“Style” - A Rabbit Hole

By: Hadassah Reich  |  September 21, 2023

By Hadassah Reich, Staff Writer

As New York Fashion Week (NYFW) draws to a close, the new season and its trends are analyzed by all kinds of designers and companies. According to the NYFW’s website, “the Shows provides leading designers from around the world with an unrivaled global platform to showcase their collections bi-annually every February and September.” The week’s runways and events influence so many others in the audiences and beyond. NYFW shows shape the season’s style by highlighting the upcoming trends and materials. However, what constitutes ‘style’? 

The Merriam Webster dictionary defines “style” as “a particular manner or technique by which something is done, created, or performed.” It is the way you do something, such as a certain way you go about your life or the way you arrange your hair. It is also the title of a popular Taylor Swift song (more on that later). However, “style” is so much more than that. 

“Style” originally comes from the latin word stylus, a type of writing instrument. Its appearance could be described as a cross between a fancy pen and a wand from the Harry Potter props department. More specifically, it is an ancient utensil with a pointed tip used for writing on wax, clay tablets, and early paper such as papyrus and parchment. Scribes in ancient Mesopotamia used the stylus’s pointed tip to indent wedged shapes making up the cuneiform language. 

People usually don’t contemplate the act of writing. Once we learn to write in first grade, it becomes an integral part of our lives, often taken for granted. But the role of a scribe was one that was not overlooked. They were extremely important because they were literate, becoming the backbone of legal records and intellectual ideas. Scribes were elite, and the stylus was where their power lay. 

With the development of technology, the archaic writing tool has evolved into modern day styluses used for touch screens, such as the Apple Pencil; something we are more familiar with. Despite the way that the stylus has changed over time, its basic function remains the same. In its most simple definition, a stylus’s purpose is to change the physical form of the surface it touches. To make a visible impact on something else. To leave a mark. 

When looked at from this perspective, the scribe is not such an outdated job after all. Its title can belong to anyone making change in the world. 

This brings us back to pop album 1989 and one of its hit singles, “Style.” In many ways, this is exactly what Taylor Swift, her music, and her craft are: A stylus leaving its mark on the clay of the music industry. 

One way, in which the musician is changing the landscape of the industry is by addressing the issue of an artist’s rights to their music. Swift has been re-recording and releasing her music under the title (Taylor’s Version) in order to gain full ownership of her work after it was sold to Ithaca Holdings four years ago. To date, Swift has released three re-recorded albums: ‘Fearless (Taylor’s Version)’ (2021), ‘Red (Taylor’s Version)’ (2021), and ‘Speak Now (Taylor’s Version)’ (2023). At a recent concert on Swift’s Eras Tour, she announced that her next album 1989 ‘(Taylor’s Version)’ will be released this year on October 27.

Swift’s impact reaches beyond the music industry into the political arena. In a Ticketmaster hearing held by the Judiciary Committee in January, Swift’s lyrics were quoted several times during the senator’s questioning of Ticketmaster and its parent company Live Nation. She was referenced time and again, because it was her enormous fanbase attempting to buy tickets for her tour that became one of the factors leading to calls for Ticketmaster reforms. 

The same tickets, which were in high demand and challenging to obtain, had a significant economical impact. According to the Time website, Swift’s stadium arena tour is projected to produce near five billion dollars due to consumers’ spending. And that only accounts for the United States!

And what are all these fans paying insane amounts of money to see? A three hour show where Swift performs and pays tribute to her musical eras, hence the name “The Eras Tour”. She pivots between genres, costumes, and dance sets. Each era has its own time to shine, and it becomes quite clear to the audience which album is being represented without the need to hear specific songs. How? Swift and her fans associate different albums with specific colors, themes, seasons, costumes, among other factors. All of these identifiers are stylistic choices made by the artist, and they are intentional. 

The concept of style is not limited to stadium arena tours or the celebrity level. Style is everywhere. Style is on runways at fashion shows, and it’s in passersby on the streets. It’s easy to use clothing as an example of style, but of course limiting it to that would be a mistake. Style is in art, literature, dance, handwriting, cooking, and more. And this is the tragedy of overlooking such a seemingly basic word, because it’s not basic at all. Style is intrinsically tied to self expression.

Style highlights a dichotomy in humanity’s nature. On one hand, one can use a specific sense of style to stand out. On the other hand, one can use that exact style to fit in. Humans have the desire to be seen as distinct individuals, and at the same time they are afraid to be alone or misunderstood. 

From ancient scribes to Taylor Swift and everyone in between, we all make choices. Those choices add up to form styles. This might seem insignificant, but there’s a reason the term is “lifestyle”.