Welcome to another installment of Signature Style!
This is my favorite series to put together, because you, the reader, get to see real-life examples of the ideas we talk about here at EG.
Today, we’ll be chatting with Mr. Gus Walbolt.
If you’ve ever been on Tumblr and have come across a picture of Gus, I’d be truly surprised. That’s because he’s typically behind the camera, documenting the stylish gents in the San Francisco Bay Area that come to any number of meet-ups he generously organizes. I’ve been to a few myself, and they’re always a great time.
By the way, he also curates a nice selection of images and thoughts on his Tumblr, A Bit Of Color.
Mr. Walbolt is a creative at heart, having run an art publishing company for 28 years. With years of practice putting together color, pattern, and design style, he has a keen understanding of what looks good together.
This expertise extends to his own wardrobe; he dresses impeccably, combining tailored garments with more casual pieces, and he really stands apart from other guys, both young and old. I hope I dress even half as well when I’m his age.
Gus is a great example of how an older, mature, more established man should dress. I often get emails from readers worried that what EG preaches might not apply to them because they’re in their 40s, 50s, or 60s.
EG is all about a well-curated, contemporary, interchangeable, age-appropriate wardrobe, no matter how young or old you are.
But I don’t have to tell you that; just take it from Gus.
My Qs, his As. Enjoy and take notes!
EG: In 3-5 words, describe your personal style.
GW: American, British, Italian mix. In general, that breaks down to British shoes, American jeans and sportswear, and Italian tailored clothing, but there are exceptions.
EG: Who or what influences / inspires your style the most, and why?
GW: I am inspired by anything in fashion, art or design, that is well executed, well made, reflects quality, is flattering, and is either a true classic or offers a progressive “fresh” look. It is an emotional feeling, I know it instantly when I see it.
I travel and read dozens of magazines from around the world including France, Britain and Japan for a global perspective of fashion, home décor and lifestyle. And, of course, I’m all over the Internet.
I like certain elements of traditional apparel but gladly embrace a contemporary lifestyle. I don’t want to live in the past, but I don’t want to ignore it either. This combination is a genuine reflection of who I am. It gives my style authenticity rather than simply reflecting a particular trend or designer’s vision.
EG: Do you have a favorite piece in your closet?
GW: I don’t have a favorite. I have a fairly edited wardrobe. I’m well past the stage of simply wanting a lot of things when it comes to clothing. I have a few near-perfect, well-coordinated items for each season in terms of fit, material, and color. It makes packing for travel easy.
I always have a navy jacket, grey flannels, jeans, white OCBD and blue end-on-end shirts, a pair of Lobb Williams and Russells. I can go almost anywhere in the world wearing those. They are the perfect base for adding a bit of color. But, just one expressive item at a time is enough – the perfect pocket square, silk tie, crocodile belt, or colorful cashmere sweater.
EG: What’s one essential item of clothing every guy should own, and why?
GW: Pants. It is pretty hard to be taken seriously if you aren’t wearing any. Aside from that, I think every guy should own a deep grey knit cashmere tie. They exude a subtle elegance and are very versatile in Fall/Winter.
EG: What’s one piece of advice you have for those still trying to find their own personal style?
GW: One of the most underrated areas of personal style is discovering your own color palette. Just because a color looks great on a mannequin, in a magazine, or on a friend, doesn’t mean it will look good on you.
It is essential to find not only what color but also what shade of that color works best for you. This is true for even the classic colors.
I can’t wear a pale blue shirt or a medium to light grey suit in Fall/Winter without looking washed out and tired. Put me in charcoal and suddenly there is a major improvement. Add a medium pink shirt and I look like I just returned from vacation. (But pale pink and I look washed out).
Everyone has blue and white shirts. Find a few distinctive colors that are flattering and complementary to your complexion and add those to your wardrobe. While others wear blue shirts everyday, mix it up with a lavender oxford cloth, a purple stripe or a rich pink.
Colors such as these add interest to your wardrobe and can elegantly and easily elevate the look of a solid navy jacket or grey suit.
(Editor’s note: I couldn’t let Gus go without asking a few more questions, such as the reactions he receives from people he encounters throughout his day, or how his career influences his style.)
EG: To what extent does your career influence your style, and how?
GW: I had an art publishing company for 28 years that produced 500+ products annually. Every day, working with the creative team, we made dozens of decisions about color, pattern, design and style. I love putting together “looks”. It is the same mental process whether it’s for home décor products or my apparel choice for the day. When it works, you know it. You feel it emotionally.
Being open to new ideas and embracing the need for change is a key to success in business, product development, and for looking your best.
One of the most underrated areas of personal style is discovering your own color palette.
EG: As you’re out and about during the day, what are some reactions you receive because of the way you dress?
GW: From both men and women, I get a lot of, “I really like your look”. I think it is how I mix casual and tailored elements. I most frequently combine vintage denim, cutaway collar shirt, tailored jacket and a derby or monk shoe.
I try and coordinate a few colors or materials, such as wearing suede bucks in the same color as the suede elbow patches of my navy jacket. People notice quality shoes.
EG: What advice would you have for an older gentleman wanting to improve his wardrobe without risking looking too young, too trendy, or too dressed up relative to his everyday situation?
GW: First and foremost is to assess the length and cut of your clothing. Most men became comfortable with fuller, looser, longer cuts in the 90s and early 2000s. Unfortunately, many are still stuck in that silhouette. It dates them.
A mature guy shouldn’t feel the need to chase the extremes of fashion. But by pursuing even a slightly more tailored, shorter, trimmer fit, they will appear to be more youthful in attitude and style.
Replace typical dark grey pants with light or pearl grey flannels. It instantly makes any guy over 40 look younger, especially when paired with a navy blazer.
Purchase a great pair of shoes that will work double duty with jeans or for dress. I recommend a derby cap toe or wingtip in an orange/tan color as well as a tobacco suede cap toe or double monk. A grained leather wingtip in a rich brown is also an excellent choice. Women will notice.
Get rid of old dress belts. Yeah, the ones with all the wear marks around the buckles. They are as bad as wearing a tie with gravy stains.
If you don’t wear something for a year, get rid of it. It is your inner-self trying to tell you that some things need to be replaced and updated.
Buy a scarf with multiple colors in an interesting and unique pattern. It will elevate even the most ordinary conservative outfit. You will get better service at bars and cafes.
Thanks Gus! I wholeheartedly agree with all of this. I’m a big proponent of the Lean Wardrobe (in case that isn’t already obvious), and Gus perfectly embodies this philosophy.
Whether you’re 25 or 65, if you’re looking to build your Lean Wardrobe, start with perfect fitting basics in the best quality you can afford, and incorporate a bit of color in your accessories.
What was your biggest takeaway?
I hope you learned a lot from this Signature Style article. What’s the best thing you learned? Leave it in the comments below.
Lastly, don’t forget to check out Gus’ Tumblr, A Bit Of Color.
[all photos © Gus Walbolt]