In defense of personal taste

Part of a new What makes us human series.

Nothing truly worth doing was ever easy. Said everyone, but maybe we keep on saying it because it’s true.

So here I am ¾ of a pop tart and and 2 ¼ glasses of wine in, writing because this morning I said I had to start posting daily. Even if my thoughts were brief and half baked.

Today it occured to me that if you write from a well regarded platform — Man Repeller, Goop, Refinery29, The Atlantic “By Heart” column, then the name of the game is as much about staying the course on quantity. The preciousness of what you have to say, to some degree, dies off. In short, maybe writing is a bit like college; the hardest part may just be convincing yourself you deserve to get in the door.

So that’s my self help to myself bit. Now for today’s actual rant: Why we need to defend the art of achieving a sense of personal taste.

We’re drowning in tech aids that could tell us what we want. We could trust that these faceless computer recommendations know us better than we know ourselves, but that’s for the weak at heart.

Anyone worth having a drink with knows what they love (film…food…fiance-wise) from within…Or as Maris Kreizma explains in An Algorithm Isn’t Always the Answer: “Picking a great book is all about going with your gut. It’s all in the read,” furthering, “the best things in life are unquantifiable.” (1)

I say this because I think it’s worth giving due credit to three visionary human beings that have reached stellar levels of success via kickass point of views, personal style and above all, from within, anti-algorithm personal taste. Cue in:

The one and only, controversial, but totally badass beauty: Gwyneth Paltrow, CEO of Goop

“What, exactly, is someone buying when they buy into Goop or Preserve? Besides a monogrammable wooden longboard ($495, Goop) or a custom-made geometric print Pendleton wool “trail trench cloak” ($1,350, Preserve), that is. ‘A set of values that are associated with Gwyneth,’ [says Goop’s] Gersh.” And she’s not alone, “celebrities are increasingly moving from endorsing products to being the product,’ said John Demsey, group president of Estée Lauder. ‘This is only going to get more common.’” (3) Sounds like we could all take a page from Goop’s playbook on cultivating a personal look….a  particular lifestyle…that at times seems to almost invite the critics to come out and play.

Next. The quirky, daring editor, writer and Twitter-lit-legend: Maris Kreizma, also author of Slaughterhouse 90210

On her book: “It is an argument, presented with blunt evidence rather than explanation, that works of what we consider high and low culture can not only be appreciated by the same people (a tiff we’ve been having in the cultural criticism world for quite a while now), but can be placed in direct conversation with each other.” (2) So in short, she’s killing the game with a sense of taste that feels original and groundbreaking because it dares us to examine serious works of art with levity… and appreciate pop culture with a more nuanced eye.

Last. The shape shifting, too-cool-for–you fashion maven: Haley Nahman, Digital Editor of Man Repeller

On why it’s critical to put time into the “gathering stages” of cultivating a sense of personal taste. (+ Proof that you CAN stop dreaming and actually reach out and grab that “dreamy” job that seems just out of reach):

Q: “How did you get started at Man Repeller?”

A: “Before this I was working in talent experience at a design firm in San Francisco. I would explain that in more detail if I didn’t think it would bore you. There is almost no overlap in duties between that career and this one unless you include my unpaid side-gigs which were writing for my blog, helping my friends with creative projects and vigorously reading the internet….I’ve been obsessed with Man Repeller since 2011, but it wasn’t until 2014 when I decided to get less hypothetical about ~following my dreamz~ that I even let the idea of contributing enter my field of vision. Fast track to earlier this year, after several attempts (and failures!) to contact MR, when I found myself on an email chain with Leandra and Amelia (via my friend, angel and writer Carlye Wisel). I sent them a bunch of my writing and a cheesy powerpoint deck and then hyperventilated for a few minutes. When Leandra eventually offered me the gig I quit my job and moved across the country. I’m an indecisive overthinker and I’ve never had to consider something less.” (4)

Convinced yet that your gut instincts might know more than your Netflix recommender? I hope so…and hope more people might consider that in our data saturated world, the ability to cultivate a sense of taste may in fact become one of our greatest points of difference between humans and cyborgs…….. but then again, maybe I’m just paranoid.


“An Algorithm Isn’t Always the Answer,” The New York Times, 11/24/17

Slaughterhouse 90210, by Maris Kreizman via “Culture Talks To Culture In ‘Slaughterhouse 90210’,” NPR, 10/07/15

How Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop Has Become a Role Model for Other Celebrities, The New York Times, 11/14/14

“Get to Know Team MR: Haley, Digital Editor,” Man Repeller, 05/16/16

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