Simple thoughts to help guide you in your quest for personal style improvement

by   |  in Smart Casual

When I first started this site, I had a vague idea of what I wanted to cover and how I hoped it would help people. Three years into it, I have a much, much clearer vision of the site’s mission.

These principles help guide the site, and they should guide you when developing your own personal style as well.

Here’s the thing. Like with any new habit you try to develop, the process may seem overwhelming, and you can be unsure of where to start. It’s natural. Even if you’re not a complete beginner—maybe you’re just trying to take it to the next level—it can be overwhelming at any stage.

There’s all this noise, all these resources, and so many different people telling you what to do and how to do it.

I think the most important person you need to listen to is yourself. If a piece of information doesn’t sit well with you, no need to blindly accept it or the person giving it to you (even if that’s me).

Also, you need to find a guide that resonates with you and speaks your language… someone you can relate to and who (hopefully) understands where you’re coming from because he (or she) has been there.

I’m going to assume that since you’re reading this, EG is that resource for you 🙂

Principles that guide the site (and can also serve as a guide for you)

This is what we’re about, and if you’re along for the ride, understand these points and internalize them. I think it will make your journey towards better personal style much, much smoother.

Style is more accessible than you think

Great style can be had on a $50,000 budget or a $50 budget, it’s just a matter of knowing what to look for.

To put it another way, money can buy nice clothes but it can’t buy style. So don’t be discouraged if you’re a young man still building his career, or a college student on a shoestring budget.

Upgrade your closet one item at a time, and take your time doing so. Find affordable alternatives, and only splurge on items that you can wear for years and years (like a great pair of dress shoes).

Just take a look at my man Jason of Broke and Bespoke. He looks like a million bucks every day, but he sure doesn’t spend like a millionaire. Dude is a thrifting KING. Just check out his archives for a quick visual run-down.

Fit > Quality > Brand

Focus on fit first. A $2,000 suit isn’t impressive if it’s ill-fitting. A $200 suit that’s been impeccably tailored, however, is ultra impressive. Again, it’s not always about how much you spend; it’s about the way the garments fit you.

When you have a bit more cash to spend, you can start to consider the quality of a garment. Quality often costs money because of the time and effort it takes to create something of great quality. These items also tend to last longer, so spending that extra amount can be worth it. Just be sure the purchase you make counts.

Generally speaking, a great brand with a long history typically has good quality built in. That’s not always the case, but for the most part, it’s true. A company doesn’t survive for 25, 50, 100 years by producing crappy products.

In my opinion, what it all comes down to is fit.

Focus on a lean wardrobe

You only need a few key pieces to create a number of great outfits. In Graduating Your Style, I call it the list of Essentials (you can find a partial list here, which is a great place to start).

You don’t need twenty pairs of denim, you really only need one. You don’t need 500 shirts in every color; you most likely don’t even wear all of the shirts you own. Keep a few, discard the rest, and wear everything you own.

Get rid of the clutter. If you don’t wear it, get rid of it. In GYS I described my foolproof method of closet cleaning. This may be extreme, but in most cases, completely necessary to achieve the ultimate lean wardrobe slash clean closet.

Essentially you empty your closet completely, placing all your clothes in a separate closet or different room. If you’re low on space, designate part of your closet as your Lean Wardrobe Zone. It should be completely clear.

As you pull clothes from the other closet, wear them, and hang them back up in your Lean Wardrobe Zone. Every day you’ll repeat this step.

After a month (maybe even just a few weeks) it will become clear which clothes you wear the most, and which ones you’re just keeping around out of convenience. At that point, you’ll know what to get rid of.


Complement, never match

The key to matching colors is to never match your colors.


You want the colors in your outfit to complement each other. It doesn’t take an advanced degree in design and color theory, but understanding color relationships does help, and so does having a good eye.

The good eye thing you can develop through daily practice. Since you have to wear clothes on a daily basis, why not use that as your time to practice?

One way to hone that skill: Check out well-dressed women and see how they put color together.

Learn to pair colors that play nicely together. Not sure what I mean, or have a specific question about this? Send me a note, or leave a comment below.

To me, this is instinctual and I’m not sure there are a specific set of rules (like cooking; when you’re good enough at it, you never worry about specific measurements, you just add to taste)… but if you ask questions, I’ll be able to help and maybe come up with a set of general guidelines about complementary color.

Dress with intention and purpose

A boy dresses to “stunt”, to look better than his peers, to have the “coolest threads”, and to impress the girls.

That’s okay to a certain extent, since dress and appearance is outward-reaching, but a grown man dresses with a purpose. He understands that how he projects himself is a reflection of his self-respect and how he expects others to regard him.

A well-dressed man in a suit simply garners more respect than a disheveled dude in a tee and baggy jeans. Argue with me as much as you want, but that’s just life.

If you’re looking to upgrade your style, understand this fact, and know the reasons behind why you want to improve.

Maybe you want to be respected among your superiors and colleagues at work. Maybe you want to appear more professional. Maybe you want to look less like a college student and more like a man that’s got his stuff together. Maybe you desire to be taken more seriously, to project more confidence, to put your best foot forward.

Whatever your reason may be, dress every morning with that in mind. And hopefully by dressing better, you’ll start to feel better and project more confidence. Most of those reasons and desires can’t be satisfied simply by dressing better. You have to BE those things and KNOW those things.

Confidence, my friend. Confidence is the name of the game.

Do it on your own terms

Listen. Not everything I say here on EG will apply to you.

For example, if you live in rural Wisconsin (shout out to Antonio), you probably won’t need to don a suit every day. But you can still be put together nicely, relative to your surroundings.

You have to take every piece of advice you read (not just from EG, but from wherever you get your information) and decide whether or not it’s applicable to you. Take the pieces that make sense, implement them, and discard the rest. It’s simple.

You also don’t have to rush into anything. You can’t change completely in one day, or even one month… especially if you’re starting from scratch. Implementing change and forming good habits takes time, so just realize that, and don’t get frustrated if it doesn’t all make sense to you right away.

Start with one element and improve on that. Take as much time as you need. Move on when you’re ready.

You can start with one piece (i.e. denim), or one aspect of your style (i.e. fit), and do your research, learn the right from the wrong, implement, and improve.

Do everything on your own terms.


So if you’re just stumbling on this site, now you know what we’re all about. Even if you’ve been with us for a while, this is a simple reminder of what we focus on here.

It’s not about overdoing it on trends, or dressing in suits seven days a week, or spending all your hard-earned cash on the latest and greatest.

It’s about making simple improvements consistently as you form your own personal style. Everyone should look their best and I hope this site not only helps you realize the reasons why, but also provides the methods with which to do so… or at least to get you started 🙂

Questions? Let’s hear em.