Finding Your Self Expression Through Style
My Take On Style, Self-Expression and Self Confidence.
Updated on: December 2022
Written by: Robbie Quinn
What is a Street Unicorn
In my travels as a photographer, I continually come across individuals who have the exceptional ability to boldly express themselves through their own personal style. For some, this is subtle—a particular attention to details in how they dress. Society may call them polished, dapper, elegant, or refined. However, there are others who draw further outside the lines, who are fearless and adventurous in their choices. These people are sometimes labeled misfits or freaks, too vibrant and exuberant to be constrained by society’s boxes.
I call them all Street Unicorns, adventurous expressionists of style. Although they are all unique individuals, they are united by how they resist choosing what is expected of them by advertising and social norms. The one quality that all Street Unicorns share is a desire to use their personal style as a way to share themselves with the world.
How It Started
On my days off from commercial sessions, I want to stay sharp, so I hit the streets and photograph anything that catches my eye. This can include architecture, bicycles, city scenes and more, but my favorite thing to do is meet new people and make portraits on the spot. Since I am a portrait photographer, this makes total sense. I’m always drawn to people that pay attention to their appearance and are making a statement with it. This always makes for interesting photos and there’s almost always a good story to go along with the images. As I’ve photographed more and more on the street, I’ve become super excited about finding people that draw further outside the lines of normal style.
One of the common threads I find among Street Unicorns is that these are individuals. They don’t go along with the crowd. They have a desire to try to articulate who they are through their personal style. And although it can come with some consequences, they carry on because for them not to, they would be living a lie. They are also free thinkers, adventurers, innovators and risk takers, exploring their inner identities and expressing them through style. To thine own self be true resonates with Street Unicorns in a big way. All of us, at one time or another, have done what we could to fit in and be accepted. But have we really? If all we did was play a part and give a performance, was it actually us that they liked? When taking risks with our personal style in an effort to be our most authentic selves, we will attract those that truly like us for who we are and not a facade.
I have found most of my Street Unicorns in cities around the world—especially in New York, since this is home. There’s something about the anonymity of a city that allows a person to express themselves with more freedom and less judgment. Many have moved to cities for this very reason, leaving their small towns where pressures to fit in are strong. A city is a place where a person can reinvent themselves or perhaps reveal themselves for the first time. Once a person can be their true self inside and out the metamorphosis can be liberating. They can now feel the constraints disappearing and they can direct their focus on being more creative and productive.
What many of us fail to realize is how our personal style can contribute, not just to our own lives, but to the lives of those around us. We can be a beacon of hope for those that have been afraid to express themselves by wearing that bold color or unique style. We can be the ones to say with our style: come on in, the water’s fine.
Finding Your Own Personal Style
We’ve all experienced the feeling we get when we have a new pair of shoes. It’s like we’re now ready to face the world. We might even get a little spring in our step. It’s amazing what a small addition to our style can do for our self esteem and confidence. A new outfit or accessory can really make a difference. I believe the key is that all of us want to be seen; we all want to matter. We don’t want to live and die without making some sort of contribution to society. What many of us fail to realize is how our personal style can contribute, not just to our own lives, but to the lives of those around us.
I think the bolder choices we make in expressing our most authentic selves can spark the initiative to take chances that can result in improving not just our life, but those around us as well. We can be a beacon of hope for those that have been afraid to express themselves by wearing that bold color or unique style. We can be the ones to say with our style: come on in, the water’s fine.
A personal style transformation doesn’t have to happen all at once. I’ve seen dapper men make a small effort and wear some colorful socks, a tie or pocket square that pops with color. Women may want to wear some colorful earrings or some statement sunglasses. And then, someone else may try wearing something gender neutral. When I see any of this, I smile because I know they’ve started. They’ve started to push some boundaries and truly explore who they are.
No Time Like The Present
The good news is that it’s never too late. Just because you’ve been playing it safe for all these years, if you have the notion to really get in touch with who you are, there’s no time like now to express it. Iris Apfel is a renowned style icon who became involved in fashion only after her retirement. In her book, Iris Apfel: Accidental Icon, Apfel says, “My first big job in beauty and fashion came when I was at the tender age of ninety.” She turned her lifelong interest in colorful clothing and costume jewelry into a career as a self-described “geriatric starlet.” In fact, at age 97, she was signed as a model by the International Management Group.
This type of transformation is available to everyone. It doesn’t have to take much money to develop your own personal style. In fact, plenty of extremely wealthy people I’ve talked to find their favorite pieces in thrift shops instead of high end boutiques. This is where you might discover something vintage that is now one of a kind.
Style doesn’t have an age limit! Dressing like an adult can still be a great deal of fun. In fact, to me, dressing like an adult means that you’re emotionally grown and evolved as a human to be your own person and not be intimidated by the status quo. I guarantee once you explore expressing your inner self with your personal style, things in your life will start to change for the better. Your relationships will become more authentic and rewarding. People will recognize that you have something special to offer and they’ll want to know what it is. Doors will start to open and life can become more fulfilling.
The point is, all of us have the potential to be a Street Unicorn. Many people are afraid of standing out too much, of being rejected by their community, which is often enough to inhibit anyone from trying. But that’s exactly why we should.
I mentioned the process of metamorphosis earlier. It reminds me of the fantastic airport that Singapore has. In the planning stages, I doubt anyone thought that visitors would want to see a bunch of caterpillars, but a butterfly farm? Sure, there’s one of those there. And there seems to be countless varieties of butterflies to admire. I challenge everyone to not only take more risks with their personal style in an effort to live up to their fullest potential, but also to accept and more importantly appreciate anyone different from themselves. We have so much to learn from each other.