style-up

Welcome To Your First Grown-Ass Outfit: Ruben’s Style Story

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 Ruben — in his own words. The cartoon is mine.


Style -Story: Ruben, Graduate… Soon to be Kindergarten Teacher

anime

I am all about Cyberpunk; I love Neuromancer and the whole aesthetic. I also love Anime, and for a while, when I was in college, my hair was dyed red like the main character from Outlaw Star.

What works for you about your Style, now?

I wear what’s comfortable, and I don’t have to think about it. It’s simple, it’s not expensive or fancy, and it’s me.

What’s the Story behind your interest in a Style-up?

I still dress pretty much the way I did in high school. But soon, I’ll be interviewing for jobs. It’d be good if I didn’t walk into my interviews in a t-shirt and jeans.

What surprised you during / after the Style-up?

I can’t believe how important shoes are. Since they’re way “down there,” you might think they’re not that significant to an outfit, but they totally are.

Which individual or character’s personal style do you admire?

I am all about Cyberpunk; I love Neuromancer and the whole aesthetic. I also love Anime, and for a while, when I was in college, my hair was dyed red like the main character from Outlaw Star.


Being Styley On a Shoestring Budget

Sweater by Gant. Too expensive to begin with. Way too expensive for a first-year kindergarten teacher.

Sweater by Gant. Too expensive to begin with. Way too expensive for a first-year kindergarten teacher.

J. Crew factory store, clearance. Half the price. Just as cool. Save for later.

J. Crew factory store, clearance. Half the price. Just as cool. Save for later.

While I have already written about the Budget Style-up, Ruben presents us with some interesting challenges and opportunities for clarifying priorities. See, in the Budget Style-up, Jeremy was a 29 year old professional, looking to keep the price-tag low.

But Ruben, a recent graduate, going into early-childhood education, has a different set of needs and restrictions. We needed to find quality pieces, select carefully, take copious photos, and buy the essentials only: anything else wound up as a link in a “some-day” shopping list. When possible, we isolated a “look” and dug up links for cheaper versions to return to in fall, when those first paychecks come in.


The Style-up

beforeafter

Hybrid Casual / Classy: Unstructured Blazer

Hybrid Casual / Classy: Unstructured Blazer

Blazing the Trail Between Casual and Classy: The Unstructured Blazer

unstblazer

Unstructured blazers can be treated like a sweater. Throw in on over a t-shirt and roll up the sleeves!

Before Ruben and I even made it past the first rack (I guess that’s why it’s called Nordstrom Rack. Lots of racks?) we happened upon this blazer.

On the one hand, it looks great, and it would be a useful piece to have in a wardrobe. On the other hand, it serves to teach us a principle which we will return to numerous times in this Style-Story: a great outfit layers a) textures, and b) classiness levels.

The main formula is: a mash-up of classy and casual, high and low, (for a more in-depth look, click here) creates a look that’s both interesting and also balanced.

This jacket, as a case study, has all the formal features of a dress jacket (on the outside, anyway). Lapels, three buttons, the breast pocket, you get the idea.

But the fabric is a lightweight chambray, the red detailing and white contrast buttons add one or two points of flair, and the jacket is unlined and has no shoulder pads (notice how it fits him like a shirt?)

This means he could throw this jacket over a t-shirt and head to the library, to check out activity books for his future kindergarten students, and afterwards, pair it with a white oxford for back-to-school night. It works for coffee with a colleague, and it works for date night.

It also means that it can go over a sweater for cooler months (from what I remember, Boston has plenty of those) and during one of Boston’s charming heat waves, he can roll up the sleeves. Can’t do that with a suit jacket or sportcoat.

Incidentally, if you could use a primer on “how to know if you can roll up your jacket sleeves,” I got your back. And your lapels.


Always start at the ground floor

Always start at the ground floor

As Ruben commented after the Style-up, shoes are foundation of an outfit. Since Ruben’s budget would only allow for one pair, it needed to be something versatile, able to lift a casual look but casual (and comfortable) enough to wear while chasing kids around on a playground.

