style makeover

Style-Up: Paul – Rugged Yet Refined

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

paul2

Paul: “I would like to begin to develop my own sense of style.”

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.

James Franco: Inspiring styley guys of all species.

James Franco: Inspiring guys of all species.

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.


The Style-Uppaulstyleupbeforeafter

Getting the Right Fit

chambraySharing 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.

bigbuffalocloserPattern

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.

plainwhitetThe 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.

sweaterv2 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).


chambray2Ready 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. 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.


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Style-Story: Dan

PhotoGrid_1414648263631Above, Dan’s Style-Up: Before and After.

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

I have learned a great deal: what rules to follow, what rules to break, and how style is more about self and identity and 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.”

“Styling-Up” might be 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). I’ve been fortunate enough to assist a few in their newest chapters.

As much as I’ve 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 Dan – in his own words. The cartoons are mine.


Style-Story: Dan, School Principal.

WHAT WERE YOUR FEELINGS ABOUT YOUR STYLE “BEFORE?” WHAT DID YOU LIKE? WHAT WASN’T WORKING? 

  • danwkidI’ve always felt comfortable about my style, mostly because I’ve never given it much thought…  I liked clothes that are basic, comfortable, and generally casual – I’ve tended to place a premium on comfort and function.  The only time I didn’t feel great about my style were when I had to dress up for something, and I never really knew what to do with that.

    WHAT’S THE STORY BEHIND YOUR INTEREST IN “STYLING UP?”

  • Recently, I’ve needed to up my game since taking a job that places me more in a public role in my community.  Before, it didn’t matter much if I looked shlumpy when out and about or socializing with friends.
  • danwwingsI wanted to see what it would feel like to try something different.  There are many parts of my “self” that I thought were basically formed, or done changing now that I am in my late thirties.  But I was wrong – I am open to trying on different aspects of my self, including trying on different clothes.

danwbasssSINCE YOUR STYLE-UP, WHAT HAVE YOU ENJOYED/ NOTICED / LEARNED? 

  • I’m excited about the general guidelines/lessons I learned while trying on clothes, and looking forward to applying them in future shopping.  I’ve never gotten so much (any) attention from store employees before, either – that was fun!
  • You helped me identify a style “goal” that fit me well – a mixture of casual/rugged and “styled up.”
  • I put together my new “duds” in preparation…to play bass [with] a funk/blues band, and thought my new styled-up look might help give me a little extra attitude. I’m so excited to play music on the regular again!!

IF YOU COULD “CHANNEL” THE STYLE TRAITS OF ANY PERSONALITY, WHO WOULD IT BE? 

  • My family and I have been watching “The Voice” recently, and I have to admit that I am enamored with Blake Shelton’s style – he always looks comfortable and kind of casual — but also “dressed up” in a masculine way.

The Style-Up

daninsweater


Start at the Ground Floorclark bluechuck

Dan is a really thoughtful guy. He knows more about anthropology than most anthropology text-books. And from what little I learned as an undergrad, anthropology is very interested in the rules that cultures live by, giving structure and purpose to life. True to his academic bent, Dan was interested not only in the outcome of Styling-Up, but also in the rules that govern solid style. He seemed pleased to learn that the variations are infinite, but many of the rules are simple. For example:

Satisfyingly simple: start with the shoes.

Like many men, Dan is interested in practical, comfortable, and “approachable” clothes. Not surprisingly, he gravitated to two classics, both “protean” in their ability to add (wait for it) … class and sass — to any outfit: a pair of Chucks, and a pair of Clark’s Original Desert Boots.

In a recent post, I lauded both of these for their flexibility. Paired with a t-shirt and jeans, you’re casual, understated, cool. Paired with a cardigan or blazer, you are classy and hip. Could could have stopped here and called it a day.

But both shoes come in “+1 Flair” options – meaning with just a little more “pop.”

Dan found Chucks in blue leather and a pair of Clarks with a bright orange sole. All the cool of the understated original but with a paradoxical bit of “frowny face nodding respectful expression.”


 

“Tell her to make me a cambric shirt, / Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme.”

daninblazerThe foundation to the upper part of the body is the well-fit shirt. The top two contenders for Styling-Up are the simple, white oxford, and the chambray. Chambray (once called cambric) is that material that looks a little like denim, but lighter. It’s made up of white and a colored fabric (usually blue, grey, or pink) interwoven, and it looks classy and yet – rugged. Masculine.

A chambray shirt paired with dark denim and styley shoes is unstoppable.

Add a thin, knit tie for perfection – classy enough for a nice restaurant, or to casual Friday at work.

