I worked part-time in a department store during my seminary years. The store promoted clothing from Ralph Lauren and other brands, with glossy posters and creative displays. Each brand presented a certain “look” to attract the customer. I soon became aware of the value of style.

What is style? Style (from “stylus” or pen) indicates a manner of expression—the manner through which someone or something is presented and perceived. So you may have a particular writing style or a decor style or clothing style, and all of these are ways of expressing your ideas or your home or yourself.

We like it when people compliment our style, because they are complimenting us. Your image—the way people perceive you—is therefore very important in the modern world where advertising, fashion, and digital images constantly present the ideal “you.”

Style is also celebrated as an end in itself, where the substance is not what’s important, it’s how you present it. Christian writer Os Guinness has commented,

Who we are takes second place to who we can become and who we appear to be. We may not be comfortable in our own skins, but style is the umbilical cord between sales and the self we would like to become. (Fit Bodies, Fat Minds)

The priority of style is all around us. The fashion industry promotes image above all else, offering you a constantly changing, personal utopia where others will perceive you the way you wish and where all your needs are met. Recently I’ve noticed the ABC’s popular TV show “The Gruen Transfer,” which is basically a show dedicated to advertising and how it works.

I think the dominant style website today is Facebook. Facebook is a great way to connect with others and share your life, but it also can be a catalogue of subtle self-advertising. This photo is who I appear to be, not who I am.

When you idolise your image or crave compliments, the end result will be a personal sense of hollowness. As Guinness describes:

Preoccupation with style is a major ingredient of the emptiness in modern culture. Thus it affects the drive to sex and violence, which is the prime compensation for emptiness in a culture that has only one sin left—boredom. The modern world that is crammed with images and frantic with changing styles is a hollow world, but is too dazzled to see it.

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About Ben Kwok

Ben is part of a church plant team establishing the Rouse Hill Church. He holds a Master of Divinity degree. Ben and his wife Diahanna live in Sydney, Australia with their four young children.