Dear Shopping Savage,
I am a 16-year old gay guy originally from NYC but recently moved with my family to another state where my style doesn't always seem to translate. My local friends chastise me a bit about some of the things I wear, down to my man bags! Should I tone it down a bit or just stay true to me and march to the beat of my own designer drum??
Lost In Fashion Translation
There's nothing like a personal story to bring things into perspective. I left a small town and moved to Washington, DC for college. During those years away at school I was able to break out of my shell and really come into my own style wise. I, too, had your pension for purses, err, I mean "man bags" and a flashier wardrobe. But after college I returned home for what was supposed to be a very temporary stay - five years later, I'm still here. Not that I'm complaining per se, because the move back taught me a valuable lesson: your personal style isn't defined by your shoes, clothes or bag - its how you wear it that makes your style unique.
I would try incorporating your friend's indigenous styles with your NY flare. Trust me, after a few years of trying to rage against the gawks and stares I decided that if you can't beat 'em, beat 'em at their own game. I stowed the more eclectic clothing pieces and man bag collection and just started carrying one functional messenger bag-style for weeks at a time and tried dressing similarly to those around me, but adding my own personal touches, be it the color combination I chose or an added accessory to make the look more my own.
I would try this out for a few weeks and see if it makes you feel less like an outsider and more so like a gay man with enough fashion sense to leave the (excessive) baggage at home.
At your age, its dually important to fit in and make friends - especially moving at this critical time in your adolescence - but to also be true to yourself and be an individual. I know - I get it. But it's also just as important to experiment with your style, and while you're at it push your friends and others to experiment with their look. What you'll discover about yourself - what you may all discover - may surprise you. This is just an example of one of the great things about fashion and personal style: it is in a constant state of evolution whether we are aware of it sometimes or not. So take this moment LIFT and embrace it! You've been given this opportunity to start over and reinvent yourself for a reason. Don't look at it as something that will stifle you creatively, but as an opportunity to evolve fashionably, and even socially, into a more well-rounded you.