The following is a guest article from Peter Nguyen of The Essential Man.
When it comes to upping your style overall, Barron and I agree: Having a closet stocked with classic men’s pieces is the way to go.
Does that mean there’s no room for trends in your wardrobe? No way! Add trendy touches to classic outfits for a fresh look.
Check out this e-mail I got from a reader of mine named Tyler:
“One thing I’d like help on is getting out of the rut of wearing the same pant/shirt combos to work. I try to mix it up but I’m bored with it.”
This is a common problem that I get asked about at least a couple times a week. And my advice to Tyler might surprise you.
Want to break away from boring and really mix it up? The best thing to do is try out some new trends.
Why Trendy Isn’t Such A Bad Word
I know, I know – style writers love telling you to avoid trends like the plague.
It’s solid advice if you’re starting from scratch. Concentrating on a handful of classic pieces that never seem to go out of style ensures:
- You’ll look good – whether it’s a month or a year from now, and
- You’ll never look like you’re trying too hard
Think of a classic style like a classic burger. Sesame seed bun, beef patty, slice of cheese, lettuce, pickles, maybe some ketchup.
But sometimes, you want something a little more interesting and exciting.
Grilled onions with truffle oil? Yes! Or even spiced lamb burger with feta cheese from The Breslin in NYC? Now we’re talking.
Your style is exactly the same! Incorporating trends is one of the best ways to develop your personal style.
Experiment. Take a risk. Mix things up. You’ll discover pieces you can incorporate into your wardrobe permanently.
Most importantly, it also makes dressing fun.
Some guys are so dead set on following the “rules” of classic style that they forget to relax and enjoy it all.
Now, I’m going to be honest. It’s not all great. There are some definite downsides to trends. Let’s quickly go through the pros and cons of classic styles and trends.
Instant Fashion Victim: How to Do Trends Terribly Wrong (And What to Do Instead)
There are two ways to do trends wrong:
1. Copy a trend completely
You’ll see guys do this a lot, especially with celebrity styles. They see a celebrity wearing something new and decide to wear it – exactly the same way.
2. Wear ONLY trends
This goes off #1. You see this a lot with guys who seem to have a “new style” every season.
It’s exhausting, can get expensive, and never becomes an authentic personal style.
Violating these rules is the fastest way to look like a fashion victim instead of a guy with some great style.
There’s a better way.
- Establish a solid, classic style base. If you need some help doing this, check out Barron’s posts on The Lean Wardrobe here on Effortless Gent or my “Essentials” series over on The Essential Man.
- Slowly add a trend to an already great classic outfit using…
The Swap Trick: How to Try Out Trends Without Looking (Or Feeling) Stupid
Today, I’m going to show you a trick I developed to teach guys how to experiment and develop their style.
It’s called “The Swap Trick”
It’s SUPER simple.
- Start with a solid, classic outfit.
- Pick one thing in that outfit – say the jacket – and swap it out for a trendier piece that you want to try out.
In this example, I whip together a solid casual outfit, great if you work in a non-formal place: a field jacket, white tee, olive chinos and brown leather boots.
What if I want to mix it up and try something a little trendier?
“Japanese America” – where Japanese companies are re-interpreting vintage American styles – is one of the biggest trends of the last few years in menswear. Let me incorporate some Japanese-American trends into my look.
I start by swapping out the blue field jacket for a denim jacket from Japanese brand OrSlow.
A classic trucker denim jacket would have worked fine as a swap in. But the OrSlow jacket is unique and interesting while still giving off the same vibe as a trucker denim jacket.
Not a bad start. The new outfit is a bit more interesting, but we can take it a step further.
I always recommend you swap out one item at a time when you’re starting out. As you get more comfortable with each piece you swap in, you can take it up a notch.
Check out the image above.
With each step, I swap out one classic item for a trendier version.
The important thing to notice: I’m not making huge jumps with the items I’m swapping in.
The items are generally the same colors, but each swap-in item is more exciting than the one it’s replacing.
Now compare the look we started with and the look we end up with.
The vibes are the same: a casual outfit with classic neutral color combinations. But the final outfit is filled with trendy, designer pieces that breakaway from the clean, classic style.
The most important part? Both outfits still look really good! They don’t feel like two styles worn by two completely different people.
If you decide you went too far with a swap, simply pull it back a notch or two.
This is one of the advantages of starting with a classic style. You have a solid style to use as a base. Try things out. HAVE FUN!
When the trend dies – or you decide it’s not really for you – you can easily go back to a classic, timeless style.
Here’s another example of how The Swap Trick can add color to your look, especially if you tend to prefer neutrals.
Notice how swapping out the white oxford shirt for a print already makes a big difference.
In the next step, we swap the dark navy pants for some lighter blue chinos. Now you have an outfit that’s colorful without being too obnoxious.
We can stop here or take it a step further. Swapping out our sneakers with some subtly colored espadrilles is another on-trend touch.
- Start with a solid, classic outfit
- Swap one item in that outfit for something trendier. It’s much easier if you choose a trendy piece that’s the same color.
- (Optional) Continue to swap one item at a time to create a new, exciting outfit. If you feel like you went too far, pull it back.