If it’s good enough for Simon and Garfunkel to sing about, it’s good enough for me.


The Classy Layer blazers

Over the chambray shirt, Dan was ready for a classy layer. Sure, sleeves rolled up is great for a faculty meeting or a visit to a classroom, but what about a parents’ meeting? Or when presenting at a conference?

Here comes the power of the unstructured blazer and the cardigan sweater.

Some blazers (see diagram) have shoulder pads and a payer of material between the shell and the lining. This is what gives a suit jacket it’s suit-jackety shape. It’s why you might not wear a suit jacket with jeans. Too formal.

But the unstructured blazer (see diagram) is at the crossroads of classy and cool (for a full post on unstructured blazers, read here). It pairs beautifully with dark denim and a knit tie. And for the odd occasion when you want something a little more casual (jazz concert? Coffee with a friend?), the cardigan does the job.


Hat on? Hats off to you.

Go for a classic pattern. Avoid fussy detailing like excessive stiching, patches, or (shiver) rhinestones.

Like Dan, go for a classic pattern. Avoid fussy detailing like excessive stitching, patches, or (shiver) rhinestones.

Hats can be tricky. On the one hand, the right hat will add flair to an outfit and unify the patterns and colors – like a good tie. On the other hand, a cheap-looking hat (like a cheap-looking tie) looks, well, cheap.

As it turns out, there are some corners that can be cut.

The Tie Bar, for example, offers fantastic knit ties for the cost of a cheap haircut. The thicker weave can obfuscate the fine details that might otherwise betray the quality of a cheap silk tie.

The same is true for hats. Here’s the look we’re avoiding: hats that look like you bought in on the Boardwalk. Dress hats (think smooth hats in black or grey) look very cheap when they’re cheap. Caps in a finely woven fabric can also look cheap.

But if you pick a hat by a company like Original Penguin, Brixton, Goorin Brothers or Ben Sherman, and you get it on sale, it won’t cost much more than a “I-bought-this-hat-along-with-a-2-foot-long-red-alcoholic-drink-in-a-clear, plastic-tube” hat. And if the fabric has a thicker weave (think wool), you might have a keeper.

Incidentally, two details can betray the quality of your hat: the band and the stitching. It’s hard to describe what makes a cheap band or stitching look cheap, but to get you pointed in the right direction, avoid a band that’s too shiny, or a hat where the stitching is crooked or aligns the pattern in the fabric unevenly.

We found a hat by Original Penguin; the material was dense enough to have heft, the quality decent, and it had an awesome, little bit of flair – a patterned kerchief corner peeking out of the band.


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. 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.

Style-Story: Bill

Above, Bill’s Style-Up: Before and After.

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

I have learned a great deal: what rules to follow, what rules to break, and how style is more about self and identity and 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.”

“Styling-Up” might be 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). I’ve been fortunate enough to assist a few in their newest chapters.

As much as I’ve 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 Bill – in his own words. The cartoons are mine.


Style-Story: Bill

WHAT WERE YOUR FEELINGS ABOUT YOUR STYLE “BEFORE?” WHAT DID YOU LIKE? WHAT WASN’T WORKING? 

  • fugazi

    8 years ago — a working artist (stage director)…

    I had a lot of conflicts around the word “style” and the idea of “fashion,” and I still do, although the process of the “Style-Up” did help with my desire to get past this hang-up.

  • I have some sort of chip on my shoulder about form vs. function/content — I see that dichotomy everywhere, and I react negatively to any clothing that I interpret as valuing appearance for its own sake or, worse, for the sake of trend.  I’m biased towards clothes that are low-cost and built to last.  This is something I like about the way I relate to clothes, but my rigidity about style has prevented me from developing my own sense of my own style.
  • I know that everyone including me has a style, whether I like it or not, and I would like to exert more control and self-determination, not to mention self-expression, into my approach to what I wear.

WHAT’S THE STORY BEHIND YOUR INTEREST IN “STYLING UP?”

  • Another style issue for me is my career change 8 years ago from being a working artist (stage director) to becoming a clinical psychologist.
  • It’s been easy for me to focus on building up a whole new wardrobe of boring business casual clothing because, well, it’s easy, and also satisfies my desire to be “functional” with my clothing purchases, but this has hobbled me in developing any sort of casual outside-of-work wardrobe, especially since I never had any coherent sense of style in this department in the first place.
  • Coming into my “Style-Up,” my desire was to focus on my casual, evening-out type clothing, face my fear of flash, and not embarrass my wife when we go out on a date.