Three types of shoe caught Ruben’s eye:

1) The Original Penguin Oxford (which you can find on eBay for under $60 – half that if you don’t mind used shoes).

Features to note: the white “Goodyear Welt” stitching is a sign of a higher quality shoe, and the contrast gives it a +1 point of flair in a subtle, classy way.

withcoolshoes

Boots. Tough and warm…but cool.

2) A pair of boots that seemed like they could stick up for themselves through a sittingBoston winter, still pairing nicely with the outfits we’d soon assemble.

3) The grand-daddy of all classy-casual shoes, Clark’s Original Desert Boots. These “goes with absolutely everything except a black suit” shoes probably win the day. Why? Because Ruben could check his size in the store, and with no trouble, find them newish on eBay for $30-40 dollars.

(This, incidentally, brings us to Shoestring Budget Shopping Pointer #1 — go to a brick-and-mortar store, and try on brands that are easy to find. Choose your size and color in a brick-and-mortar store, and find it later, used! This works best for staples and classics like the Clark’s Desert Boot).


chambrayandtie

New niche children's book: Denim Connoisseur Visits the Wailing Wall.

New niche children’s book: Denim Connoisseur Visits the Wailing Wall.

No Need for Gourmet Denim

Unless you’re some sort of denim connoisseur, you don’t need to drop a lot of money on jeans, especially if you’re a) a guy, and b) on a strict budget. Stick with Levi’s, get them on sale, and go dark. Indigo. For more on the power of indigo jeans, click here.

As for size, visit a department store or Levi’s store, and try the 511 and 514 first. If they’re too tight, move up from there. Then, note the number and size — and off to find them on eBay for next to nothing.

You’ll notice that at this point, Ruben picked out his jeans, his shoes, and a sweater – but won’t spend a dime until he finds them on the cheap.

Now for the items best bought in the flesh.

Chambray’s Got Your Back

Behold. What not to do. [This, btw, is me before selfies were called selfies, trying to figure out the whole style-thing.]

Behold. What not to do. [This, btw, is me before selfies were called selfies, trying to figure out the whole style-thing.]

Your button-up shirt is the first place where your styliness emerges; while you can get get away with meh shoes and maybe even meh jeans, if your sleeves are poofy and your billowing up over your belt, the look is shot.

This is a problem because manufacturers keep their shirts cheap by offering three sizes: S, M, and L (and maybe an X on each side).

If you’re a big guy with big guns, this is great. But if you are a smaller guy with, like, little guns, you’re gonna find a lot of seriously poofy shirts.

Solution 1: Find a tailor (more on that, here). The up-side? Your shirts will look amazing. The down side? Say goodbye to $40.

Solution 2: Stick with brands made for smaller / younger dudes. Ben Sherman and Express often run a bit smaller. Streetwear brands like VANS run smaller.

Solution 3: Look for slimmer fits in standard brands. Many companies like J.Crew and Gap make a “slim fit” version. When in doubt, try it first.


chambrayarmscrossedLet’s pause, incidentally, for a primer on size-code. Size names like heritage or classic or relaxed fit mean bigger. Names like tailored, or modern fit mean smaller. Don’t worry about the name of the fits. Try the smaller ones first, and move up from there.

Ruben found this great chambray shirt by VANS. It looks sharp and fits well and has two other elements going for it: because it’s chambray, a light blue cloth reminiscent of lightweight denim, it goes with everything.

Classic sneaks like these go with everything - even a chambray shirt and tie!

Classic sneaks like these go with everything – even a chambray shirt and tie!

This also means it can be paired with dress shoes, or with sneakers. For those on a budget, PF Flyers are often less than twenty dollars and they look amazing. (Ruben can teach his future kindergartners that PF Flyers were first produced in the 30’s, which is why they have a classic look. The company was owned by Converse for a while [shocking, given their design], then bought by New Balance in 2003.)


The Magic Blazer

The Magic Blazer

The pièce de résistance: 4 Swappable Ties and a Blazer

Last, in the shoestring Style-up, comes the combo that will allow Ruben to create a week’s worth of outfits: a blazer that will “style up” when paired with a button up, “style down” when paired with a t-shirt, catch eyes – and yet go with everything.

