Above, Paul’s Style-Up: Before and After.
Over the years, I have gone through my own style evolution.
I have learned a great deal: what rules to follow, what rules to break, and how style is more than what we wear — it’s self and identity and personal expression. I’ve been fortunate to assist others, too, as they sought ways to match their outsides to their insides. Each of these people has a unique Style Story with something to teach.
Meet Paul — in his own words. The cartoons are mine.
Style -Story: Paul, Instructional Design
What are your feelings about your style “before?”
I can’t really say that I have a style, as such. I feel like I have a decent aesthetic, and have some sense for what goes together and what doesn’t, but I don’t feel like I really have a distinct style expression. [That said,] I would like to begin to develop my own sense of style.
What do you hope you’ll get out of a Style-Up?
Sometimes I will put something on, or look at something in a store, and [my wife] will look at me like I’m crazy. I trust her eye, so I go and change into something I know she will approve of, but would be really cool if I could surprise her with a new look or some new expression that I have created on my own.
If you could “channel” the style traits of any personality, who would it be?
That’s a tough one for me because I am not particularly hip to all of the fashionable people. I’ll go with James Franco.
Getting the Right Fit
Sharing a beer with Paul after the Style-Up, we talked about his takeaways from the experience – besides two bags of great, new gear.
“I’m amazed at the importance of fit,” he remarked. “And finding the fit that works best.”
As you can see from the before picture, Paul typically wore clothing that was too large for his frame. We sized down from his usual shirt-size, and the effect accentuated his shoulders and upper torso – helping to construct a strong silhouette.
On a rack of shirts, you can find 100 patterns that look great on a piece of cloth, but that doesn’t mean they look great on your body. I often recommend the following for men: find garments with “strong patterns” — meaning, if you want stripes, go big. If you want some flair, go with gingham or checks, and choose strong colors (blue, red, black, etc.). The effect is amazing, as the pattern and color help to construct a flattering T-shape. (Click here for a deeper dive on strong-patterns).
The Plain White T
Speaking of the T, a while ago, I wrote about the power of the plain, white T-shirt and offered some advice about when to (and mostly when not to) wear a T-shirt that costs over $50.00. That said, a white T-shirt you can wear to a pub, to the park, or with company around may not come in a pack of 3 for $10. Those are probably a cotton/polyester blends: they’re thin (and see-through), and look like underwear.
The happy medium is a $15-30 T-shirt, made of 100% or a cotton/linen blend. They cost just a bit more, but you’ll be proud of the way it conforms to your body, doesn’t become a transparent dishrag after three washes, and can pair with a dark pair of jeans for a refined (but rugged) look.
Bottom line: you don’t need to spend $50 on a T-shirt. But don’t cut corners, either.
Lay(er) it On
A great sweater multiplies the potential of whatever look you’re already rocking because it adds contrasting (but complementary messages).
This principal (complementary vs. contrasting) is one of the cornerstones of a great look (for more on that, check out this post). For example, the white T and jeans is Rebel Without a Cause, classic “tough-guy.”
But a well-knit sweater? It’s a little bit professor / dad / merchant-marine captain. It’s authority and confidence. Paired with the white T, it builds a nuanced, literally layered gestaldt – pleasing to the eye and complex.
Three rules: a) it’s gotta fit slim but not tight, b) it’s gotta be decent quality (no holes or stains, no pilling) and c) it’s gotta have a subtle and understated pattern. Paul found a sweater that fit all 3 criteria, and it looks great.
Shoes: No Need to Be Distressed
As you know, it’s all about shoes. There are many places you can cut corners on an outfit and get away with it, but if your shoes aren’t on point, the whole look is shot.
Here’s also where Paul’s taste and vision for his new look really shined: we found a pair of Frye wingtips on sale, and he took right to them. The leather is stylish (wingtips, after all) but these shoes featured distressed leather and a crepe sole – which you might be familiar with from crepe soled desert boots. They’re casual by definition.
Do the math: classy wingtip plus “tumbled” (a kind of distressing) leather + crepe sole = high/low mash-up.
Blazing the Trail
Finally, Paul chose a few blazers to round out the classy part of his new, rugged look. Each blazer adds a different element, and when paired with a dark polo or chambray shirt, they have a chance to shine. (BTW, for more or how to rock a polo, click here – and for more on the power of a chambray shirt, click here).
I won’t hold your hand, but I will guard the fitting room door.
Live in the bay area? A Style-up is painless. Maybe even fun. And it might help you land a date / job / both at the same time. Email Me and we’ll get you on your way!
Outside of the Bay Area? Through the miracle of the interwebs, we can arrange an on-line consultation. You’ll end up with a handful of great items, some new looks, and a spring in your step. Click to Email Me.
Want to See More Style-Stories?
- You can read Robin’s Style-Story here,
- Joe’s Style-Story here
- Andrew’s Style-Story here
- Chris’s Style-Story here,
- Jeremy’s Style Story (On a budget) here,
- Bill’s Style Story here,
- Dan’s Style Story here,
- Julie’s Style-Story (the Dapper Woman), here,
- David’s Style-Story (Beastie Boys meets Oxford Professor),
- and Reuben’s Style Story (Welcome to Your First Grown-Ass Outfit) here!