Style-Story

Style-Story: Robin K

 Style-Up: Before and After

 

Over the years, I have gone through my own style growth.

Now, I express myself a little differently than I used to, but more importantly, I have learned a great deal: what rules to follow, what rules to break, and how all of this is much more about self and identity and much less about cloth and clothes. I call the process of matching up my outsides to my insides (and maybe stretching both in the process) “Styling-Up.”

Sometimes, “Styling-Up” is part of someone’s “Style Story” (my nickname for the story that we tell about who we are and how we choose to express ourselves). Actually, lots of people have their own Style Stories. I’ve been fortunate enough to assist a few in their new chapters. And as much as I’ve deeply enjoyed the looks on their faces (or their significant others’ faces) as they came out of the dressing room in Styled-Up gear, I’ve found the stories behind the Style-Up to be meaningful and inspirational.

Meet Robin – in his own words. The cartoons are mine.


 

Robin K: Data Architect, San Francisco, 34.

What were your feelings about your style “before?” What did you like? What wasn’t working? BLOG SHOTZ   Google Drive

  • In 4th grade, [some girl] made fun of my ass… I [still] have beefy thighs… I ride a lot.  I have a complex about finding pants I like …and I feel a little silly that a girl said something that’s still with me, 25 years later.

 

 

 

  • I felt ignorant… I liked being casual, but I wanted to “grow up” a little. I felt too scruffy. I didn’t feel “put-together.” Now, the other aspects of my life were “put together” – my reputation in my field, I work with good people — but I felt like a slob in my clothing.
  • I didn’t understand why I liked some things and not other things; I confused “I don’t like this” with “I’m unfamiliar with this. I don’t understand this.”
  • Incremental changes wasn’t working. I needed a neutral party to help me break through…my own bullshit.

What’s the story behind your interest in “Styling Up?”

who am i  v3

My mom died in September. There was a big void. I had to re-anchor myself.

  • My Mom died in September, and when that happened, I reevaluated a lot of things – “who am I without this very important person in my life?” 

    I explored spirituality - and being mentally and physically happy.

    I explored spirituality – and being mentally and physically happy.

  • I didn’t know who I was: there was a big void – I had to “re-anchor” myself.
  • I explored spirituality… being mentally and physically healthy… and since I was reevaluating everything, I also wanted to reevaluate what I was putting on my body every day.
  • I didn’t want a “makeover” – but since I was updating my “psychological clothes,” It made  sense to update my actual clothes.
  • My guard was coming down. What did I have to lose?

Since your Style-up, what have you enjoyed/ noticed / learned?

  • While I’ve gotten some good-natured ribbing, I’ve been enjoying compliments – mostly, “You look snazzy!”
shoespop

The thing that popped was the shoes.

  • I notice other people’s style more. And I appreciate shoes, more. I was at a wedding – wearing my new white shirt, this [subtle] tie – but the thing that “popped” was the shoes.
  • Slim fit is the shit!
billowy

I don’t want to hide under a billowy t-shirt, anymore.

  • I don’t want to hide under a billowy t-shirt anymore. I bike, I run, I like being fit. Why wouldn’t I want to look  fit?

If you could “channel” the style traits of any personality, who would it be?

  • David Bowie. I saw him in concert in the early 2000s – he was in his 50s, wearing a great suit.

David Bowie, circa late 90s.

 

grandmother

My grandmother was an elegant dresser and a gracious host.

  • That said, my grandmother was an elegant dresser and always looked sharp – and she was a gracious host. She took time with every guest and made sure they felt good about what was going on.

The Style-Up

Not your Uncle Russ’s shirt and tie

bigsmilechambrayRobin looks great in this chambray shirt and cotton tie. That’s not surprising since Robin’s modus operandi is casual. Chambray (think: if denim and linen had a baby) is casual-meets-casual classy incarnate. Here, it’s paired with a cotton-tie. To learn more about why cotton-ties are perfect for every occasion, check out this post. Here, the blue-on-blue is simple, and it looks so clean.

Chalk-Stripe Blazer

Chalk-Stripe Blazer

This “useful-for-everything” outfit can be dressed up with a blazer. No drab wool “suit-jacket” blazer – but rather, an unstructured (no heavy shoulder pads or lining) blazer with a bold pattern. Chalk-stripe. Shirt and blazer from Club Monaco.

Gourmet Denim and Desert Boots

Gourmet Denim and Desert Boots

Gourmet Denim and Desert Boots. (Bonus: the socks!)

