I recently started reading The Flinch, by Julien Smith. The basic idea is that we humans have this inclination to protect ourselves. This self-preservation, this flinch, is a defense mechanism meant to keep us alive and safe. It’s the flight in “fight or flight”.

The problem is that in our modern society, rarely are we humans put in a situation where we need to flinch. Rarely are we ever in THAT much danger, relatively speaking. We have longer lifespans, modern medicine, homes that shield us from the elements, the absence of dinosaurs and flesh-eating mammals roaming the streets.

Yet, we still flinch. We let these fears prevent us from doing awesome shit, making great change, and improving our lives.

That fear of speaking in public? Of doing a Skype call with someone you haven’t yet met? Of going up to unfamiliar yet attractive strangers in bars? Of losing weight? Of dropping bad habits?

That fear, that’s the flinch.

What does this have to do with personal style?

Glad you asked.

I get a lot of emails and comments that allude to this issue of insecurity. They say things like “I can’t dress like that with my group of friends,” or “Not sure what my girlfriend would think if I suddenly started wearing blazers and nice shoes.”

These comments are clear indicators of the fear in these gents’ minds when it comes to change… and this fear prevents great change from happening.

The flinch.

In reality though, if you REALLY think about it, what do you have to fear when trying to improve yourself? At the most, one or two jeers (from poorly-dressed peers, naturally), maybe a couple confused looks, some questions based on curiosity (“Whoa, when did you start dressing like that?”)… but I’m confident that if you keep at it, most of the reactions you receive will be positive, uplifting, and supportive.

The first step is pressing on despite any fears you might have.

Here are some common issues and internal questions that tend to come up

What will my friends / loved ones think?

You’re likely to encounter one of three reactions.

One: Negative, either of the “Eww, I don’t like your new look,” or “Who do you think you are?” variety.

I don’t understand either, particularly the latter. Since when is it bad to want to improve in every aspect of your life, especially the most outward-facing one, your appearance? And the former is usually said by people who have little or no knowledge of good style, so how much weight do their opinions really hold?

Two: Ambivalence, unsure of what to think or how to react. They’re not negative, but not necessarily positive either. These people will come around, if you keep evolving, learning, and doing your best.

Think about it. It’s a drastic change to go from ripped, faded jeans and dingy tees, to dark denim and button ups. People won’t know how to react when they see you. So those who are unsure but mostly okay with it will come around and turn into supporters eventually, trust me.

Three: Positive, the ones who are like “Hell yeah! you look great!” are the folks you want to keep around. Why? Well, for support, and because it’s good to keep positive peeps around you when you’re making an effort to do things differently.

Who gives a crap?

Side note: When I first started writing this, my first inclination was to proclaim, “Who gives a crap what people think? Even your closest loved ones? If they hate, then forget about em.”

I still believe this, don’t get me wrong. If they’re truly your friends or loved ones and care about you, they’d be supportive of you no matter what, especially if the changes you’re making in your life are for the better.

But, I know this is easier said than done; every situation is different, and dynamics can vary drastically. So the above is my more thought-out answer. If you’re more pragmatic and no-nonsense like me, you can go with the “Who gives a crap?” answer.

Can I really pull off a new look?

Dude, of course you can. The toughest thing to get over is that feeling of being overwhelmed.

Take your time; evolving your style and improving yourself isn’t a Sunday afternoon project, complete in a couple hours. It takes commitment, true interest, and the desire to learn and make changes where necessary.

It also takes an open mind, because a lot of the things you believed to be true about how to wear clothes will be challenged. More times than not, you’ll realize you were wrong all along.

I don’t know what I’m doing.

Good thing you found this site then, right? Like I just mentioned, self-improvement (not just in style, but in every aspect of your life) is a marathon and takes consistent action to see any results. Just keep learning and practicing and trying and doing. Ask lots of questions, make decisions, and figure out what you like.

There are too many options. How do I know where to start?

You’ll know where to start once you know where to start. That sounds super vague, but if you keep learning and reading and going to stores and trying stuff on, you’ll easily learn what fits and what doesn’t, what constitutes well-made versus shoddily constructed, etc.

I’ll tell you one thing, every man needs a great pair of denim.

Once you’re ready to start making some good purchases, make sure you consider these things.

There are too many options. Who do I listen to?

Well, me, for one. Though to be honest you’re doing yourself a great disservice by listening to me only. There are a bunch of great writers / bloggers who are super knowledgeable about men’s style, and you can learn a lot from each of them.

Here are some of my favorites, ranging from basic style advice to more advanced topics and ideas.

