In an attempt to mix up my regular Netflix in the studio routine, I recently downloaded Adam Grant’s audiobook, Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World. Yes, I want to talk about the book here, but no, don’t expect a full on review. I haven’t finished the book, and I’m not sure if I will.
Because in the early pages of what is probably a hugely informative read, Grant hits on one of my biggest frustrations with the way we view style and substance.
After quoting Thomas Jefferson, “On matters of style, swim with the current. On matters of principle, stand like a rock,” Grant goes on to write that:
“The pressure to achieve leads us to the opposite. We find surface ways of appearing original – donning a bow tie, wearing bright red shoes – without taking the risk of actually being original.”
Oh, Adam. Where do I even begin?
For starters, how about the idea that dressing in an original manner doesn’t involve risk?
As a maker of art jewelry, who also happens to currently have streaks of pink in her hair, I can’t even begin to tell you how often I hear the phrase, “I wish I could pull that off.”
Whether it’s a bold statement necklace or an unnatural hair color, most people feel a huge sense of risk when it comes to pushing their style beyond conventional norms. In the sea of bleige, (that’s bland and beige, in case you were wondering) boring style that permeates American culture, choosing to even slightly step outside of the fashion box can feel like a huge risk before you even head out the door.
But beyond that, when someone takes the risk to be more original in their everyday style, it can actually lead to more risk taking and original thinking in other parts of their lives.
To quote the doyenne of original style, Iris Apfel, “When you don’t dress like everyone else, you don’t have to think like everyone else.”
As I’ve learned in my life, bravery is not something you have or you don’t have. Being brave is a muscle you can strengthen over time. Every time you step into the world having made a slightly risky fashion choice, you’re rewarded when the sky doesn’t fall down and people don’t mock you with open ridicule. Every step in those red shoes can help you feel braver when it comes to expressing your originality in other areas of your life.
And furthermore, those bold style choices can actually act as a talisman for more bold action in your everyday life. I can’t tell you how many women I’ve seen adopt a more confident attitude simply by putting on a statement necklace. Or how many women have told me that wearing one of my rings acts as a reminder to be bolder and braver in their everyday life.
Far from being some frivolous way to avoid taking real risk, adding more creativity to your style can be a stepping stone to more unconventional thinking and action in other areas of your life.
I have no doubt that throughout Originals, Adam Grant shares some amazing strategies for getting creative ideas out into the world. Some of those strategies may even overlap with the ideas I’ve discussed here. But it’s hard for me to get through the rest of the book until we can dispense with the notion that creative, original style doesn’t have value in its own right.
Because I’ve spent too many years observing (in myself and others) how dressing differently can be a catalyst for thinking and acting differently to believe style is so shallow and unimportant that it should be unceremoniously dismissed in a book about original ideas.