Deconstructing Cultural Influences on my Personal Style
Another Asian-American Heritage Month has come and gone. With each one, the meaning of it grows ever more ceremonious and celebratory for me. It's taken me years of internal and external struggles to get to the point of where I am now with my identity and confidence. And I still believe there’s some ways to go. It's something I work on every moment of my life (e.g. How do I carry a conversation with more confidence? How can I be firm about what I stand for? How can I be a representative voice for those who don't or are afraid to speak up?). As someone who is in the public eye often, I feel this constant pressure to live up to the wisdom I drop and nuggets of inspiration/aspiration I sprinkle in a perfectly-manicured IG caption. Yes, I do put in a lot of thought into those and rather proud of it.
Deep down, though, I also feel this constant need to please others and be the most well-rounded, stand-out gay Asian-American that I ever dreamed of. It’s something I feel that most of my fellow Asians and model minorities can relate to, as we futilely attempt to live up to what we were taught growing up. Even before we can form complete sentences and utter coherent thoughts, we were taught to conform, to tolerate, and to respect someone on the basis of age, authority, status. Not because of merit. We were essentially taught at a young age to not question anything as it will only create havoc, wear only hand-me downs so we stay more humble (right, Kendrick Lamar?) and not bring shame upon your family's "pristine" reputation. Disruption, in any shape or form, was and still isn't received favorably.
Personal style, for the reasons mentioned above, became an unexpected, escapist refuge for me and is part of how I reconcile my identity everyday. The act of picking out what you want and love to wear is simply empowering. I've always stood by the mantra that "clothes are transformative." And why shouldn't it be? It's as rebellious or sophisticated as you want it be. For instance, this look I wore is actually styled with a palm-printed piece from JCPenney's latest Argyleculture collection by Russell Simmons. I love a chic tropical-meets-daddy shirt juxtaposed with skinny jeans, chelsea boots and mirror shades. There no rules to this thing, honestly. Developing and honing a sense of style has enabled me to make the bolder and braver decisions in life without disregarding my upbringing and culture.