By: Tori Nagudi
Photos by: Caroline Geithner
Have you ever wondered if you’re ahead of the curve…or if you even want to be?
Much like the complex mechanisms that dictate music taste, the personality traits factoring into style choice remain a nuanced mystery. Nevertheless, to some extent a shared style is a shared identity, and a person’s taste can offer a peek into their inner world. In the 1960’s, psychologist Everett Rogers developed a theory of adoption and diffusion, modeled along the classic bell-curve that’s tormented American high schoolers for centuries. This simple distribution, surprisingly, can serve as a multifaceted window into the sociology of fashion, a subject not-oft discussed in traditional classrooms.
As Rogers found, consumers (that’s you!) can be divided into five behavioral groups, groups which dictate what catches their eye, what makes the cut, and even how fast the turnover is within their revolving (or fixed) collections. If you’re looking for a more intuitive way of life, knowing where you stand on the curve can help you understand what you gravitate towards.
Graphic from https://sbccimplementationkits.org
Your profile is contingent upon where you fall within four spectrums:
- Novelty -> Comfort
- Innovation -> Refinement
- Relevance -> Independence
- Subjectivism-> Objectivism
In order to evaluate your placement, it is useful to first contemplate your priorities. Here are a few trade-offs to consider as you find your position along the curve. Though it may not necessarily be true, assume that these outcomes are mutually exclusive.
- Initiating something new | relying on a tried and true formula
- Being on the cutting edge | having a high-quality collection of favorites
- Being the first one to try something | being the first one to perfect something
- Discovering what’s new | Refining what exists
- Living in the moment | Living timelessly
- Taking risks to make a statement | Taking time to evaluate the payoffs
- Being known for keeping up with ever-changing, underground trends | being known for having a personal style that rarely changes
If you tend to skew left, you inhabit the left side of the curve. If you skew right, you’re towards the right side. If it’s a mixture of both, you’re likely to fall within the majority.
No matter where you stand, understanding your natural placement can help you structure your purchases and discover fashion influencers who share your priorities. Keep reading for a breakdown of the spectrum.
“I don’t do fashion. I am fashion.” — Coco Chanel
Visionaries are risk-takers seeking thrills. Intuitive, bold, and progressive, their innovative tendencies drive them to engineer the future. Their independence and curiosity thrust them towards various sources of inspiration, each as transitory as the last. Though boredom usually eclipses the possibility of any aesthetic consistency, these daring souls set movements into motion.
Complexity – how difficult it is to learn about and understand an innovation
One can’t discuss modern style without acknowledging the influence of streetwear and other underground movements. A crossover from skate culture, the checkerboard trend found its origins in the early-80’s model of the now-ubiquitous Van’s slip-on. Visual stimulation is the biggest common denominator among the staples of modern-day street style. This becomes self-evident whether you look at the iconic shark design of a Bape hoodie, the neon color pop of a cargo pant, the stark contrast of a Supreme hat, or the flames of a Thrasher sweatshirt. Checkerboard prints are cropping up everywhere men’s fashion is available, and most female streetwear fans are well-known for co-opting these trends in the smallest sizes available. Until the industry becomes mainstream, gender-bending shopping habits will continue to be the norm for women at the edge of the curve.
For this look, I paired a black and white grid-print overall with a pair of clout goggles. This notorious shade was first popularized by Kurt Cobain but has recently found new life among self-identified hypebeasts, thanks to influential rappers such as ASAP Rocky, Playboi Carti, Lil Pump, and Lil Yachty. Whether memes can keep the trend alive is debatable, but the white glasses, originally sold as the “Archive 1993” by Christian Roth, have already been been replicated by a host of designer collections.
Hypebeasts and fashion icons
“You don’t just see how fly my style is? I don’t see why I need a stylist when I shop so much I can speak Italian.” — Kanye West
Early adopters stay on the cutting edge, but look for cues before endorsing a trend. Perceptive and well-connected, their keen intuition helps them identify trends on tipping point of mainstream success. Always looking for the next underground trend, early adopters see the fashion landscape as a race to uncover the next big thing.
Trialability — the extent to which an innovation can be tested with limited commitment
Demna Gvasalia introduced a retro, Matrix-inspired collection to Balenciaga’s Fall 2017 show, and fashion influencers have been introducing 90’s sci-fi vibes all season. According to Josh Sims, a street style analyst, the fundamental element of the ethereal ‘cool’ we seek is “a permanent state of private rebellion.” The return of non-traditional and even S&M inspired materials, such as patent leather and PVC, has been a prime statement-making opportunity for early adopters this season. The juxtaposition of fetish-associated materials and modest, conservative silhouettes (such as trench coats, A-line skirts, and straight leg pants- pictured here) makes taking this risk an exercise in finding equilibrium.
For a bit of balance, I paired a muted black velvet top with high-gloss patent leather pants. In order to add a pop of color to this monochromatic black look, I included suede tennis shoes in dusty rose. The hue, often dubbed “millennial pink” introduced a feminine element to an otherwise dark and angular look. Cropping up in designer women’s sneakers everywhere, it is said to be the new neutral.
“She can beat me, but she cannot beat my outfit.” — Rihanna
The early majority is the most quintessentially on-trend group. Striking a balance between novelty and widespread appeal, they center their closets around the dominant aesthetic of the moment. Credited with exemplifying the will of the masses and embodying cultural ethos, members of the early majority serve as the face of every era.
