First Impressions: Let's Talk Style Icons
We’ll be honest, we’re sick of style icons. They’re boring. Or, really, they’re boring now that everyone references the same five in their Instagram feeds and Pinterest boards (Jane Birkin, hi. We love you. You’re perfect. We are SO sick of you.) But style icons don’t have to be boring. In fact, they can be amazing, and weird, and weirdly telling, and they can have almost nothing to do with style at all.
To prove this point, we asked a few friends to share their first-ever style inspirations. We’re talking pre-teen, pre-buying your own clothes, pre-knowing what a fashion icon was. The only caveat: no family members allowed (sorry mom! You’re still chic.) And the results? Well, let’s just say we’d be super into this Pinterest board.
Have a style icon of your own you want to share? (You definitely do, weirdo.) Tell us in the comments!
Jayna Maleri, co-founder of Haystack Stories
“Uggggggggh Wendy Darling! She had tubes for hair! Her nightgown was so FLOWY. I loved everything about Peter Pan when I was little because all I wanted was to be able to fly and also to have a ginger boyfriend and also to have a fairy as my nemesis. But most of all I loved Wendy and her empire waist nightgown in that very Disney shade of blue. I loved that it was straightforward and not super fussy but also deeply feminine and kind of an insane thing for a little girl to be sleeping in. I think I just assumed the Darlings were loaded (even though all the kids slept in one room?) so I imagined that the fabric was sumptuous and felt wonderful against her perfect cartoon skin. I wear maxi dresses and skirts as often as I can get away with, and it is for sure in part because I still want to look like Wendy D., hair tubes and all.”
Jenna Gottlieb, co-founder of Haystack Stories
“It’s a testament to Vada Sultenfuss that when I think of My Girl, I only think happy thoughts. In the movie, Anna Chlumsky’s character is surrounded by death and sadness (her mother is dead, her father runs a funeral home, and her best friend, well… let’s just say he forgets his EpiPen). And yet, this is a girl I so desperately wanted to be—and look like. Tiny little Vada, with her wispy bangs, pouty lips and perfect 70s-tomboy wardrobe full of denim, peasant blouses, old-man hats and THAT mood ring, also had a life that was totally her own. Even her bike, which she took on parental-free adventures with her ill-fated friend (the cutest-ever version of Macauly Culkin) had it’s own cool accessories: blue and white streamers! I used to ride my own bike around my neighborhood while wearing my own mood ring and sing ‘Do Wah Diddy Diddy’ and pretend I was doing super important Vada-y things. Sometimes I made my younger brother come along and pretend to be Thomas J (which, yikes, but also… make believe!).”
Olivia Villanti, writer & editor
“My world literally turned upside down when I started watching Clarissa Explains It All. I took to my bedroom door with paint and plastered it with colorful handprints. I wore jeans under dresses from the age of 10 until 18 (it became my signature look—ask anyone who went to high school with me). I had my cousin who lived in New York City buy me a Keith Haring T-shirt from the Keith Haring "pop shop" on Lafayette (RIP) and mail it to me for, in total, like $60 which was an insane amount of money for an 11-year-old. I also remember wearing a tie on the first day of school in 6th grade which was OBVIOUSLY a Clarissa move. I had never felt more understood than when she would sport those striped tights, Doc Martens, headbands...I had them all. And for my first school dance in 6th grade I remember a distinctly Clarissa outfit: a velvet beret, oversized denim overalls and super cropped T-shirt.”
Bob Reyes, executive director of editorial at Tom Ford Beauty
The boy Power Rangers
“My first major style influences have to be the boy Power Rangers in normal teen mode, each perpetually sleeveless with his own dominant color story. In my fantasy, I was the orange ranger and my power dinosaur was the velociraptor. On the show, the boys wore clothes they could move around in that also showed off their muscles: grungy flannels with ripped-off sleeves, cap-sleeve button downs (and this was pre-Alexandre Plokhov’s Cloak label) and occasionally, as [Power Ranger] Zack first showed me, vests as tops. They sent a message of virility and being okay with showing off your body and I couldn’t wait to grow up and show mine off with other boys—in my own signature color, of course.”
Lauren Edelstein, style director at Shopbop
“Claudia Kishi was the ultimate style icon and I genuinely believe she subconsciously inspired me to become a fashion stylist. I was obsessed with how deliberate she was with her looks and riveted by the idea that you could put that much time and attention into an outfit. She was the queen of proportion play, always wearing some sort of skintight pant with a crazy oversized top that she had, like, splatter-painted herself, or some wild baggy men's trousers that she would tie with a telephone cord and pair with a checkered leotard. Then she'd sweep her hair to one side and pin it up with a rhinestone barrette in the shape of a snake or a guitar. She had a yellow hair clip in the shape of a poodle—I DEFINITELY remember that. I would read her outfit descriptions over and over just to make sure I could accurately visualize every detail. One time, she wore her hightop sneakers with the laces dragging on the floor just because it made her outfit look cooler and more relaxed. And seriously, how cool and relaxed does that sound? In addition to having the best style of any of the babysitters (side note: poor Mallory), Claudia also had a bedroom filled with secret snacks!! And honestly, same. UGH, CLAUDIA KISHI FOREVER.”
Elana Fishman, style editor at Page Six
Dr. Ellie Sattler
“Growing up, I absolutely idolized Dr. Ellie Sattler, Laura Dern’s ass-kicking Jurassic Park heroine. Not only did she have the coolest job ever as a globetrotting paleobotanist, but she didn’t take crap from anyone (angry dinosaurs, sure, but mostly men). In an effort to make myself more like Ellie, I almost exclusively wore Timberlands, khaki shorts, and button-up shirts—always tied at the midriff, obviously—throughout elementary school. I also vividly, regrettably remember trying to make a bucket hat part of my look because she wore them.”
Khalid El Khatib, writer, vp of marketing and communications at Stack Overflow
“The concept of a "style icon" is a loaded one when you're both growing up in a rural community in Iowa and questioning your sexuality. It's like: was Dean Cain in Lois and Clark my style icon, whose reporter glasses and too-tight Oxford spoke to the aspiring writer in me? Or was he just... hot? In Hey Dude's Ted McGriff (played by David Lascher), the line is between style icon and sex symbol was equally blurred, but his aesthetic is one I distinctly remember trying to replicate. He wore tasteful pastel oversized shirts with stonewashed jeans tight around the ass. His look was a little like every other teen dream—Zack Morris and Step by Step's Cody Lambert—but McGriff also dressed in a way that felt comfortable and familiar to an Iowa boy surrounded by men in Wrangler and Carhartt (before either was cool). On the range he wore plaid and cowboy hats, and at the ranch he dressed down in sports team tees and denim shirts. Ted McGriff provided a blueprint for all of the things I pined for then: to be cool, kind (unlike Zack Morris), to fit within the confines of Iowa, and I suppose with it, to be straight. Ted McGriff was my style icon, my TV boyfriend, and what I wish my babysitters looked like. And yet, despite my adoration, I never once experimented with a bolo tie.”