I have been hearing this for a while now. Both in the US where I lived for 7 years, and now in the Netherlands where I have been living for 2 months.
I consider myself a visionary when it comes to my swag. That is at least 2 days a week, rest of the time I like to keep it simple. Some other people would consider my style a bit crazy. I need to post some pics, but to give you an idea, I like my snake imprints hoodie, gold on white, black (or any other colours) sneakers, just got myself a bright red velour hoodie that I am especially proud of, and the list goes on.
And my style has been consistent since I left my consulting job where I had training on how to buy black or blue suits, black shoes, white shirts and black socks. But somehow, living in Portland everybody could have their own style – or lack of – and it was all good. When people where saying “you can get away with wearing that [crazy high top red shoes, with an oversized tongue]” I did not pay too much attention to it. It was like… a compliment. People liked my style. I was known for my style. Europe is different. The style is more consistent, people stand out less. Slim looking sneakers, blue jeans, and a long sleeve shirt or a nice hoodie. People still style it in crazy ways… But if you ask me, the styles are same same but different.
OK, let’s make a long story short. I now feel that when people are telling me “you can get away with wearing that” there may be several reasons.
- I am fly as F@#$, and therefore anything I wear is by default lit. The likelihood that this is the case according to me is 80%. Probably according to other people, 5%
- Because I am Black, people think that I can wear anything I want, that I make cool. The likelihood that this is the case according to me is 70%. Probably according to other people, 95%.
I could spend forever trying to guess what other people are thinking. And I will never know for sure. What I know, is that “I can get away with that”. It is great. It means I can make it my brand. That also makes me unique… and in a world where everyone is seeking attention, being unique is a great asset!
My learning from this experience. This is a case where I could confront people, say that it is a racist consideration and try to make it right. It would probably be right but I would not gain anything from it. In successful negotiations, it really feels like it is not all about making things right, but getting ahead and ending up in the best situation to lead to another successful position. So whenever you may be thinking about “keeping it real”, remember the Dave Chapelle skits, and focus instead on stacking your “wins”, regardless of how small they may be and keep moving forward. And like Tiffany Haddish mentioned in her book, the best advice she got is “the best way to shut off haters, is success”