth to the individual. Gupta and Goodman develop the definition of style demonstrating the versatility and the benefits of unique personal styles.

Is it possible that style is not unique to each individual because of similarities within different cultures and social groups? Explaining style’s subjectivity, style is different for every individual because every individual is unique and original. While two people might behave similarly because they share similar characteristics or interests, their styles can’t be identical, proving the style is subjective.


Style subjectivity allows each individual to express their thoughts and attitudes throughout time. Style is ever-changing as individuals are constantly evolving to become to best versions of themselves. The Role of Style versus Fashion quotes, “Style, similar to slow fashion, is not about responding to the latest trends. It resonates with more personal meanings and reflects one’s attitudes and lifestyle” (Gupta 2019). Slow fashion emphasizes the importance of quality and creativity, unlike fast fashion that is overproduced and cheaply made. “Similar to slow fashion, style is not the time or quantity-based but is quality-based” to write to a non-academic audience (Gupta 2019). The trends plastered all over social media disregard personal style and diminish creativity.


Trends are temporary and can cause an individual to stress fitting into a mold. Instead of following trends that cause the consumer to obsess over the status quo, I encourage everyone to shop according to their style. The subjectivity of style allows each individual to express themself according to their own unique opinions and feelings. This emphasis on the subjectivity of style helps encourage individuals to do want they want and say what they feel. Helping each individual to become the truest version of themselves. For the benefit of our world and future generations be unique. Imitation does not lead to innovation, choose to move forward even if that means doing it alone.

Works Cited


Boyer, G. Bruce. “G. Bruce Boyer Quote.” A,www.azquotes.com/quote/1496865#:~:text=right%20or…-,Real%20style%20is%20never%20right%20or%20wrong.,of%20being%20yourself%20on%20purpose.

Frederic, Taber Cooper. The Craftsmanship of Writing.

Goodman, Nelson. “Critical Inquiry Vol. 1 Number 4. June 1975.” The Status of Style, First Edition, The University of Chicago Press, 1975, p. 799.

Gupta, Shipra, et al. “The Role of Style Versus Fashion Orientation on Sustainable Apparel Consumption.” Journal of Macromarketing, vol. 39, no. 2, June 2019, pp. 188–207, doi:10.1177/0276146719835283.

Lun, Zhaoliang, et al. “Elements of Style.” ACM Transactions on Graphics, vol. 34, no. 4, 2015, pp. 1–14. Crossref, doi:10.1145/2766929.

“Style.” The Merriam-Webster.Com Dictionary, 2021, www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/style.


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Rhetoric in Everyday Life by Eliza Jane Stamey is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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