The Will to Adorn


Communities of Style
A “community of style” is a group that shares a common style of dress that communicates a shared sense of identity understood within the group and learned informally. This identity is shaped by similar experiences, knowledge, dress practices, values and ideas about what is pleasing, appropriate, or beautiful. Just as we may belong to many groups (or communities) including our families, our school buddies, groups with which we identify through ethnic or cultural background, we may also belong to many “communities of style.”

Artisans of Style
“Artisans of style” are people who use their creativity, special skills and knowledge of body arts and adornment to support the specialized needs and desires of clients who belong to communities of style. For example, Dennie Moe is a barber in New York City who cuts the hair of hip-hop artists. As an artisan of style he is a member of an occupational group that includes other African American barbers who learn their craft through training and apprenticing with more experienced barbers. By observing, copying, and experimenting, an artisan of style can create new styles based on the preference of their customers but they also influence the dress culture of their clients by creating new hair cut styles.

Exemplars of Style
Everybody is a dress artist. Most of us make choices in the way we dress within the frame of larger cultural and social rules and our access to the resources to dress the way that we want to dress. In every community of style, there are people who as “exemplars of style” stand out as masters of the arts of dress and body arts. These individuals capture the essence of a community‚Äôs ideas of what it is to be well dressed through their artful assembly of hair, apparel, accessories, and body art. “Exemplars of style” curate their personal appearance (a concept contributed by art historian Jane Milosch) from their acquired collections of items of dress and personal adornment.

Artifacts of Style
Items of material culture relating to “communities of style” include articles of dress and “outfits” in the collections of “exemplars of style.” “Artifacts of style” may also include photographic and video and on-line media documenting dress and adornment styles (e.g., homemade YouTube reviews of wigs and instructional videos on hairstyling, snapshots and family photos illustrating dress and dress events).

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