Robin was already a jeans wearer, but he was rocking the “eh, not sure what else to wear” type – faded, and shapeless. To capitalize on Robin’s callipygean physique, I put him in some gourmet denim, slim, but not skinny — after extolling the virtues of indigo-died, selvage jeans. In short, they look good with everything not because you don’t notice them – but because they look good, period. Club Monaco’s jeans cost as much as a good blazer, but they are well worth it – they can be worn with everything and the material felt ready to serve for years.

clarksDesert Boots are pretty much the most versatile pair of shoes a man can own. Like the dark-indigo jeans, they can compliment a blazer and tie or a t-shirt. They’re comfortable, they’re well made, and they transcend “fashion” – gracing the feet of style-conscious mods as far back as the early 60s. 

diesel

Functional and Elegant

The boots’ rich, masculine brown played well off Robin’s new Diesel Watch. Diesel makes watches that you shouldn’t wear unless you are the captain of a nuclear submarine, but  also, they make some elegant, masculine pieces like this one. It’s functional, but it’s elegant.

Kicks for the Beach, Kicks for the Lounge

Blue isn't such an exciting color - unless we're talking SHOES!

Blue isn’t such an exciting color – unless we’re talking SHOES!

Ready for sand and sun.

Ready for sand and sun.

Two pairs of shoes, besides the Clarks, rounded out the look. On the one hand, canvas Ben Sherman “derby shoes,” combining a wee-bit of class with a beach-ready fabric/sole. It would look great with Robin’s madras-plaid shirt .

On the other hand, since Robin’s new gear fit within a fairly subtle color-palette, a pair of shoes that would grab attention (or, as he calls it above, pop!) seemed in order. Behold, Gordon Rush wingtips in blue leather.

Stay Simple – Slim it Up

White shirt, wool blazer. The fit is the magic.

White shirt, wool blazer. The fit is the magic.

Here, Robin’s wearing a simple white oxford dress shirt and a wool blazer. But they’re “Styled-Up” because, as Robin says above, “slim is the shit.” If these were a size too large, they’d look like the outfit of that chemistry professor who lives in a secret office behind the bookcase.

Robin will get used to a slight tug in the buttons and around the chest and arms, and everyone around him will gawk and wonder how he makes it look so damn snazzy!

Ready for your own Style-Up?

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. Drop me a line at stylefordorks at gmail dot com.

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. Drop me a line at stylefordorks at gmail dot com.

 


 

Following this post, Robin wrote his own account of coping with loss. Here, you can read about the journey – one written with love, tenderness, and dare I say, style.

 

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If my ties could talk

If my ties could talk, they’d have a story to tell.

Tie #1.  Purchased at Target, 1998. Paid for by my mother. 

straw had striped tie

1999: Atlanta, GA My second teaching job. Still, my first tie.

If my tie could talk, it would tell you that it was the first tie that I (Evan) ever picked out for myself – meaning, not a hand-me-down from my old man.

I was heading off to grad-school overseas. My mother took me to Target and treated me to $250 worth of baggy jeans, camp shirts, and a few “nice things” – e.g. the tie.

I was 28, but I still dressed like I did in college.

I’d never held a job for more than an academic year. My only marketable ability was a decent Kermit-the-Frog impression.

My relationship to clothing: fear and awe.

As an adolescent, I’d always felt inadequate in a department store. The whole concept of Style was over my head and physicially, nothing fit. In middle school, I somehow managed to be chubby and scrawny at the same time. I discovered bugle-boy chinos and bad-dog T-shirts at the precise moment I discovered girls; this coincided with the discovery that my total lack of confidence was going to be a problem.

As a 10th grader, style was mired in the same early 90’s absurdity that brought the first Gulf War and Michael Bolton.

I busted into African dashikis. Long hair. I played in rock bands. I played A D & D.  I learned how to create a costume as a form of revolt. It was sartorial survival.

Fifteen years later, in my first teaching job, looking like a grown-up was the goal.

If my tie could talk, it would tell you that it was a classic (a Repp tie is as classic as a tie can be, but I didn’t know that at the time). But when paired with the first “fashion forward” glasses I’d ever worn, it was a little ironic.

How coincidental.

Tie #2 Purchased at Kohl’s Department Store, 2006. Paid for by my father. 

gold

I am a disco. San Francisco, 2006.

If my tie could talk, it would tell you that it was the first “far-out” tie I’d ever owned. It was gold and black and combined with a gold-ish colored shirt, I think I imagined that I looked a little like a professional Disco Ball. Trust me, the colors popped.

At the time, I owned a yellow MINI Cooper. I would crank Salsa music while I drove through San Francisco. I was in my fifth year of teaching. There was magic. I loved teenagers and their attitudes and I loved having a persona that was all at once “me” and bigger than me.

It felt safe to be loud.

If my tie could talk, it would tell you how I began to take a selfie (they weren’t called “selfies” yet) every day, because I wanted to remember. What shirt went with which tie. Maybe also, I wanted to see – what did it look like to feel good?

