While strolling through New York’s vibrant Dimes Square, an area known for its elusive cool-kid vibe, bustling with models, aspiring models, designers, and “creatives,” something immediately caught my attention–nearly everyone seemed to be sporting a pair of Adidas Sambas. Soon after, my eyes were drawn to Onitsuka Tiger’s Mexico 66s, appearing everywhere. What made this even more intriguing was the timely discovery of a TikTok video titled “Shoes To Try Besides Sambas,” a couple days before I encountered these trendy shoes. The video promoted Onitsuka Tiger’s Mexico 66, a shoe with a striking resemblance to the popular Sambas. With the presence of the shoes on social media and now in the real world, I found myself unable to resist the allure of owning both pairs, particularly the new silver Wales Bonner Sambas. This has led me to contemplate the influence of social media on my personal style and whether it has altered my self-perception.
As an active TikTok user, I often find humor in how the platform’s ads influence my shopping decisions, especially when it comes to fashion. I’ve purchased numerous items from SSENSE after watching TikTok creators’ hauls and styling tips. Amidst my shopping spree, I couldn’t help but question if I’m gradually losing my sense of personal style, prompting me to investigate if others are experiencing the same phenomenon. With most of my peers working in the fashion industry in some capacity, I asked them to weigh in their thoughts.
New York-based stylist Dione Davis hasn’t let FashionTok deter her from wearing the clothes that make her feel her most self. Davis shared with ESSENCE.com, “I believe that personal style continues to persist to a certain extent. Each individual possesses a distinct personal style, although this does not necessarily imply its quality or lack thereof. The evaluation of personal style remains highly subjective.”
As I reflect on my own fashion journey, I think about my first job at a grocery store, I didn’t have my eye on any one particular thing to buy with my first few checks. I just went to the mall and bought what I thought fit well and didn’t stand out. As time passed, I started to watch Youtube videos about designers and vlogs on fashion weeks. I was enamored with the world of fashion. I went into rabbit holes of videos explaining new and old collections. Eventually, I had a uniform I would wear regularly throughout college, which was pleated trousers, usually black or gray; a white tank top; and an oversized short sleeve button-down over my top. The following year, I switched it up with more color, textures, and interesting shapes.
“The cultivation of exceptional personal style necessitates several crucial elements, which are life experiences, extensive research, and the process of self-discovery through countless trials and errors,” says Davis. “While a stylist can serve as a guide, facilitating translation and imparting fundamental knowledge, the decisions one makes independently plays a pivotal role in determining the presence of personal style.”
Another New York-based stylist Oré Zaccheus said, “Style is meant to emulate your own lifestyle. What you eat, where you frequent, your career path, etc., but social media distracts you from owning that definiteness. We all could benefit from living more authentically, and style could be the first layer to that.”
Social media can perpetuate a toxic atmosphere, constantly fueling unrealistic aspirations and trends. The pressure to conform to the perfect life and its associated aesthetic. The “soft life” aspiration was a good example of how even that conversation changed how we dressed in only brown and cream neutrals.
Content creator known as Weezy tells ESSENCE.com, “People that have REAL personal style are considered to be dressing ‘weird,’ but it’s because they didn’t follow the pack.”
Those with true personal style have probably been called “weird” or been made fun of for what they wear, only to see it become a trend a few months later. In the age of social media, we all need to try putting the phone down for just a second when seeking inspiration. In my next purchase, I’m not going to buy something I saw in TikTok or an Instagram post, and I’m going to do something a bit old-fashioned—go to a store, and browse through racks or shelves to discover the pieces that will add to my personal style.