Last week, two dear friends of mine and I were having drinks at a cool bar downtown. The three of us work in fashion, and enjoy it the most when it’s at its oddest. We’re careful and considerate when it comes to our style and the way we dress. We are not nonchalant or effortless, we try–case in point, one of my friends was wearing a tiger print Dries Van Noten skirt from his spring/summer 2020 collaboration with Christian Lacroix, and carrying a zebra stripe Brandon Blackwood lunch box bag. Sitting in a bar full of women wearing chic black turtlenecks and men in nondescript Arc’teryx jackets, embodying the laid-backness that became popular in the late aughts and early 2010s, we stood out.
Not trying is cool. The rise of minimalism ushered in an era where visible try-hardness was frowned upon. The pandemic exaggerated this vibe. Collections coming out of the early Covid months reflected the austere, comfort-seeking mood of the world; tailoring loosened up, and loungewear became a mainstay across collections.
Lately, though, I’ve noticed a shift both online and in real life. There’s a newfound pride in trying. See Luar’s Raul Lopez at the CFDA Awards, where he wore a pinstripe top with hulking shoulders over a crisp white button down and a goddess-draped sash; or stylist and consultant Amanda Murray, who combines Loewe balloon shoes with a Junya Watanabe dress, and a Vaquera trompe l’oeil lingerie tee with the giant Y/Project boots made famous by Rihanna. See also Jeremy O’Harris in an extravagant Peter Do suit and Schiaparelli jewelry at the New York screening of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever earlier this month.
This extends to the runways, too, where panniers and crinolines emerged as a surprise trend at Dior, Loewe, and Christopher Kane. Even Matthieu Blazy’s delicious ‘perverse banality’ at Bottega Veneta reflects this idea—to look casual and relaxed à la Kate Moss in a plaid shirt and jeans—but both pieces are leather? That’s a choice.
Trying has gone from uncool, to endearing and finally a sought after aesthetic. Our post-pandemic re-emergence is partly responsible, but there are other things at play. On social media, there is always an audience for our every outfit, everything is a photo op, so we have to always try. Rihanna and Bella Hadid stay viral on Twitter and TikTok, where their every look is the topic of endless discourse. And it’s true for the general public too, and most of the folks you see in our street style galleries have made calculated style choices in order to catch the eye of our photographers.
From Instagram photo dumps to ‘Get Ready with Me’ TikToks, the ‘trying’ trend means wearing key items is no longer enough—you now also need to style them in a way that’s surprising—and place them in context with other carefully selected random photos. Our taste, or lack thereof, has never been as available for public discourse. Every time I scroll down TikTok I see these endless outfit videos, all full of palpable try-hard energy. Before you frown at your screen in disagreement, hear me out: A hot guy flexing his gym gains before putting on a pair of Patagonia baggies and a carefully selected thrifted t-shirt to the viral song du jour, and a cool guy styling Grailed finds to obscure SoundCloud mixes—both in front of a ring-light—have the exact same calculated energy.
Popular influencers like @madeline_white and @tinyjewishgirl exude a similar vibe. Their choices are odd, deliberate, and made to spark discourse in the comment section. They look good because they try, and no one is in their comments arguing about their outfits because they’re wearing a simple T-shirt and jeans. Princeton student @griffinmaxwellbrooks has also made it their thing to get dressed in front of the camera. Teetering between camp and kitsch, every choice is premeditated. This encapsulates the need to try for people of queerness. Our style is always based on a series of choices to either broadcast or conceal our identities, depending on context. We try to look a certain way—there’s nothing nonchalant about dressing like a club-kid for a night out—or choosing to dress ‘normal’ in order to pass as cis or straight (or both).
But what does trying actually mean for what comes next? The autumn/winter 2023 collections are coming up in February, and before that we will see menswear and couture. It’s safe to say that this highly considered, calculated approach to dressing and look-building will carry into the shows. Whether that means crinolines for men or something else remains to be seen, but here’s my takeaway: In the age of TikTok micro-trends and fast fashion, trying is how to break through the noise. There’s no such thing as trying too hard now.
This article was originally published on Vogue.com.