"Where'd you get them?"
I flung the age-old question at my friend standing next to me on the hot pavement in Brooklyn. We were waiting for brunch reservations, and it was her sneakers that caught my eye: off-white canvas kicks, delicate with thin rubber soles and short laces.
They looked to be Bensimons, the iconic French sneak worn by the likes of Jane Birkin.
I had to know where she found them. (Amazon, it turns out. It's always Amazon.)
But her answer didn't have me rushing to my laptop and queuing up that 1-Click Ordering. Like a crazed sea captain, I've been on the hunt for white sneakers this summer — but the decision was quickly becoming about more than just shoes.
I couldn't commit to delicate French sophistication with Bensimons, nor could I pull the trigger on the aggressively badass white Nike dunks I spied at a downtown store. Though it was tempting, I couldn't yet embrace the vintage cool of classic shell-toe Adidas. Nor was I ready to go full-on skater with the high-top Vans that looked so good on my co-worker's feet. And Converse? Well, they're always in the back of my mind, but seemed like a defiantly sporty option.
My white sneaker decision was quickly becoming existential. Any choice seemed like staking a claim in a certain persona, and I couldn't decide who I wanted to be.
Personal style choices aren't always logical, but they're always choices, and they have a lot to say.
The details matter to each of us in unexpected ways. Just take all the 20-something guys today who devote unprecedented care and attention to their sock choices. Or the women who, despite the cold weather, make the decision to perch their coats atop their shoulders like capes.
Whether subtle or willful, those detailed style choices, from hair to clothing to how we decorate our apartments, are inextricably tied with our identities. They signal cultural belonging, or ethnic roots, or political leanings or just individual personality quirks. Sometimes those signals are overt, like a modest outfit that indicates religious ties, or the high school senior who embraced her African heritage with a custom prom dress.
But they can be seemingly unintended, too: the trendy manicure that suggests you're deep in the Tumblr-verse, or the vintage cuff links that suggest a fancy finance job or the Vineyard Vines shorts that indicate your family vacation spot of choice. The person who goes out of their way to stock their kitchen with Mason jars says something different than the person with cabinets full of mismatched plastic cups. Even when we think we're not making style statements, well, we are.
Exploring and understanding those choices and their repercussions is the mission of Mic's newest section: Style.
The world has never been more open for personal style statements. As a generation that came of age documenting their prom outfits on Facebook and crafting adult identities on Instagram, our privately styled selves — from clothes to hair to carefully chosen backdrops — have never been more public.
Even for those of us who just get dressed out of necessity, it's a unique moment. Men are finally getting nearly as many options as women. Brands are thinking gender-neutral. Our clothes are getting tech updates, while our technology is getting more wearable. The corporate world is loosening its dress codes, giving us more freedom, and those who hate shopping can jump on the minimalist, or "uniform dressing," trend.
And even without all the innovations? Well, we'd still choose how to style our lives, every step of the way.