Observability — the ease with which an innovation may be communicated to others
The ‘trickle-up’ theory in fashion is an intriguing phenomenon that’s gained favor lately amongst stylists and sociologists alike. In the past few years, creative subcultures such as streetwear addicts and DIY-specialists have contributed elements to the fashion landscape that later went on to gain designer recognition. One example of this is the rose motif that’s been dominating storefronts at every level of the industry. Hailed as an “anti-logo” for its versatility, this cartoon symbol of old-school Americana originated from suburban nail salons, clipart, and small-town neon signs. The spread of its image in embroidery, appliques, and stitchwork displays the impact that grassroots customization can have on the aesthetic shifts of the dominant culture. Distressed jeans, another widespread trend, follow in the same vein. Diesel was the first to initiate the deconstructed silhouette in the early 1980’s, later being followed by high-street jean makers like CDG, Dries van Noten, and Margiela. Synonymous with authenticity and personalization, the distressed look has followed a larger cultural ethos of American individualism.
Here, I wore an embroidered floral mesh top over a black bralette for a pinch of romanticism. To add some modesty, I tucked the shirt into high-waisted distressed jeans and layered a black denim jacket on top.
Cautious style mavens
“I’m done searching for meaning in the aesthetic cycles of commodities.” — Helena St. Tessero of Neo Yokio
The late majority is comprised of a set of well-dressed skeptics. Resistant to the arbitrary ebbs and flows of fashion, a trend needs grow on these types for a significant period of time before earning their validation.
Relative advantage — the degree to which an innovation is seen as better than previous alternatives in regards to its function, cost, social prestige, or aesthetics.
With origins in the 1950’s biker resurgence, the black leather jacket has cemented its place within the iconography of the American counterculture. Shott, in collaboration with Harley Davidson, were the first to manufacture this universal symbol of rebellion and self-determination. The Schott Perfecto, pictured here, was catapulted into the public eye when Marlon Brando wore it in the now-cult classic The Wild Ones (1953.) Initially banned from public schools for embodying subversive attitudes, its controversy heightened its appeal, and it became a staple piece of rebellious figureheads through the ages. Notable wearers of the Perfecto include James Dean, Joan Jett, and The Sex Pistols. Headquartered in Manhattan, Shott has been handcrafting fine leather goods for over 100 years, serving as an objective authority on the intersection between now-classic, quality outerwear and experimental edge.
This model was the lovechild of a one-time collaboration between Schott and Rag and Bone. One of approximately 400 in the world, it features old-American zipper closures and specialized detailing throughout. I paired this custom Perfecto with a simple white tee and straight leg jeans for a simple, yet foolproof look. Although leather jackets have been a fall staple for a couple of seasons, this outfit seems poised to prove itself a timeless classic.
“The boor covers himself, the rich man or the fool adorns himself, and the elegant man gets dressed.” – Honoré de Balzac
These timeless treasures are a living paradox— decisively untrendy yet suspiciously stylish. If fashion is a science, style is an art, and traditionalists are connoisseurs within the realm of objective aesthetics. Independent and detached, their closets don’t mirror the world outside, but are rather a window into the world within. As they move through their surroundings, they cultivate a universe of their own by collecting high-quality classics that stand the test of time. For the traditionalist, rejecting modern muses is the cornerstone of self-definition.
Compatibility — the degree to which an innovation is consistent with the existing norms and values of the potential adopters. An innovation that requires a change in values is less likely to be adopted.
Between the 1960s and early 1980’s, two pivotal events in fashion history occurred. First, the mod (or modernist) scene emerged as a counterculture movement in the coffee shops and jazz clubs of central London. This ‘British Invasion’, aided by the rise of The Beatles, quickly spread to the US and east coast Ivy Leaguers. A decade or so later the subculture was immortalized in Quadrophenia (1979), a cult-classic film of mod iconography based on The Who’s concept album. The main characteristics of the look included a juxtaposition of black and white with primary colors, nautical elements like stripes and boatneck sweaters, geometric influences, beatnik-inspired silhouettes, and the micro-mini skirt, as popularized by Twiggy.
Soon thereafter, across the English Channel in the upper-class Parisian suburbs, a guide called BCBG began to gain popularity. The style manual, which stood for ‘bon chic bon genre’ (‘good style good attitude’) was the French equivalent of The Official Preppy Handbook. Instructing readers on how to be above fashion, so to speak, it offered a blueprint of subtle refinement and classicism. Common staples of this guide included cashmere sweaters, neutrals, neck scarves, and the iconic Breton stripe.
Over time, the complementary components of these subcultures fused and this method of dress was cemented into the Western world as the bourgeois standard. Above I combine some of these classic elements in a truly timeless ensemble.
The world of fashion has a plurality of elements, no two quite identical. No matter where you fall on the diffusion spectrum, discover your niche and carve out your notch in the perennially-expanding timeline of style.
TORI NAGUDI enjoys procrastination via watching makeup tutorials, reading Nietzsche, and drinking ungodly amounts of espresso. Her areas of expertise include spending money, curl maintenance, and Myers-Briggs personality typing. She has not been seen without lipstick since 2009.