In the morning, I’d put on my pedagogical disco-gear and think, “It takes confidence to rock a look like this.”

Tie #3 Purchased at Soul to Soul, San Francisco, 2010. Paid for with store credit. Made by Nobis

skinny tie died

2010: My first skinny tie. A look I might have stolen from Best Buy’s Geek Squad.

If my tie could talk, it would tell you about how I was half a year out from a significant break-up. I started thinking about first impressions. What did I look like when I walked into a bar for a first date? I figured that even a thoughtful, “authentic” person still would see me before they would talk to me. My ties got skinnier. I got some nice shoes. But it was difficult to imagine myself as — um, marketable.

I started dating a woman who’d never seen Revenge of the Nerds, one of my old favorites. She was unimpressed, but more interestingly, she was confused; the “Jocks” were dressed and groomed like castrated Ken-Dolls, while the “Nerds” looked like they were ready to form an excellent indie-rock band.

In our post Steve-Jobs / Bill Gates world, most people don’t remember how the word was once pejorative. Those of us who grew up not as beautiful people learned to fear the word. It was sneered before a locker-room beating, shouted by pursuers.

Only years later, like other dehumaizing epithets, was it reclaimed.

It became something to be proud of.

If my tie could talk, it would tell you how I was learning to radiate confidence.

I learned to flush vestiges of Nerd-shame from my system, and I learned to tie a bow-tie.

bow tie and plaid

2011: My first bow-tie. Nerdy-edgy.

Nerdy. Edgy. Proud.

Tie #4

Purchased online at Bonobos.com, 2011. Got some sort of discount. 

blue knit and plaid

2011: Wool. Simple. Fancy.

If my tie could talk, it would tell you about how I was collecting a lot of clothes. If I was a famous painter, some docent in a museum would point to my selfies and say, “This was a period of incredible creativity for Wolkenstein.”

It was a time of anxiety. Hope. I dated a lot. I worried about the future.

I invented a number of looks. I made many, many style mistakes.

I know. I have pictures to prove it.

Once in a while, though, I got excited about simplicity.

This tie is blue / black, made of fine Japanese wool, and looks good with everything.

If my tie could talk, it would tell you that I was learning not to be afraid of being classic.

Tie #5

Purchased on Gilt.com, 2012.  Band of Outsiders.  

purple stripe

Band of Outsiders. 2012.

If my tie could talk, it would tell you about how I’d started dating a woman way out of my league.

I mean, she wouldn’t have said that, but I was only a celebrity within the relatively narrow confines of Jewish Education. She was a published author with a TV show on the way.

I wasn’t trying to use clothes to hide. Or to spark a riot. Or to overturn a version of myself I wasn’t happy with.

I was enjoying exploring my late 30s. I was great at my job. I was playing with new ideas, new concepts, every day in the classroom. I was drawing. Writing.

My tie would tell you, I was nearly ready to open the doors.

Tie #6 

Out of my league with both tie and girlfriend. Thom Browne. 2013.

Purchased at Black Fleece, San Francisco.

Some years earlier, on my weekly run down Fillmore Street, I’d seen a colleague in a store called Black Fleece.

This colleague and friend had also been a mentor of sorts during my early days of style-awakening. Every day, I’d pestered him with questions. Why doesn’t this go with that? Why DOES this  go with that?

He would offer guidance and ideas and sometimes wrinkle his face with distaste, but he always encouraged me to think of Style as being IMPORTANT. It’s the first thing people see when they look at you.

How can that not be important?

Jogging by, that day, I’d seen him through the door. To say hello, I took a detour into the most beautiful store I’d ever been in.

Yes, it was expensive. But that wasn’t it.

It had it’s own Style. Classy yet edgy. Apologetically bold and yet refined. Totally “in your face,” and yet – riffing off blue-nearly-black, white, and red.

I didn’t know this at the time, but it’s designed by the amazing Thom Browne. 

Around that time, I began to know, deeply and fully, that Style wasn’t about what you wear, but who you are.

Style is about stripping off what you’ve always worn because you’ve always wanted to play it safe, and stepping into the shoes of who you’ve always wished you could be. Style is about pride. Loving yourself. Expressing yourself. Playing with the fantasy of the future.

Style is about reflecting. Sometimes in front of the mirror. Acknowledging what’s already perfect about you. Noticing what you’d like to change.

Style is about not being afraid to make mistakes.

Style is about feeling as attractive as you actually are – to your significant other, and to the World.

Style is about asking for opinions and only sometimes following them.

Style is not something you learn.

Style is about who you already are.

 

My tie could tell you…Style is not for the beautiful people.

Style is for dorks.