Why a blazer?

First, let me explain what the function of a blazer is; inherently, a blazer is classiness incarnate. It reminds the eye of a suit jacket. So, over a t-shirt, it makes a classy, casual look. Over a shirt-n’-tie, it makes the wearer “dressy.” But it can easily come off for rolling up the sleeves and helping a kindergartener pick Play-doh out of her hair.

Rubin’s dream-blazer retails for way-hay too much money, but on sale, it was within shoestring-reach. It wasn’t cheap, but it’ll be worth it; finding a great blazer can be tricky. It needs to be slim, the shoulders need to fit right, the sleeves need to come to the break in the wrist, and if the fit is off, or the material too Men’s Wearhousey, it looks like your older-brother’s hand-me-down. Unfortunately, there are very few ways to cut corners on a blazer.

Paired with a gingham shirt, knit tie, and cardigan sweater, it's preppy with a side of grunge.

Paired with a gingham shirt, knit tie, and cardigan sweater, it’s preppy with a side of grunge.

However, since Ruben found a blazer with a playful but subtle pattern (see the stripes? Look again…) it was time to pounce.

(This, incidentally, brings us to Shoestring Budget Shopping Pointer #2: when you find a good deal on a hard-to-find piece that will be very useful – splurge. It would be hard for Ruben to find a jacket this fly for this price, again.)


Texture and Classiness Mash-up

Fit aside, the outfits Ruben rocks are no average, “entry level professional clothes” because of the mash-up of these two variables.

For example, the stripes of the blazer play off the stripes of the sweater and the pattern of the shirt. The thicknesses vary, so Ruben doesn’t look like a very stylish zebra. Meanwhile, the knit tie compliments the texture of the jacket in a way that no shiny bar-mizvah tie can.

Speaking of texture and classiness mashup, Ruben found a couple of additional ties that exemplify this style-maneuver. One features a bandana-pattern, but in a thick, quality cotton. One features a loud floral pattern – but in subdued color. To use the “flair-up” equation, either pattern gives him a +1 in flair, but the colors keep it anchored and from being too loud. No “flair-up” there.

Ruben is dressed like a professional, but he’s uncommonly styley. I believe he’ll make an amazing teacher.

The Magic Blazer

A tie – with a bandana pattern?! Yes!

Striking flower pattern - but muted colors. Texture: soft cotton. Awesome.

Striking flower pattern – but muted colors. Texture: soft cotton. Awesome.


This Style-up included:

1 blazer

1 shirt

3 ties

and notes for shoes, jeans, and a shirt,

Shopping the Style-Up Budget way saved Ruben about $400, and that looks good on anyone.


withblazerReady 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.

Want to See More Style-Stories?

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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.

Style-Story: Andrew

Above, Andrew’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 Andrew – in his own words. The cartoons are mine.


Andrew: Researcher, Berkeley, 32.

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

"I liked the times when things seemed to fit right and I felt confident about my appearance.  I also liked that I had a few items - such as a bright purple sweatshirt - that would draw compliments and open conversations."

“I liked the times when things seemed to fit right and I felt confident about my appearance. I also liked that I had a few items – such as a bright purple sweatshirt – that would draw compliments and open conversations.”

"Style has always been something that I’ve felt uncomfortable and apprehensive about - even whether to pay attention to it."

“Style has always been something that I’ve felt uncomfortable and apprehensive about – even whether to pay attention to it.”

  • I often felt that I didn’t really have a sense of how things went together. Sometimes I wore clothing that I felt didn’t look right on me, but I lacked a way to describe what wasn’t working.

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

  • I recently finished school and was entering a new stage of my life. I wanted to feel more confident and appear more professional, while also finding ways to express myself.
  •  I was looking to gain some outfit ideas that were in between casual sportswear on one hand (which I mostly wore day to day), and formal wear on the other – something that I could wear to my work as a researcher, or for an evening out.
  • I had a lot of … very basic questions about clothing and style, [and] was looking for a framework to answer them.

