Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Style Chains, Pioneers, and Modifications

Lately I've been seeing the term "style chain" used on some of the personal style blogs I read. Does anyone know who coined it? I would love to give credit. It seems to refer to when one blogger, (lets call her the Modder), "copies" another blogger's (the Pioneer's) outfit.

Copying isn't really the right term because from what I've seen, it's not that the Modder goes out to Target, F21, and Ebay and buys the exact items she saw on the Pioneer's blog. It is instead the case that the Modder uses clothing she owns to create a version of the Pioneer's outfit.

This is a process that seems like it would be pretty innate to people interested in style/fashion, because isn't that what we've always been doing with the stuff we see in fashion magazines? I use the pronoun "we", because the odds are very good, with income inequality statistics being what they are in the U.S., that you, like I, cannot actually afford the clothes that are editorialized in fashion magazines. Yet I still buy the magazines. My best reason for doing so is to get an idea of the current trends. That idea will be in my head the next time I get dressed and I will probably recreate the trends I like with what I have, or what I can approximate with items in stores that are in my price range. Modding, right? Maybe being in a style chain?

I got the term Pioneer from a couple of guest posts on the Freakonomics Opinion Page on the New York Times site. Here are links to the posts:

Tweakers and Pioneers in the World of Innovation
Geeks and Tweaks: What Computer Programming Contests Can Teach Us About Innovation

Scholars Raustiala and Sprigman use the terms Pioneers and Tweakers, but where I come from a tweaker is a person who abuses methamphetamine drugs. So I prefer the term Modder, which could refer to modifications. 

Just wanted to expand the conversation about copying a bit. I've seen it come up multiple times, and I think these two links make good contributions.


  1. I like it! I hate how the word "copying" suggests that the resulting outfit is completely unoriginal, like when a student copy-pastes from Wikipedia. I used to word "inspired by" but I like the word "mod/modder" as well.
    There's a Raustiala in my discipline as well. He's quite prolific.

  2. Hmmm. I hadn't noticed that term being used. But you probably read even more style blogs than I, Ms. Kennedy. I do like to see when bloggers credit their sources of inspiration. I especially love how Style Underdog does "copy catting" and gives "copy cat" shout outs to other bloggers in Style Nation when they do inspired-by types of posts.

  3. I like the change in terminology. I used "inspired by" because it isn't an exact duplicate, and like Rad said, it's not at all the same as cutting and pasting from Wikipedia. :)

    That said, I do think bloggers should give credit and a link when they are inspired by others. That's what connects us, following links. Why would we not want to point our readers to another blogger? That's how you both grow in readership.

  4. Definitely agree that style bloggers are "inspired" by others, because you can't literally copy someone unless you go buy their same pieces! Basically I agree with the comment above me :)

  5. i soo see this. esp within the realm of the 30/30. belted everythings, scarves worn the same way, boot socks, etc. i kinda love it. it helps me in my freepiling adventures! as was mentioned, the link love is strong in the blogs i read though. just AS it should be!

  6. I think "copying" can be an interesting way to experiment with style in a guided sense, sort of in the same way as when one learns to draw, reinventing known compositions can help.

    I do like that first article you posted. I think "tweakers" have their definite place, as innovation can always be found where existing ideas/systems are shown a different, mind-bending light. There's a lot to be said for originality through reinvention. That said, though, I am wary of "style chains" that serve no other purpose than to pay homage to a favorite blogger, or to simply prove that it can be done in a different way. Indulgence is all well and good, but in that case, don't blog + pretend it's about innovation. Not targeting anyone in particular, but it's an important thing to keep in mind.

    Thanks for the thought-provoking post!


  7. We use the term "tweaking" or "tweaker" in the museum field to describe being inspired by something else (and we get inspired a lot - museums all copy the heck out of each other).


  8. i've seen this referred to as 'shopping your closet' in various style-advice printed and bound books for years. i do think it's only fair, and more interesting, when people link to their inspiration. i find that seeing how the inspiration flowed, how the person modified or pulled apart the original idea is very helpful in sparking my own creative process.

    of course, there's times when a person doesn't realize that they've been influenced, or can't remember (if you're keeping up with dozens and dozens of style sites, after a couple of days it can all become a blur). in such cases you don't want to judge a person harshly.

    then there's times when it seems a very popular blogger had 'lifted' something from a very tiny, start-up type blog....that's ugly. i get the feeling sometimes that people only want to 'give credit' when they think they might get caught. fortunately this type of thing seems fairly isolated, at least imo.

    off to read those articles - thank you for the interesting post and comments, everyone!! stpeh