How I Grew Out of My Conservative Style and Found Confidence
It took some time, but social media inspired me to dress the way I always wanted.
What if I told you that six years ago, I was wearing Target shirts, Best&Less trousers and K-Mart sneakers, outfits all carefully curated by my mom? That’s a roundabout way of suggesting that good style was not on my radar. I had a sense of it, but it seemed to fit into the zone of “18-year-old boy only just figured out what cologne was.” Yeah—not an aesthetic you’d want to own.
OK, fast-forward to the present. What if I told you that the boy with the head-to-toe variety store outfit now wears designer clothing, heel boots, sassy slogan tees, every type of hat imaginable and dresses like a Skittles variety pack? Wait, let me clarify. I’ve worn every single color combination you can think of, and yes, even the worst ones.
I know what you’re thinking: How the hell did you go from variety store fits to a living Skittle? Well the answer is through trial and error, testing which style I liked and what made me feel confident. After all, confidence is the key to pulling off literally any style.
I Graduated High School and Also From My Mom Being My Personal Stylist
I grew up in a small, conservative area in Sydney, Australia, with a conservative family whose careers were in typical nine-to-five office roles. Fair to say, I wasn’t exposed to the idea of expressing myself creatively and didn’t even dream of it until the latter part of my teenage years.
I wish I could say that I bloomed into this super confident and expressive person overnight. The truth is, it took a few years to become the most authentic version of myself. In an area where something as small as wearing the color pink was seen as “sissy” or “gay,” I knew expressing myself would be a challenge—but with that, creative freedom would be totally worth it.
In 2015, fashion had a rocky year. Trends like super skinny jeans and extreme drop-crotch pants were still in vogue. They were fading (good riddance) but still popular. So, there I was, lightly treading on this already rocky fashion terrain of 2015, beginning my style journey.
After high school, I grew out of my personal stylist (my mom) and decided to dabble in and out of current trends in the mid-2010s. Yes, I think we have all been there wearing skinny jeans, but let me tell you, my jeans were offensively skinny. I paired this with all-white Adidas Ultraboosts and my pride and joy pink Anti Social Social Club T-shirt. Wearing this, to put it simply, made me feel like a bloody fashion mogul.
Looking back, I dressed like a VSCO boy who followed too many hypebeasts on Tumblr. Not the ideal aesthetic. One of my friends even said I tried to dress like the rapper Tyga. Jeez, that was a total blow.
I Learned the Importance of Contrasting Colors
I dabbled in different styles and consumed other people’s styles on social media, using them as inspiration and driving my desire to experiment with other looks. From dressing like Ali G to one of the band members from Good Charlotte, I had my fair share of trials and errors.
It wasn’t until 2018 when I discovered my main talent when it came to fashion: color combinations. There used to be a fashion YouTube channel called PAQ. One of its hosts, Elias, opened my eyes up to color, mixing materials and explaining that confidence is the make or break to your own personal style.
With this freshly found inspiration, the experimenting began again. This time, I had more of a clue of what direction to take—like not wearing all yellow and red and looking like a walking, talking McDonald's Quarter Pounder value meal. Instead of contrasting such harsh tones, I paired bright colors with subtle colors, such as pink and brown. From there, my knowledge grew, and it’s a skill I still use when styling myself to this day.
How Social Media Changed Fashion Forever
As I consumed a lot of my inspiration through fashion content creators on Instagram, I started to think, “Why can’t I do that?” Soon after, I began using Instagram as a platform to showcase my style and put myself out into the fashion world.
With that came fear. Would I appear too feminine? Would I have to bother my friends to take my photos? I didn’t want to be seen as narcissistic and wondered if I’d be perceived that way. What if people didn’t like my style? While it doesn’t seem like a huge deal, as a creative, these are the questions that haunt you when you consider putting your ideas out into the open.
Social media, of course, can be a toxic environment, especially if you’re into fashion and live in a small, conservative area. In my community, everyone knows each other, which stunted my confidence at first. But realizing I didn’t need my small suburb’s approval was the turning point of my confidence and style.
I’m still prone to the odd comment. In one case, I went to a festival wearing yellow and blue, and some random person yelled, “Hey Slim Shady!” Though not an insult, it was really just…inaccurate. When has Eminem worn all yellow and blue? And what’s up with me being compared to rappers? Over the course of time, you’ll get many more compliments than insults. Receiving them as validation doesn’t mean everything. Although, it is nice to be recognized for doing something right and resonating with people.
I’m Embracing the Bending Gender Norms in Fashion
Listening to a lot of female musicians has definitely shaped my personal style more than anything else. Artists such as Lil’ Kim and Britney Spears have given me major inspiration to inhabit their style but put a more masculine spin on it. While I don’t particularly dress extremely femininely, I like throwing in some feminine aspects to my outfits to defy the standard masculine expectation in fashion. That includes low-rise jeans, cropped tank tops and boots with a slight heel. It’s a slight push, and it’s made my outfits feel more like me.
Female role models have also shaped my perspective on fashion. My mom raised me on her own, so I looked up to her for everything, including her fashion sense. She was my non-official stylist growing up, and I still turn to her for advice. The scary thing is, she seems to always be right.
While experimenting with your own style can be daunting at first, creativity, flair and freedom by far outweigh the occasional negative comment or look you might get from strangers. In fact, you get used to it. Let them stare. Looks can’t kill. Like seriously, what’s wrong with wearing cowboy boots, purple-flared trousers, a sassy slogan tee and a pink Kangol bucket hat to the grocery store? Wait, is that too extra? OK, it might be. But has my fashion given me the confidence to try it?