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

  • The Style-up with Evan was an important step along my style development. My style awareness has been heightened, and I feel a lot more confident in putting together an outfit.
  • I enjoyed learning specifics about some of the details like socks and undershirts, as well as some broader concepts for the future.

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

"My grandmother has a timeless elegance in her style. She knows how to add details to any outfit such as a scarf or jewelry. I really admire how she is able to complement strangers on their style and accessories, which often leads them to open up into conversation."

“My grandmother has a timeless elegance in her style. She knows how to add details to any outfit such as a scarf or jewelry.
I really admire how she is able to complement strangers on their style and accessories, which often leads them to open up into conversation.”

  • My grandmother has a timeless elegance in her style. She knows how to add details to any outfit such as a scarf or jewelry.
  • I really admire how she is able to complement strangers on their style and accessories, which often leads them to open up into conversation.

The Style-Up

Slim and Simple:

Shoulder seams should hit right at -- well, the shoulders.

Shoulder seams should hit right at — well, the shoulders.

In a recent interview with J. Weekly, I was asked what a man on a budget could do to Style-Up, and my first piece of advice was to make sure your shirts fit properly – notably, shirts’ shoulder seams must hit right at the shoulder.

A great fitting shirt makes you feel great.

A great fitting shirt makes you feel great.

Andrew and I started at Levi’s and picked out 3 staple shirts: white, pink, and gingham.

All three were smaller than Andrew was accustomed to, but they brought definition to Andrew’s shoulders and torso.

To go with the shirts, Andrew bought two ties – denim, but very classy. One, grey-blue, and one with subtle engineer stripes.

The gingham shirt with denim tie is classy enough for martinis after work, but it’s also casual enough for a pint at the pub.

The gingham shirt with denim tie is classy enough for martinis after work, but it’s also casual enough for a pint at the pub.

Dark Denim:

To match the shirts, we picked out a pair of slim-fitting, straight leg jeans (tumbled rigid Levi’s 514, to be precise) – and the usual rules applied: the darker, the classier (stick to indigo-blue), and we cuffed them at the bottom so there was no drape. This creates a crisp finish above his new shoes.


 

The Dress Shoe that Fits Like A Sneaker 

Look like a million bucks. Fit like sneakers. Got 'em on clearance.

Look like a million bucks. Fit like sneakers. Got ’em on clearance. Yup.

 

Andrew was interesting in picking up some shoes to wear at a wedding – but we wanted them to match with the look he was already establishing – simple, clean, and classic.

We found a pair of Cole Haans which accomplished a few things; they’re dressy, they’re styley, AND they’re made by Nike. They fit like sneakers.

What's cooler than Chuck Taylors? Leather Chuck Taylors.

What’s cooler than Chuck Taylors? Leather Chuck Taylors.

Finally, just because they were awesome, some grey-leather Converse All-Stars. As I’ve said in a previous post, Chuck Taylors are unstoppably cool, and the grey leather boosts even this classic look – making it a wee-bit edgy!


The Power of a Great Watch

Diesel dz1090 - earns the maximum compliments per dollar (CPD).

Diesel dz1090 – earns the maximum compliments per dollar (CPD).

Like many guys, Andrew uses his cell phone to check the time. Great. That frees up his watch for completing the look.

In a prior post on watches, I featured four time-pieces that double as conversation pieces. We happened upon the Diesel DZ 1090, and with its thick, brown, leather band (matching Andrew’s belt), it added a little raw-punch to the refined outfit. [By the way, you can find these online for under a hundred dollars.] 


 

Dressed up without standing out.

Dressed up without standing out.

Blaze it, Sweat It 

Finally, since Andrew presents research at science conferences, he expressed an interest in being able to dress up without standing out.

Two pieces addressed this need, and completed his look.

First, an unstructured (no padding, no lining) blazer by Jack Spade, and second, a classic cardigan by Banana Republic. Both items can be paired with shirt and tie for a casual, styley, professional look, but can also do double-duty with a T-shirt for the science conference after-party.

cardiganReady 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.

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.