Discovering your own sense of style is a journey. Some avoid taking the challenge. This short primer lays the foundation for those of you who want to attack it head on.
Tenet #1: Your appearance is a reflection of you
The way you present yourself is a statement of who you are, or who you want to be. If you pay attention to the little details, others assume that care extends into other parts of your life, like how you live and how you treat others.
If you don’t care about your appearance, you are saying that you don’t care about much else, since you don’t take the time to care for yourself (even if that isn’t necessarily true).
Tenet #2: Personal style is reflected not only in your wardrobe, but also in how you live your life.
How you live, the food you eat, the cocktails you drink, the way you style your hair, the places you vacation and the cities you dream of visiting, your goals and ambitions, the way you choose to treat others… all of these things create a version of you that you’re putting out into the world.
How do you want to be perceived? And is your current version accurately representing you?
Tenet #3: Always strive for a Lean Wardrobe
It’s not about how much clothing you own, but how much of it you actually wear.
Many guys not only have outdated and ill-fitting clothing, but simply too much clothing that never actually sees the outside of their closets.
Leaning out a wardrobe will help clear space—both physically and mentally—and make room for better garments that you enjoy wearing and that actually fit well.
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Tenet #4: Fit > Quality > Brand
The fit of your garment trumps quality and brand every single time. Good quality or a prestigious brand name cannot mask ill fit. It’s possible to look great in a tailored $200 suit, and terrible in an ill-fitting $2000 suit.
Focus on fit first, and worry about everything else later. Once you understand the basics of fit, then you can start to consider the quality of your garments.
Remember that a brand-name item won’t necessarily translate to a perfect fit for your body. Neither does a high-quality garment.
When it comes to assembling your Lean Wardrobe while on a budget, focus on well-fitting clothing regardless of quality or brand. Buy the best you can afford. You can always replace items as needed.
Tenet #5: Purchase wisely…
As you hone in on the perfect Lean Wardrobe, it’s important to buy things that will last and that you will want to wear for years.
Think long and hard about any purchase: Do you really need it? Can you picture yourself wearing it for at least five years? Is it complementary to everything else in your closet?
The only way to maintain a Lean Wardrobe is to keep your closet clutter-free and filled only with clothing that you enjoy wearing.
Tenet #6: …and spend where it counts.
Figure out what you want to spend more money on, and what you don’t mind skimping on.
Some choose to invest in more expensive, long-lasting things such as shoes, coats, suits, and watches, while spending less on basics like T-shirts, socks, and underwear.
For others, it’s worthwhile spending the extra money on the layers that are closest to their skin, such as underwear, socks, and T-shirts.
It all depends on what’s most important to you. There is no right or wrong answer; you’ll have to figure this one out for yourself. Make the decision, and spend your money where it counts.
Tenet #7: To dress well, learn the rules.
It’s important to learn the basics of dressing well, such as how a suit jacket should fit, the proper break on your trousers, the appropriate length of your tie.
Having a general knowledge of these things is extremely important because there is a standard, default way in which clothing should drape over the body. Dressing well means understanding these rules and applying them when you wear clothing.
Tenet #8: To dress even better, learn to break the rules.
At the same time, personal style comes from your ability to take the rules and intelligently break them.
If you have a clear understanding of the standard rules of dress, it’s easy to slightly deviate from them in order to come up with a style that’s all your own.
Keep in mind, the degree to which you break a rule determines how stylish you are. There’s a fine line between interpreting it in a unique way and looking completely ridiculous.
When it comes to tradition (i.e. Black Tie or White Tie affairs), stick to tradition. Don’t break the rules.
Tenet #9: You don’t need permission.
In the beginning, it’s important to learn as much as you can, so you gain inspiration from as many places as possible. This will help you craft your individual style.
Once you become more comfortable in what you wear, you’ll realize that you don’t need permission from anybody to do what you want.
The only way to learn how to dress and discover your personal style is to get out there and try new things.
Beyond the standard rules of men’s style, no one can really tell you how to dress well. Most of it is simple trial and error. After a while, you’ll know what looks good and what doesn’t, what works well for you personally and what does not.
Tenet #10: Take your time.
Much like losing weight or improving your health, developing your personal style is a lifelong commitment. It’s up to you to do your homework and to learn which items work for you and which don’t. You need to go through the process in order to realize what works best for you.
You’re going to find yourself buying things that in six months will not be your taste at all. It’s all part of the process, so don’t let it deter you or discourage you.
Don’t feel the need to buy things right away. Buy one piece at a time if you have to. Consider it a marathon, not a sprint.
Tenet #11: There’s no one right way to wear anything
Skinny suits look great on some men, but look ridiculous on others. Some guys can pull off trendier looks, while others stick to a more traditional style. Who’s to say one group is correct, and the other isn’t?
Everyone wears clothing differently, and everyone interprets the rules of style differently. What looks good to one man might not look so great to another. That doesn’t mean either guy is right or wrong.
It’s in your best interest to observe a variety of styles… ones that resonate with you as well as ones that don’t. That way, you’ll have a more well-rounded view of style and will be able to come up with your own interpretation, one that suits you best.
Don’t be surprised if you find yourself changing your mind throughout the years. Your style will evolve.
What you might not consider as your style today might become a regular thing for you in a year or two. Just stay open-minded and be willing to evolve.
That willingness and open-mindedness is important as you continue on this path of development. It helps when you’re not so quick to dismiss something, and instead, allow yourself to ask, “What if?”
Tenet #12: It’s all subjective.
A lot of things in life are, but especially personal style.
Everyone has their own opinion about what looks good and what doesn’t, what’s in style and what’s not, what every guy should wear and what every guy should avoid.
Personal style is all about preference and figuring out what looks best on you. Don’t listen to people who speak in absolutes all the time, the ones that tell you what you must wear and what you need to avoid.
It isn’t possible to make 100% accurate statements that apply to everyone, especially when it comes to clothes and style.
You need to do your homework and figure out what works best for you, your personal situation, and your everyday life.