Re-naming our Style System
Hello! I've made a video about this topic which you can watch here. But I know some people prefer to read rather than watch and this topic is important - hence the post. Also I feel I can be more long-winded in writing!
Re-naming the System
When Meradj and I first invented the style system (for men!) I didn't plan for it to grow so much or to help so many people. We were just having fun and we called it the "Four Essence System" or the "Four Quadrant Essence System" because there were four categories and it was about essence.
Time passed and the system grew and blossomed and it felt weird not to have a good name for it. I love to tell people IRL about my work but I didn't want to refer to the system by name and I didn't even have a good logo for the system. It didn't feel good.
I also discovered that the word "Essence" was very strongly associated with Kitchener (which, to be fair, he's been working with this for decades, so it seems reasonable). And other systems which use that essence set, like Truth is Beauty or Kibbe. People would ask me about their Kitchener essence in consultations and I would have to explain that it's not *that* essence set but something else.
Also, while the concept of Essence is super important for the system (because the system is about aligning your essence with your aesthetic), it's not the best thing for people to focus on. The Style Key is *not* a personality system. It's a style system.
Style (according to my beloved source, the dictionary) is "a manner of doing something." So it's not just the clothes we wear. It's bigger, it's also the way we communicate, our body language, the way we present ourselves etc.
Naturally if you analyze and work with "the way you do things" you will also work with "the way you are" and "who you are" as a person. But the focus of the system isn't "who you are", your being. It's style, "the way you do things."
And initially I wanted to call the system the "Style Heart" because it was about moving beyond the superficial surface level things and into the core of the thing, the flavor of you. But I realized this would just enhance the existing problem of people thinking too much about who they *most fully are* and being unable to use the system effectively because of that.
All people with a body have some sort of sensual experience. All people with a mind have some dreamy experiences. The question isn't whether these things are present in you at all but whether it's helpful to lean into these approaches to help you inform your style.
So the new system name should put focus on the way you do things. And to bring attention to the fact that this system actually gives you an amazing structure for perfecting your own individual style process. It's a tool and you can implement it to help you wherever you are in your style journey, whatever resources you have available to you, whatever your lifestyle.
Hence the name: The Style Key. or Your Style Key because (a) it's cute and (b) it was an available domain name :)
Renaming the Quadrants
Re-naming the system felt very important to me but I liked the original quadrant names. I liked the idea of having simple and directional names which didn't have an emotional charge. This would make it easy for people to place themselves.
But it totally didn't work like that!
People obviously have lots of connotations with being "left" or "right." I just didn't expect how strong these connotations would be and how strongly they would interfere with people's ability to use the system.
But much more problematic was the "up" "down" distinction.
I don't want to muddle the water and make it seem like there is "no difference at all" between the level of "normal dressy-ness" between the Up and the Down. There are lots of people in the Down quadrants who specifically appreciate the emphasis on *not* being dressy, on being casual, feeling relaxed etc. And there are lots of people in the Up quadrants who specifically need to look *dressy*, they want to wear heels on a casual basis, etc. And the system tools (archetypes, keywords) help you accommodate these desires.
But "Down" and "Up" are not just about that! It's much more about whether you primarily care about the impression or the experience of the clothes.
And in reference to what people around you are wearing, most people who care about their style are "dressed up."
So I would encounter a lot of people feeling like having "down essence" means they had to put a limit on what they allowed themselves, or they had to settle for some sort of boring clothes, or that they weren't "good enough" in some way to dress in a beautiful way.
This is so unfair and unhelpful.
And look, I could just tell people "no, that's not how it is - you can wear very fun clothes - look at my celebrity examples, look at my lookbooks, look at my posts"... but rather than driving over people's experiences I prefer to find a way to work with them.
I thought about changing the quadrant directions into something else, but that wouldn't work. The existing quadrant shape is really important for the system and it does give you a good, abstract language for where you are ("I want to move a bit more up in the R+D quadrant").
But that abstract language only works once you understand the system and feel comfortable claiming your quadrant. You should not feel like the quadrant name is giving you another problem to manage (it's hard enough accepting your style needs).
Solution: we give the quadrants additional names, something beautiful and special for everyone. Where nothing sounds hierarchical or political or whatever, but just something that's beautiful and kind of neutral!
Ok but from here... I thought of SO MANY THINGS the quadrants could be called. We first obviously tried coming up with a general archetype/name for each quadrant. But I hated it, it felt so weird to superimpose another archetype name over the beautiful archetype names already there.
I thought about flowers, colors, textures, elements, cardinal directions, sounds, I mean literally I am obsessed with thinking about stuff (as you can tell by now) and this was a big thinking project. I got very excited about the Gems in relation to hearts and keys.
Studying the gems for hours was exhausting. Nicky and I were looking up all the different gems, their connotations, how they look and how they're used and I just kept going in circles with all the different options. I'm really, really grateful for Nicky in helping me just *make a decision* in the end so I wouldn't get stuck in the forever loop of my mind. The gems we chose *make a lot of sense* and I am happy with them.
The Style Keys
The Left+Down Quadrant will use the Ruby Style Key. I love Ruby Red. The longest color. The root, the source. So inviting and intriguing. So grounding and so activating at the same time. Associated with so many different experiences: love, power, courage, vitality, anger, passion - very L+D. I also like how Rubies are valued in their polished and raw forms.
The Right+Up Quadrant will use the Sapphire Style Key. I love how the blue is oppositional to the red and both are primary colors. This makes sense because R+U and L+D style logic is the polar opposite. Also blue is so beautiful for R+U, sapphires are INTENSE and beautiful, so powerful and sparkling. They are also associated with wisdom, inspiration, intuition, integrity, lots of associations R+U people enjoy.
The Left+Up Quadrant will use the Amethyst Style Key. The purple of the Amethyst blends the Blue of R+U and the Red of the L+D and the L+U logic combines these two approaches in their own way. I love how there is something mystical about the purple (you may notice how much I love purple). And the Amethyst gem is so cool because it is beautiful in very polished artsy forms but it's also very beautiful when you work with Amethyst geodes to create a elemental+glamorous style.
The Right+Down Quadrant will use the Moonstone Style Key. I love Moonstones so much because they are so dreamy and mystical. In their pearlescence one can make out touches of blue, red, purple, pink, and more - but it's more than the sum of those parts. It's a soft and shimmery dreamy landscape and always more than meets the eye. I love that for R+D.
So those are the keys!
I *know* some people have strong thoughts about gems. Or that now there's the color problem, like someone will think "I don't like red! So I'm not Left+Down!"
But it's not possible to choose an evocative name that will only evoke positive things and will never create any negative response. Hems are a good solution because they have a relatively low emotional importance in people's hearts.
I can emphatize with people who might not *love* their stone. I love moonstones, they are my favorite, I also love amethyst and purple. I don't own any Sapphire right now or even anything bright blue. But that's why I'm glad we went with the Style Key. It seems very intuitive and possible to me that I would *use* the Sapphire key even if I'm not covering myself in Sapphire blue (yet).
So what next?
My focus right now is on creating some very easy-to-use learning resources for my system. I'll use the gemstone names in the new material. I'm slowly going to update the existing lookbooks and courses with the new colors. I'm going to bring in the keys and my slightly adjusted color palette onto IG.
I'm very honored to help so many people with their style and I'm excited to see what comes next.