What is a Style Icon ?

By Ellen McCahill |

What does it mean to be iconic in the year 2024? 

These days, highly saturated content swarms our society, trends are cyclical, fast-moving, and quite literally produced in masses and so-called ‘celebrities’ are birthed into culture from social media at growing rates that pop culture has never seen before. To say that something in our modern culture is ‘iconic’ doesn’t exactly hold the same prestige and regard as it used to. According to the Cambridge Dictionary, ‘iconic’ is defined as something that is “very popular or famous, especially being considered to represent particular opinions or a particular time”. If we are analysing mediums on the ‘iconic’ scale from this definition alone then quite frankly we could call Nike tech tracksuits iconic, and I feel that we can all agree that they really are not… 

While the idea of icons has long been modified, one genre of this exclusive group has managed to consistently persist over time, unwavering from its original framework is that of the style icon. 


Style Icon:


“An influential individual who introduces new styles that spread throughout fashion culture and popular culture and become a part of mainstream fashion. “

Throughout the last century there has been a plenitude of individuals who have left lasting impressions on the fashion world through their unique and original styles, but what exactly is it about them that makes them, well, iconic? 

You see, a style icon is less about the title and more about the influence that person can carry across the multiverse of pop culture. Your style must create a cultural conversation, be unique but also have trend-worthy appeal, and most importantly, outlive you – basically your style must be trendsetting yet timeless. 

A common trend I have noted across most ‘style icons’ such as Princess Diana, David Bowie, and Kate Moss is that their styles are consistent. They pick a style, and they stick to it, quite literally for the rest of their life. Their style compliments them and it looks good and most importantly it is not boring. The idea of a style icon also should not be measured by their popularity. There are many people that occupy mainstream conversation for their style that are elevated to the title of style icon solely due to a large fanbase that enjoys their looks e.g. Ariana Grande. 

Taking this understanding of style icons, let’s delve into some of the kings and queens of style icon royalty. 

  1. Zendaya 

Zendaya has never flopped. Not once. While being a triple threat in her ability to sing, act and model, this woman also dominates the fashion industry with her fearless looks on the red carpet. This comes as no surprise with the assistance of her iconic ex-powerhouse stylist, the self-proclaimed ‘image architect’, Law Roach who created looks such as her Joan of Arc Met Gala look. Roach also went on to create her elegant red two-piece set that she wore to the CFDA fashion awards in 2021,  where she in fact won the Fashion Icon award (the youngest ever to accept this award, I must add!). If winning a literal trophy for being a style icon doesn’t get you to the top of this list, I don’t know what does! 22 Of Zendaya's Best Looks | iHeart

39 Photos of Zendaya's Best Red Carpet Looks
  1. Bella Hadid

There is no debate in saying that Bella Hadid is one of the most influential style icons of our generation both on and off the runway. Her eclectic street style not only creates iconic looks but also starts iconic worldwide trends. Her chameleon-like quality when it comes to fashion, experimenting with glamour, vintage and unconventional pairings is one of the reasons why the world remains captivated by her wardrobe. 

Bella Hadid on the street next to a black car
Hadid shared this snap to Instagram, celebrating a night out with friends in the East Village this September.
  1. Jane Birkin 

Jane Birkin, one of the chicest women in the world. The embodiment of a muse, Birkin was the fashion figure of the ’60s and 70’s, her effortless style making her quite possibly the ‘It‘ girl of the century, still influencing fashion trends to this day. Known for her statement straw basket and her ability to bend the rules yet carelessly perfect every outfit, makes Jane Birkin a fashion legacy. 

  1. Carrie Bradshaw

Carrie Bradshaw- the queen of messy chic. I know you might be thinking, “Carrie Bradshaw? But she isn’t even a real person!” and you would be correct, but it would be criminal to not include her in this list after the extensive influence she had on young women all over the world, with her clashing bold prints, iconic tutus and collection of crop tops. Sarah Jessica Parker who portrayed this iconic envy-worthy character from ‘Sex and the City’ living it up in NYC as a certified fashionista, provided us with iconic bold styles and fashion statements that still live on our Pinterest feeds twenty years later. Like Rachel Green she is an undisputed TV style icon.

Trailer for Sex and the City 1999
Carrie Bradshaw's Most Fashionable Moments
And Just Like That, Carrie Bradshaw's Outfits Suck | by Dagmara  Cintron-Dylewska | Pop Off
SATC season 2 episode 12 - Carrie Bradshaw | Carrie bradshaw outfits, City  outfits, Fashion
  1. Lisa Bonet and Lenny Kravitz

Imagine being talented hot, cool, and being with someone equally as talented hot, and cool? I am talking about the iconically stylish ex-couple of Lenny Kravitz and Lisa Bonet. Like Zendaya, Lenny has also been awarded the CFDA Fashion Icon award, and rightly so, ever since he made his debut with Let Love Rule in 1989, he cultivated his effortlessly cool, grungy style that became a timeless characteristic of the rock star’s persona that has aged tremendously. Lisa Bonet, the bohemian whimsical queen with her style signature of free-spirited floral dresses and a touch of goth influence is a style I still admire to this day. Bonet’s 70’s signature style continues to inspire fashion trends today and is the ultimate inspiration for festival goers. 

  1. Rihanna and ASAP Rocky.

Rihanna is known as one of the greatest musical icons of our generation, however as well as being a musical icon, the singer also dominates as a style icon. After launching her fashion brand SAVAGE X Fenty in 2018, she became an immediate success in the fashion world, becoming the first black woman to head a luxury brand for LVMH with Fenty. The success of her brand comes as no surprise after years of experience with fashion and the archive of one-of-a-kind outfits that have cemented her as one the most creative style icons in the fashion industry. 

The perfect pairing alongside the most fashionable man in the hip-hop industry, ASAP Rocky, makes this couple unstoppable in the fashion world. Like Rihanna, ASAP Rocky has long shown an interest in the fashion industry with his impeccable fashion sense and has been recently named creative director for Puma in its new partnership with Formula One. 

*Sigh* Some people really do have it all…


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