It's 2015, a vast faction of the western human population are tucking into a plate of avocado toast (with chilli flakes if venturesome), or are devouring an aesthetically gratifying and equally nutritous acai bowl, of course before any consumption of such food took place a ‘food selfie’ was taken for a pristine looking Instagram account or lifestyle blog or both. Meanwhile, another faction are dashing off to work, Starbucks coffee in hand, iPhone in the other, whilst another faction munches on a bowl of commercial cereal as they watch daytime television. In this year man buns bloomed and then were doused and fashionista’s wore Chanel slingback shoes during Fashion Week.
Gloria Steinem profusely professed ‘I hope that one day we will change society to fit the unique individual, not the unique individual to fit the society’, transparently that day has not transpired, yet authenticity is a quality of which we’d all like to possess. Authenticity is an cardinal part of our being (we are inherently egotistic creatures), nobody wants to believe that they are not in some way unique, as it is the distinction between yourself and others is what makes you, you. Authenticity means that not only are you are disputably original, and not a clone of someone or something else but, that you are genuine, definitive, valid. However, in a society that prescribes unvaried perfection and cultural normalities authenticity seems to be become increasingly difficult to achieve.
Authenticity means sincere distinction, but in order to be sincerely distinct from your fellow human at first one needs to sincerely understand oneself, something that even the most cultivated individuals struggle to attain.
When music struggles to have distinction, (The Weeknds, 'Can’t Feel My Face’ was accounted for in the R&B/Hip Hop, Dance and Mainstream Billboard charts), and Taylor Swift dressed in all black and a red wig is described as ‘edgy’, the unattainability of personal distinction is wholly comprehendible. Taylor Swift’s ‘edgy’ look can be attained with hair dye and studs, fashioned on the nonconformist of past generations of whom literally lived on the edge of society, whilst Swift lives in a three million dollar house in L.A. The disparity between music genres is just as minute as disparity between sub-cultures, and hence disparity between individuals. Perhaps part of the problems is that todays society reflects too studiously on the past, attempting to recreate and replicate authenticity rather than nurturing a new blossoming. Fashion, arts, music and culture are persistently imitating past successes, someone is the new Cindy or Kate or Naomi, or the new Warhol or Picasso or Basquiat, or a new Micheal Jackson, or the Beatles or Jimi Hendrix, but who were they a reproduction of? Within saying this influence and authenticity are not incompatible, stimulus and muses often ammunitions of creativity, and creativity yields authenticity, the issue is not having influence but rather whether you attempt to become that influence, carbon copies can not be authentic.
The overwhelming authority of mainstream culture is another matter to be taken into account when establishing ones authenticity. For years mainstream culture has been appropriating and commodifying sub-cultures, even the sub-culture that ironically rejected perceptible culture, ‘the hipster’ was commodified by stores like Urban Outfitters, but even before this hipsters became homogenous, there was no authenticity to the hipster and hipsters were no longer ‘hip’. Like ‘hipster’ and ‘edgy’ authenticity is virtually a product that we are sold, we are made to feel authentic because that we bought a top that is ‘edgy’, or we listened to ‘The Weeknd’, and both of these happens would be authentic if occurring for authentic reasons, rather than being in accordance with societal formalities. Favouring what everybody else favours does not diminish authenticity, but rather striving to be everybody else.
Authenticity is fundamentally liking what you like without compromising what you like for society, and achieving authenticity is doing simply this. Perhaps the formula for authenticity is:
Your distinction + An assortment of inspirations, influences and muses from various sources, eras and division + a little bit more of your distinction = Authenticity!!! (Hooray!!)
And so with this, don’t feel guilty for photographing your avocado toast, or wearing what is in trend or for having a penchant for the mainstream music charts (but do feel guilty if you have called Taylor Swift ‘edgy’, that’s frankly unacceptable), because this does not make you unauthentic, but ever so often remember the words of Gloria Steinem and give yourself an authenticity check.