I remember the first time I came across the idea of living with style, of making yourself a character in the novel of your life, of transforming your life into a form of expression and pushing it to the wildest edge of edges until it enters the realm of magic.

It was back in my skateboarding days, high school. Ah, that wonderful time that only comes once in life, when your body is a different size and shape every day (in my case mostly just farther from the ground each day), when your skin is basically just a few small patches between pimples. Anyway, skateboarding was the thing that got me through those days. When I wasn’t skating I was watching skate videos, playing Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, or reading issues of Transworld and Thrasher from cover to cover over and over again.

It was in the January 2002 issue of Transworld that I first came upon the idea of PFO, in an article by Ron Whaley. I’ve been thinking about the article for years, but only just today was able to find it through EBSCOhost. I know, I’m a nerd. I never thought I’d see this article again but I found it!

Anyway, here’s the excerpt from the article about PFO:

“It’s an important aspect of everyday life. It’s an individual style preference. It reflects who and how you are. It’s what you sport, what you rock, and what you floss. It’s the personal flair option (PFO).

In America, the PFO can be a Tasmanian Devil tattoo, a mullet, or a Ford Taurus with a spoiler, whereas Euro flair might involve espresso, cigarettes, and a scooter. No matter what your flair may be, if you’re feelin’ it, stick with it–even if they laugh at you.”

I had a few PFO attempts in those days… Remember those pants that zip off at the knee to become shorts? I had a khaki pair, a green pair, and an orange pair. Well, one time I zipped them all apart and made a pair of orange pants that had one green leg and one khaki. They were hideous. My mom was proud of me and took a picture. No one will ever see it.

Then there was the period where I wore one red Chuck Taylor and one green. I think a lot about colors and what they represent and the opposing colors were symbolic for me at the time. I was known on my college campus as “the kid with Christmas shoes.” I didn’t think it made me cool or special, I just felt like it made me, me. It gave me some piece of myself to cling to in a time in my life when I felt like I was being trained to get a job, go to school, get a better job, plan for retirement and then retire only to run out of retirement money, and all of that ultimately just to die. That’s life, even young skater me knew that, but he wasn’t going down without as much PFO as possible.

Whatever PFO is, it’s a way of defining yourself, of making yourself into both your ultimate-self and more than yourself. A canvas for expression and some small part of the Universe that stands out in our corner of strip malls and McMansions. PFO is a PFU to consumerism and conformity. Maybe that’s why the article resonated so much with young skater me…


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