Ultimately, you dress for you

Sure, part of your motivation to dress better is to impress so-and-so who’s caught your eye, or maybe because your significant other gives you dirty looks every time you leave the house and you’re starting to feel her deep, seething resentment.

Maybe mommy and daddy are treating you like a child still, and putting on a collared shirt and ironed chinos might get you more respect and adult-like treatment (you’re still five years old in their eyes, and probably always will be).

What it really comes down to is this: you need to dress better for YOUR own good.

If you’re in this deep, reading practically every article on this site, learning as much as you can about menswear, quality clothing, where to buy what, buying fewer but buying better, then your primary motivation should be to improve your life and style and appearance because YOU want to.

Impressing others and gaining approval as a source of motivation only lasts for so long. Eventually, that drive fades, or you lose interest in the other person, or you stop caring about what others think.

The only thing that will bring long-lasting change is the desire for constant self-improvement and the motivation to present yourself better.

Make sense?

What’s holding you back?

I’m sure a few of you can relate on some level. What are your hang-ups? What’s holding you back from experimenting or discovering your own personal style and taste?

Is it the feeling of overwhelm? Not knowing where to start? Not sure who to trust? Or maybe you just need more time to read, absorb, and learn?

Let’s hear it down below in the comments. I’m curious and maybe I can help.


ps — if you have a minute, please like Effortless Gent on Facebook, wouldja? You rock.

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36 Responses

  1. RalphB on

    Most of the negativity will come from people who have a lousy self-image.  They put others down so they feel better about themselves.  Once you understand this, it’s a lot easier to let their comments slide until they get used to the new look.

    • Barron on

      Good point. That’s another thing I wanted to say but neglected to mention; naysayers only do so to bring others down. And you’re right, it’s easier to brush it off once you realize this. Guys, keep at it and eventually your new look is just… your look.

  2. Richard Wilkins on

    Great article, Keep up the good work.  Self esteem is something that comes with confidence and confidence comes with courage.  Don’t be ashamed to be a better person, no one can live your life but you and if someone chooses to judge you, its only because they are not comfortable with what you are doing.  Do yourself a favor and make yourself happy.

    • Barron on

      Courage, exactly! It’s funny how people’s negativity towards your doing something awesome has everything to do with their own comfort levels, and oftentimes reflective of their own self doubts.

      Thanks for the comment.

  3. Tim Hutchinson on

    Overall, I love your blog and most of the articles (I’d be one of the ones in your learning phase), but I see a couple lines that I can’t agree with every now and then.

    “And the former is usually said by people who have little or no knowledge
    of good style, so how much weight do their opinions really hold?”

    Surely we cannot define ‘good style’ in absence-or even the opposition-of the very people who are seeing our style (putting aside the dress for yourself argument for now). I think determining ‘good style’ is by its very nature dependent on the reaction of those who see it. Saying that just because those around you actually dislike a look deemed by others to be ‘good style’ means that their opinion doesn’t count inherently goes against that nature.

    I would say that the better response would be to take some of your other advice and try to use their feedback to ‘make the style your own.’  What style could be more ‘your own’ than taking elements of two different definitions of style that you enjoy?

    • Barron on

      When I wrote that, I was picturing the types of people who love expressing their own opinions without knowing what they’re talking about. For example, a bro in a Bro Shirt telling me how to wear my shirt with my tie.

      I definitely think people can figure out what’s works for them without taking the reactions of other people into consideration… because there are clear “style rules” in place that can be followed / slightly altered to make it your own.

      Plus, you have to be careful where you get your feedback from. If I didn’t know any better in the above example, I’d be getting shirt and tie advice from a bro wearing a Bro Shirt. Clearly, he doesn’t know what he’s talking about if he’s wearing a Bro Shirt… otherwise he wouldn’t be wearing a Bro Shirt.

  4. Dan on

    Great topic! People like to think of themselves as being more independent from group think and peer pressure than they really are, in my experience.

    One thing I think is important for a lot of guys to remember is that even though you’re met with initial criticism, most people ultimately respect you for taking action in a certain area of your life. Maybe they criticized your dressing before but eventually they’ll start to say “Well, look at my friend ______, he definitely changed the way he dresses.”

    True leadership – even if it’s just leadership over your own life – is in establishing the framework of your own life. Then following that framework through to the bitter end.

    Let’s say you’re out with friends for dinner and you get teased for not ordering a big burger. You say “no, man, I’m on a diet.” Your friends – even if they’re generally good people – will likely give you a little push for not conforming to group think. But with self-discipline and persistence, what YOU decide is the context of your life is what others will come to believe, too. That’s leadership, in personal style as well as anywhere else.

