When we were clumsily forming our own taste and style, back in the Dark Ages prior to the Internet, we were pretty much on our own, armed only with movies and GQ magazine as guideposts. The results weren't always great (in fact, they were largely awful), but we made our mistakes, learned from them, and gradually developed our sense of self and, consequently, our sense of style.
Today, we marvel at the sharp, shiny, cookie-cutter pristineness of modern teenagers who flawlessly mimic the looks they've seen on Gossip Girl and The Hills. In some ways, we slightly envy the bevy of information available at their fingertips in this media-saturated age: simply copying, look for look and lock for lock, the "style" of these celebrities goes a long way towards smoothing out the bumps of what used to be the awkward years. We've seen 13 year old girls looking like eerie Rachel Zoe clones, and their 14 year old boyfriends sporting Zac Efron-worthy styled hair.
On the flip side, such camp following eradicates any individual style whatsoever, in two ways: not only can a slavish copy of someone else's look (or, for that matter, a shop mannequin, or magazine layout) never be truly chic, because it won't have the intangible quality of individuality; but the generic style "icons" (quotation marks pointedly and emphatically used) most people are copying these days are themselves are largely products of stylists, and high-profile shills for designers hawking their wares to the engrossed readers of In Style and US Weekly.
When it comes to style, inspiration should never be confused with imitation.
Since we're not completely immune to the 21st century, and its insistence on sound byte-sized snippets of information, here is a list of what's been inspiring us lately. What has been, we emphasize, not who.
- Interiors. Thanks to our darling Toby Worthington, our interest in the elegance of hearth and home has quadrupled. A well-ordered, well-proportioned, elegantly-appointed room is probably the most difficult thing to achieve, so now, when we see one that we like, we get inspired by its colors and lines. A magnificent New York townhouse done in shades of pumpkin and aubergine made our mouth water; Mr. Worthington's flawless living room in greens and yellows had a similar effect. Both color combinations have made their way into our wardrobe.
Helena Rubinstein also endorses pumpkin and aubergine.
Texture. We've been playing with this element a lot more lately, especially as the weather turns cool, and layering is possible. Our white-and-black mini houndstooth check suit, in luxuriously comfortable worsted wool, has such a soft texture, that it reads grey more than stark black and white, opening it to a whole vista of possibilities. We paired it recently with a rough-hewn lambswool vest in hunter green, moss green, and gingerbread brown argyle; a textured silk bow tie in plum with wide-spaced flecks of bronze; a wet silk pocket square in dark green, with repeating patterns in pumpkin, navy and bronze; medium-grey merino wool socks; and handmade oxford lace-ups in antiqued oak. The colors combined seamlessly, the textures played off each other beautifully, and we admittedly purred and preened in multiple compliments during the course of a delicious evening.
Check, please: call out the houndstooth.
- Music. Music has always been one of our ruling passions; but it's become even more of an inspiration lately. Our taste has always been quite catholic, and continues to be; but even though the Great American Songbook has long been a staple in our collection, it's taken on a greater resonance of late. More specifically, we've been paring things down to the simplest approach, and really listening to the lyrics. (The simple vocal stylings of Mary Cleere Haran, Carol Sloane, Fred Astaire and Bobby Short, for instance, in their straightforwardly soigne approach, as opposed to the brasher charms of, say, Mimi Hines. [Who still has a place in our hearts, and playlists, bless her socks.]) In these turbulent times, the eloquent, elegant, romantic lyricism of Lorenz Hart, Cole Porter, Johnny Mercer and their contemporaries is a much-needed antidote, and helps us to envision the ideal gentleman we place on a pedestal.
Mr. Astaire: dancing in the dark, never dressing in it.
- Food. We've always been obsessed with food, too; but again, we've recently taken a less-is-more approach and have been luxuriating in the pleasures of unpretentious dishes, beautifully and simply prepared. It suits our state of mind right now, as well as, we think, the current state of affairs. Who wants to eat fussy foams, miniscule macrobiotics, or overpriced omasake these days? Our current favorites: braised tripe with chickpeas; lamb stew over polenta; thin-sliced pork belly steeped in olive oil and rosemary; boiled beef in its own broth; and any perfectly-executed pasta dish. Style, really, has so much to do with being comfortable in your own skin: it follows that we gravitate towards comfort food. It isn't all champagne and caviar, dears.
A jug of wine, a plate of pasta, and Marcello Mastroianni: timeless style, effortless cool.
Of course, there are countless other influences and inspirations which present themselves everyday, usually having to do with color: the shade of a flower has sent us around town, determined to find it in a tie or pocket square or something, anything. Nature, artwork, a snippet of dialogue, poetry or prose - anything creative, which sparks the imagination, can be the catalyst for style. We hope that SSUWAT provides a little bit of inspiration, too. One thing we've resisted doing is posting photos of our own outfits; it seems dually self-serving (a commentary of which designers we're wearing seems so smug, not to mention indiscreet) and self-defeating: the very purpose of these posts is to encourage people to hone and develop and appreciate their own individuality, not to send them running to buy an exact copy of What We're Wearing, or even to ooh and aah over the labels. Have confidence in your own style - open your eyes, your ears, your minds - and, of course, continue to watch this space, darlings!