A while ago I was chatting with a friend on Facebook about the phenomenon of street-style blogs and sites like the Sartorialist and Face Hunter. After checking out the links I sent him, he sent back a remark that annoyed me: “These are staged.”

Fashion has a lot to do with artifice. The appeal of street-style photos is that they are based in real life and so can be more exhilarating than even the most gorgeous, perfectly produced photo shoot. They emphasize that fashion can be as much a part of reality as we choose to make it. 

I can see why he would think that though. Scott Schuman, the photographer behind the Sartorialist, worked in fashion before he started his blog, so naturally he gravitates toward people whose look reflects a perfectly pulled together aesthetic. Yvan Rodic, the guy behind Face Hunter,  tends to snap people with more personal and vintage-inspired style. (In fact, he moved from Paris to London because “the young [Parisians] have lost their heritage and aren’t experimental enough to replace it.”) Both photographers are great at getting people to pose without looking awkward or self-conscious. Trust me, it’s harder than it looks.

Other bloggers shoot their own ensembles, so I suppose you could argue that they’re “staged,” but only in the sense that they’re trying to make an attractive record of what they’re actually wearing. The teenage blogger of Karla’s Closet certainly looks like she could be a model or an actress, but that doesn’t make her choices any less valid. Same for the people profiled in Show Me Your Wardrobe. A pixielike preteen in Oak Park named Tavi Gevinson caused a stir in the street-style blogosphere last summer when her online recording of her pretty amazing wardrobe experiments was featured in the New York Times’s T magazine. I don’t think she’s using a stylist.

I suppose we need to make a distinction between “street style”–which implies the images are spontaneous–and personal style. The photos for the Reader‘s What Are You Wearing feature were definitely styled and staged, but often the subjects were strangers to us, found on the street or approached at parties. The photos were intended to heighten and highlight their distinctive styles. You could get into an argument about how the presence of a camera alters the subject, but don’t most of us make more of an effort with our clothes when we know we’re going to be looked at?