    • Barron on

      Awesome comment Dan, thanks. Totally agree and even though doing your own thing despite what others might say / think isn’t the easiest to do, it’s worth it.

  5. Markus on

    I have been going through the process of changing my wardrobe and just recently bought a pair of Clark’s Desert Boots. I showed them to two of my friends and one said they looked really good and the other said they looked like crap. I told him that he had to remember that he was the same person saying that Authentic Original Sperry Top-Siders were ugly. He’s also the friend that has been taking my recent style tips. I told him that until he tries on a pair for himself he has no room to talk, and what I wear is what I think is most comfortable and needs to leave it at that.

    • Barron on

      Hey Markus,

      Lots of people like to dismiss things without giving them a chance, or trying them firsthand. Bottom line, I’m glad you’re wearing what you like and not listening to that second friend of yours.

      Eventually, he’ll be wearing Desert Boots and you’ll be wearing something else currently out of his comfort zone. You can then restate your point and remind him of what he once said to you about the boots.

  6. Blake on

    Any tips for High Schoolers? My parents are telling me that the way I dress is driving the ladies away. 
    They want me to wear Hollister, and Aeropostale again(I hate that shit). They bug me about why I want to spend $100+ on a single pair of jeans, or $200+ for ‘real’ boots. They are telling me that all of my clothes are too skinny and want me to wear baggier clothing.
    I have no idea what is right and what is wrong nowadays. Sometimes I wish I was free of them to make my  own mistakes.

    • Barron on

      Hey Blake,

      Interesting comment. Bottom line is this: if you don’t look up to your parents in the style department, don’t bother taking their advice when it comes to style. Find people whose style you admire, and look to them for inspiration and insight.

      My parents aren’t the best dressers, and I definitely don’t take their advice for clothing (though they stopped giving me advice years ago). Nothing wrong with that, as I’m sure you look up to them in other aspects of your life… just nod and smile when they try to tell you how to dress, and then turn around and continue discovering how it is you prefer to dress.

      You sound like you’re learning a lot as far as buying well-fitting, quality pieces, things that may last longer (vs. the stuff you find at Hollister). Stick with it, and maybe in 5-10 years you won’t look back at your high school photos wondering why you were wearing baggy jeans, corny graphic tees and logo’d out clothing like the rest of your peers.

    • Anonymous on

      In paying all this cash for clothes don’t forget to account for how your body’s changing. I know most of the stuff I wore in HS didn’t fit a year later (but I gained 50 lbs that year, so may be an anomaly).

    • Charlie G. on

      As a fellow high schooler, I dress with style but I dont get hurt by prices much. I buy my denim from the Western Store (try Sheplers if you dont have one, good for boots too) and i tailor all my own shirts from Thrift stores, its not too hard, just make sure the shoulders fit off the rack! If anyone knows of somewhere i can get slim dress shirts for less than $30 please tell me!

      • Barron on

        Well played. It’s a smart move to get dress and sport shirts from thrift stores. If you have the patience, you can find some really great stuff. Good advice about making sure the shoulders fit off the rack.

        Wish I had your sense of style (and resourcefulness) when I was in high school.

  7. DNameIsJapoy on

    It’s quite funny how this article is so true and that I experienced it first-hand. 😀 When I started putting on clothes and combinations different from what I usually wear, people always had their jaws dropped (shock, amusement, disdain… I don’t know haha).  But now, even other people are recommending that my circle of friends get some fashion advice from me (though all I did was to express how I want to see my self).

    Let them get used to what you want, not you getting used to what they want.
    So thanks a lot to Barron and company for this EPIC site! 😀 

    • Barron on

      Lots of people have been telling me that as well… once they started to dress better, others started asking for advice. That’s a good thing 🙂 Glad to hear you’re taking what you learn and putting it to use.

      • [email protected] on

        i quite often get compliments for the way i dress, but i rarely get asked for advice – the sad part.
        i once tried to hint some to a friend, who replied that he, as opposed to me, was not a model.  i took that as a form of compliment, although i’d have preferred that he’d rather have taken the advice.
        of course, i’m not a model, and don’t look like one. but i’ll try my best when i go to work.
        my clothes are mostly tailor made, so there’s not much range for mistakes, except for colors, about which i seem to have a problem. so, now i have a large array of white shirts that say ‘green light’ whenever i doubt my color choices..

        i got the biggest (pun intended) form of flattery last week when someone told me i ‘looked like a million dollars’. it took a few minuted to sink in, because i first thought that person wanted to sell me something.. 🙂

        apart from work, i try to dress like rockstars at home, that is, like every body else does: very simply. which is a shame sometimes.

