10/30/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

You Are Style: On Bucking Trends And Wearing What You Want

You are completely unique. There is no one else in this wide world exactly like you. You and I share similar traits -- we are both flesh and blood and bones -- but we are not the same. Maybe your mannerisms, your face, your voice are reminiscent of another, but the moment the surface of this coincidence is scratched it becomes apparent that you are unique. So why would you want to look like anyone else?

Arbiters of taste teach us a lot about fashion and beauty. A networked media combined with enthusiastically bullish branding techniques has given the average American consumer an unprecedented amount of access to image-makers, their ideas and their products. We are hungry for this type of input, it seems, as the popularity of "It" accessories and makeover television shows proliferate. But what are we really looking for when we look to our experts? Are we looking for their products to fix us? Sometimes, yes-- though the benefits of acquisition aren't the whole story. What I think we are searching for is help in finding the fulfillment of our own uniqueness. We are searching for our style.

Despite the wide variety of options at our fingertips, finding our style isn't easy these days. It's an ironic situation that our advancing interpersonal connectivity has led to both the opportunity for greater individual expression and an atmosphere of mass style ubiquity. "Style" hallmarks of today are often more about a pastiche of brand recognition than the exploration of integration between self and adornment. The idea of style has become interchangeable with product.

Accepting the definition of style as product is about as helpful to our well-being as accepting the integration of church and state. By placing an overblown importance on style images created by international corporate conglomerates intent on pushing products, we face disconnection from our true collective wellspring: our individuality. Looking at style through the lens of consumption teaches us how to be a hungry mass of voyeurs instead of individual, engaged, culturally relevant participants.

So what is style if it isn't a product? Quite simply, style is you. It is the depth and expansion of your innate interests and characteristics. There are no rules or dictums. If you really want to connect with your style, connect with yourself. I am all in favor of tips, services and products that encourage the expression of style, but it's important not to be led by them or to mistake them for style. Nothing about true style is superficial- it can be fun, light-hearted and humorous, yes, but the one and only thing your true style can never be is someone else's voice instead of your own.