How My Father’s Approach To Personal Style Inspired My Love For Shopping – Essence

Shelby Hyde

Very few people have influenced my personal style quite like my dad. My timeline and mood boards are filled with influential A-listers, like the late singer Aaliyah, and film references dating back to the 1970s, but none rival him. From the way I shop to the pieces I pick out and my love for a good vintage find, my father is–and always has been–a key source of inspiration.

For as long as I can remember, my dad has loved to shop. Whether it was browsing the racks at department stores or exploring the boutiques in Paris and Switzerland during his work travels, for niche brands we didn’t have in the United States, nothing brings him as much joy as landing a quality purchase. And he was always sure to bring back something for me from every trip—opening me up to a wealth of options beyond my beloved retailers in the mall.

How My Father’s Approach To Personal Style Inspired My Love For Shopping
Shelby Hyde

Some of my earliest memories include perusing the very limited assortment of stores in the heart of Indianapolis, for nothing and everything at the same time alongside my dad. It was something we’d do, just the two of us—though my mom would tag along from time to time to make sure I was also getting what I needed rather than just the things I wanted. We’d make our rounds in both Saks Fifth Avenue and Nordstrom’s children’s department, before eventually heading to the ‘90s retailer Stride Rite’—who always had a batch of fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies ready for customers while they tried on shoes. It was the first time that I saw shopping as a leisure activity, rather than an errand one must run. 

Then, when the boom of online shopping hit in the early to mid-2000s, my dad was leading the charge. He introduced my mom and me to discount designer websites like the Gilt Group, RueLaLa, and Bluefly (which was particularly big on the hit show Gossip Girl). He was always ten steps ahead, setting timers for the digital trunk shows on these sites, for his favorite brands like Ralph Lauren and Loro Piana.

How My Father’s Approach To Personal Style Inspired My Love For Shopping
Shelby Hyde

The same is true when it comes to secondhand shopping. Decades before the Gen Z crowd started swarming thrift stores, my dad was taking to our local vintage boutiques to search for heavily discounted pieces his go-to designers. For him, it has always been about the thrill of a good deal. The wallet-friendly price tag was just the icing on top. Today, he has his go-to consignment stores in my hometown, which have in turn become my new favorites as well,

However, it’s worth noting that despite shopping for sportswear, my dad is quite picky. A former tax attorney born in Mississippi, he has his favorite labels and desired navy blue color palette, both of which he’s stuck closely to for the last 30 years of my life. I heard the phrase “quality over quantity” more times than I can count, as he tried encouraging me to invest in desirable fabrics and well-made pieces rather than the Forever 21 camisoles and Hollister henleys I was bringing home by the dozens. 

I’d say his words finally stuck in adulthood, as I began weeding out the pilled sweaters and ill-fitting pants I’d accumulated over the years—undoing all the damage that had been done to my closet. His advice started to click somewhere around age 23—I began buying less and better, but he was already thinking ahead to what would come next.

A few years before Marie Kondo inspired a new generation of minimalists, my dad was already on it. Just as quickly as he had started building out his wardrobe, he was getting rid of things he no longer wore in an attempt to downsize to only the essentials. And for no other reason aside from the fact that he wanted a lighter lifestyle.

How My Father’s Approach To Personal Style Inspired My Love For Shopping
Shelby Hyde

When I moved to New York City almost a decade ago, the first thing he wanted to do was go to Woodbury Commons, the outdoor designer outlet just an hour outside of the city. I watched him scan the racks at Saks Off Fifth and Neiman’s Last Call like a robocop, before settling on a double-breasted coat from the (now defunct brand) Ted Baker—which he still has to this day.

It was at that moment, I realized I know everything I know and love about shopping is accredited to him. When I’m picking out something these days, I stick to classic black pieces I can wear with anything. Similar to my dad, I invest in materials like cotton and linen that will last longer than a few seasons. And most importantly—I love a good deal and vintage finds. Now, at age 30, I’m sitting in my NYC apartment surrounded by things that used to bring me joy and now feel like clutter, contemplating how I too can become a minimalist, just like my dad.

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