          • [email protected] on

            honestly, yes, i would like to give more advice, now that i found my personal style.
            .. and i thought about the site.. i’m just too lazy, and i don’t have a proper desk to work at long enough..
            i turned my best friend, a willing victim, into a gentleman with great taste.
            the greatest part is that i eventually turn to him for advice when in doubt..

  8. Charlie G. on

    One day i showed up to school in a suit. 

    some of my friends asked if I was running for office or something, and my trig teacher said to me “You better trade in those cowboy boots for running shoes, you’ll have the ladies running after you!” 

    I laughed at first, but now i realized its true. Three years ago i was a quiet kid blending in , but when i dress like a gentleman… Im noticed.  I have the confidence i didnt have before. I talked to random chicks and they would say “Hey, your that kid with that awesome style, I always wanted to say Hi!”. 
    Its nice being noticed. All adults i know give me tons of more respect than the Grateful Dead shirt and jeans kid i was before. 

    So if you want to improve yourself..
    Just Do It.

    • Barron on

      Dude, you are the man. Are you really in high school? That does take balls to wear a suit to class when you’re in HS. It’s nice hearing from someone who is so sure about his style at such a young age.

      Where are you from? In the first sentence it sounds like you wore cowboy boots with your suit? That’s pretty pimp.

      I notice at first the comments are more negative and jokey, but once you continue what you’re doing, people realize you’re being serious, and they take you more seriously, and then they recognize the awesome style you’ve developed, and it becomes a part of you.

      Great job my man. Thanks for sharing the story.

  9. Markus on

    Do it anyway – these are the exact words that I told my friend tonight when he was getting dressed to go to a bar he had never been to with some friends. He told me that he was just going to wear some normal clothes like a t-shirt and a zip up hoodie, so I decided to step in. I pulled out a nice button up and saw that he had a really nice corduroy blazer as well and he tried protesting that that wasn’t his style and I told him to do it anyway. I get a text from him an hour later saying that I was right about the shirt and blazer because it’s a nicer bar and he fit right in clothing wise with everyone else! I’m so glad that I read this post weeks ago otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to help him out!

  10. Brian Alcorn on

    Fears?  Well, the almighty budget for starters.  I don’t have much to spare on a failed experiment, so my style is clinging to classics that have withstood the test of time.  I’ve forgone several “experiments” due to fears that they wouldn’t pan out, and thus I would be out that cash that could have gone to better use.

    Other than that, I agree, “who gives a crap?” 

  11. MastaHandz on

    I just feel like I’ve been endorsing this urban street style thing for entirely to long. Where I live everybody has SWAG, and there is little to no CLASS in the streets. Therefore, there’s really no one to talk to for advice on how to achieve a more mature look. It’s all about Bape, Supreme, Stussy, and Diamond Supply. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, but I just want my clothes to fit my persona. I’m a very serious, mature, and intellectual person but I don’t want my attire to say the opposite. I realized this when I bought my first peacoat from Topman, but had nothing to wear with it. Now that I think about it I still don’t, but that’s besides the point. My question is where can I start buying fashionable, yet convenient clothing because it’s hard out here.

  12. Justin R on

    This post couldn’t have been more timely. I’ve been wearing button ups and such for a while, but recently I started slowly adding a little more like blazers or throwing a tie on underneath a cardigan. My girlfriend of three years was upset with me that I was “dressed up”. I have never been more confused, why would she be upset that I wanted to kick my style up another notch? She dresses nicely too so it’s not like I was trying to upstage her. We usually agree on most things, but not on this. She thinks men shouldn’t care about what they wear. I’m hoping eventually she’ll eventually have a positive attitude towards it, but I was pretty surprised.

  13. Nathan Miller on

    I’m almost 40 and I feel like most of my generation dress like slobs. I’ve seen a lot of younger guys dressing much nicer than my Gen X peers. We are going to get passed up if we don’t step up.

  14. beardedman on

    I’ve got to add a side benefit for me here. I’ve gotten interested in more formal attire and recently acquired a full custom premium suit to wear to work even though a polo and jeans are considered acceptable. One of the things that surprised me was that the suit was more comfortable to wear than jeans and a polo! Cool, lightweight wool is way more wearable all day than heavy denim. So yeah, I get stares and get asked if I’m going on an interview. But I look super sharp and am surprisingly comfortable.

  15. Paul Abrahams on

    I think some of what holds me back is gaining all this knowledge then blowing a wad on the wrong shoes. lol. Its hard to be patient when your surrounded by the latest fashion trends at the mall only to realise most of it is seasonal rubbish. I always do an internet recon before I hit any stores, so I know what I’m looking for and how much I’m prepared to pay.