SINCE YOUR STYLE-UP, WHAT HAVE YOU ENJOYED/ NOTICED / LEARNED? bill2

  • First of all, I love the clothes I bought.
  • It’s great to feel proud and secure when I put a piece of clothing on, with confidence that  it’s cool and looks good on me.
  • The Style-Up gave me the freedom to push my boundaries a bit and wear things that I probably would have rejected as too flashy or “that’s cool, but I could never wear it.”

IF YOU COULD “CHANNEL” THE STYLE TRAITS OF ANY PERSONALITY, WHO WOULD IT BE? 

  • ianThe “personality” I go to first for inspiration about most anything is Ian Mackaye (Fugazi, Minor Threat).
  • A lot of what he wears doesn’t fit or doesn’t look very good on him., but I admire his attitude because it embodies integrity, social justice, non-conformity, self-confidence, and a lack of pretension.

The Style-Up

best pic of bill everBad-Ass: the word of the day. 

During a Style-Up, I listen to the words that guys use to describe a new jacket or some shoes they love. I’ve heard, “cool,” plenty of times, and I’ve heard, “awesome,” and I’ve heard, “amazing.”

Bill’s word of choice was “badass.”

For Bill, “badass” means “attitude intact.” It means decidedly masculine. It can have plenty of flair, but it must be built upon a classic, solid structure.

Bill is as sweet and gentle a guy as you can meet, and a family guy.

This makes him a domestic, styley badass.


Badass styley

Start with the Last Thing you Put On 

The first place to begin Styling-Up is shoes. It’s the most comfortable thing to take a risk with, and the thing that makes the biggest difference. If you don’t buy that, take a look at the picture below, and notice the difference the shoes make.

Bill wanted some shoes to raise his style-game, but he wasn’t going to be impressed by the brand or by fancy details. Rather, he wanted something “badass.”

The first find was a pair of shoes featured a few weeks ago in my post on Top 5 Casual / Styley Shoes: Chuck Taylors with a great, faded blue wash. A pair of Chucks will go with everything, and this color will go with, well, everything else: it’s fun enough to rock with a t-shirt and its subtle enough to wear with chinos and a button-up.

Styley badass.

But sometimes it’s date night. Babysitter, check. Reservations at brew house, check. Significant-other looking very fine, check. Time to put away “badass-styley” Chucks, and break out the “styley-badass” (see what I did, there?) Penguin canvas oxford shoes. Oxford shoes are styley. Canvas reminds me think of big sacks of coffee-beans: badass.

Mix up the high and the low, and you have a great pair of kicks to match with nice jeans, a button-up, and a blazer or sweater.


stripey badass 2

Stripes: Grrrrrrreat. 

There’s a few old style myths that have outlived their function.

Myth: The first is that you shouldn’t wear white pants after labor day.

Reality: I wore white pants last week, and the only people who felt the need to inform me about the “white-pants fashion taboo” were, themselves, dressed in a manner suggesting they had no business telling me what to wear.

No offense.

Myth: horizontal stripes make you look wider.

Reality: big, bold stripes are for bold people. Tony the tiger. Stripes. Badass, and hottest of children cereal icons.

Big stripes build shape and structure into a silhouette, forming a sort of “ladder.” Trust me, this “ladder” invites significant others / attractive cutesters to climb on up and see what else you got goin’ on.


Secret Weapon: The Hybrid Sweater 

On date night (or when you’re out, trying to turn a non-date night into date night), you don’t need to “get lucky.” You need a magical, outer layer that broadcasts confidence tempered with approachability.

For many men, the unstructured blazer does the job, nicely.

Bill was more interested in something equally effective, but less “affected”: a sweater. Sweaters are great because they scream “approachable” — but sometimes too much so. What does a styley, domestic badass wear on date-night?  We hunted the perfect hybrid-beast: the blazer-sweater.

Soft and cuddly like a sweater. Dapper, with collar and lapels.


no parkingThe white polo: your new “whateva, whateva” shirt

Sometimes (usually) it’s not date night. You’re at the farmers’ market with your kids or picking them up from school – or sitting down for dinner at home.

What does a styley, domestic badass wear, just… whenever?

First of all, dark denim. Levis. Cuffs. Done.

Then, the magic of the white polo comes in.

On the one hand, it’s a polo. You can throw it in the wash. You can wear it with your badass styley Chucks or your styley badass canvas oxfords or whatever slick, casual shoes you rock (click here for my top recs).

On the other hand, the iconic Fred Perry Polo has a storied history. Mods wore ’em back in the 60s while thrashing London on their Vespas. What’s more badass styley than a Mod?

Remember when we used to thrash London? Me neither. But the closest I get to it is a white polo.


bill awaits his preyReady 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. 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.