In Defense of Trying

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From Instagram photo dumps to “Get Ready with Me” TikToks, the “trying” trend means wearing key items is no longer enough—you now also need to style them in a way that’s surprising, and place them in context with other carefully selected “random” photos. Our taste, or lack thereof, has never been as available for public discourse. Every time I scroll down TikTok I see these endless outfit videos, all full of palpable try-hard energy. Before you frown at your screen in disagreement, hear me out: a hot guy flexing his gym gains before putting on a pair of Patagonia baggies and a carefully selected thrifted “vintage” t-shirt to the viral song du jour, and a cool guy styling Grailed finds to obscure SoundCloud mixes–both in front of a ring-light–have the exact same calculated energy.

Popular influencers like @madeline_white and @tinyjewishgirl exude a similar vibe. Their choices are odd, deliberate, and made to spark discourse in the comment section. They look good because they try–no one is in their comments arguing about their outfits because they’re wearing a simple t-shirt and jeans. Princeton student @griffinmaxwellbrooks has also made it their thing to get dressed in front of the camera. Teetering between camp and kitsch, their every choice is premeditated. This encapsulates the try-hard energy of queerness and queer people in general. Our style is always based on a series of choices to either broadcast or conceal our identities, depending on context. We try to look a certain way, there’s nothing nonchalant about dressing like a club-kid for a night out, or choosing to dress “normal” in order to pass as cis or straight (or both).

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