Title: The Power of Style: How Fashion and Beauty Are Being Used to Reclaim Cultures
Author: Christian Allaire
Publisher: Annick Press
Review copy: Digital ARC via Netgalley
Availability: On shelves April 27, 2021
Summary: Style is not just the clothes on our backs–it is self-expression, representation, and transformation.
As a fashion-obsessed Ojibwe teen, Christian Allaire rarely saw anyone that looked like him in the magazines or movies he looked to for inspiration. Now the Fashion and Style Writer for Vogue, he is working to change that–because clothes are never just clothes. Men’s heels are a statement of pride in the face of LGTBQ+ discrimination, while ribbon shirts honor Indigenous ancestors and keep culture alive. Allaire takes the reader through boldly designed chapters to discuss additional topics like cosplay, make up, hijabs, and hair, probing the connections between fashion and history, culture, politics, and social justice.
My review: Christian Allaire and many, many other folks share distinct ways style and fashion can communicate. These creators are exploring and celebrating their identities and sharing themselves through their fashions. The Power of Style gives us a glimpse into the motivations and inspirations behind some of their marvelous creations.
Allaire begins by sharing about the making of his first adult ribbon shirt. This is a great example of how an item of clothing can be significantly more than just a body covering. The colors were chosen because they were favorites of his close elders. They also incorporated the colors of the medicine wheel which is important within the Ojibwe culture. The whole process involved multiple people and was a priceless bonding experience. The garment holds memories of loved ones, honors his culture, and is worn with pride. So many of the stories within this book are similar in that the clothing, accessories, and sometimes even makeup carry relationship connections and a lot of meaning. Those layers of meaning are part of the reason that appropriation can be such a hurtful act. Allaire points out the difference between appropriation and appreciation which is an important distinction that many folks don’t seem to grasp.
He conveys the idea that fashion and style enhance beauty that is already there and aren’t for fixing or improving people. This enhancing can be done through clothing, shoes and other accessories, along with makeup and hair treatment and/or styles. This wide variety kept my attention and while I spent much time looking at the photos, I was always eager to see the next page. The photos and the design of the book are definitely appealing. There are bright colors and of course the fashion and styles are quite distinct with many details to take in and appreciate.
There is a great section about high heals designed for men. It includes a little bit of history, but never feels like a textbook and of course looking at the different shoes was a treat and shoes are Allaire’s specialty. The section about hair was also informative and covered natural hair and the beauty of it, but also some of the complicated relationships some people have had with their hair. Another aspect of hair was the practice of Indigenous men wearing long hair. This was something that was denied many boys and men especially during the time of the residential schools and so carries even more meaning as men honor their ancestors who had the choice taken from them. Along with hair there is a significant section about hair coverings. Body positivity is a topic that is also addressed within the cosplay portion.
Recommendation: Get it soon. This book has a great variety of topics and the photos will likely catch the attention of most readers, but especially those who love fashion. Many of the artistic choices push boundaries and it is great to see how the creators of these fashions and styles hold on to traditions while at the same time, put their own new spin on them.
Annick Press let’s us a fantastic look inside here.
A Kirkus Interview