Swag: the new meaning


The world is moving fast, and pop culture, as usual, is no exception. Staying in the know and keeping up with it (whatever “it” is) can get exhausting.

Let’s talk about “swag.” I thought it was a drapery treatment, a term used for free stuff distributed to celebrities at red carpet events, a short version of the word swagger, or P. Diddy’s new name, but according to fashion writer Marianne Posner, swag, in today’s culture, has another meaning:

Swag: What is it?

The essence of swag is confidence. Walking proudly because you know you look good. Swag is the new word for cool.  There’s even an entire Tumblr blog devoted to photo instances of swag. Surprisingly enough, it’s at Whatisswag.com, which is where the example photo below comes from.

In this example, the elements of a swag outfit are laid out for review. You’ll notice several high-end and brand name products. For the wearer, this ensemble is swag. The items work together to present a polished, well-thought out ensemble that says “I’m casual, but I care about how I present myself to the world.” Swag is, essentially, dapper without being too dressy. Swag is also about showing your individual personality. In this case the wearer adds a punk element with the black, skull-emblazoned scarf.

Case study: Pastor Ed Young is like a “hip to be square” kind of person. He’s a husband, a dad, a working man and he wants to be cool. Heck, he is kinda cool. When he realized his message wasn’t hitting home he tried something new. The video gives you some insight into swag culture and how Pastor Young found the balance between no swag and too much swag.

Swag: What ISN’T it?

Swag isn’t about copying someone else or wearing name brands. Swag isn’t gangsta, but it takes elements from popular culture, like the 5950 flat brimmed baseball hat. Neither is swag hipster, though you will see a lot of men pairing a high-top sneaker with a skinny or boot-cut jean.

Swag: Making it Work for You

The key to rocking swag is to avoid looking like a caricature. If you can’t pull off a flat brimmed baseball hat, don’t start now. Do choose clothing items that fit and flatter. Skip the souvenir tee-shirt from summer vacation several years ago and choose instead a well-made polo or button up shirt. If your style says, “I’m a cool individual with a unique point of view,” then you have succeeded.