The Difference Between Being Fashionable and Having Good Style
“Wearing clothes is a necessity in life, so why not do it well?” –Yourlovelyman
There’s a distinction between learning about style and learning about fashion. Style gives you the possibility to define your own version of “cool” while fashion simply follows trends set by others. Fashion is always changing. Style does not. Fashion is overtly materialistic, with unnecessary items tagged with useless hype and overpriced into oblivion. Fashion is, essentially, a business. It’s a multi-billion dollar industry whose sole purpose is to create an artificial demand for novelty and innovation. Style, on the other hand, can happen at a thrift store or in a bargain bin.
For the most part, style pervades our life, not fashion. The guy interviewing you for your job doesn’t care if your suit is Brooks Brothers or not. But he’ll notice if it doesn’t fit right. Your boyfriend’s parents don’t care what kind of seam your jeans have. But they’ll notice if you’re dressed like a slob. You need to look your best when the moment calls for it.
People are strongly influenced about how we feel and believe about a person based on how they look. Almost from the moment of birth, each of us is judged—silently, unconsciously, and nearly instantly—on the basis of our height (or lack of it), our weight and bulk, the shape and symmetry of our facial features, the length and style of our hair, our mode of dress, our grooming—everything that goes into the mix of qualities known as “physical attractiveness.” This physical attractiveness phenomenon has been studied in depth for decades by social scientists of many disciplines, including psychologists, sociologists, biologists, and anthropologists and their collective conclusion is that what you look like—or more important, how others perceive you— can drastically shape your life, for better or for worse. But for this specific post, I’ll be focusing more on this topic from a sartorial perspective and less of an academic one.
Here are some things I’ve thought about concerning the clothes we wear:
Clothes should make you look good. Or at least make you think that you look good. I read on a blog some time ago that said something along the lines of: “Fashion is vanity; it’s a non-functional adornment of the body,” but that’s not really true. It is functional. You don’t dress nice just for the sake of dressing nice. Some say they do, but I think there’s an ulterior motive. I think we dress nice to increase our chances of getting “lucky.”
INTERESTING SCIENCE FACT: Studies have shown that women unconsciously dress more provocatively, in more revealing clothes and wear more jewelry when they’re ovulating.
Think about it from another perspective: Would you walk up to a guy or girl in bar (or anywhere, really) who is dressed horribly and try to strike up a conversation with him or her? Highly unlikely. Without exchanging a single word between each other, you’ll assume, based solely on what he’s wearing, that he’s probably unhygienic, socially awkward or inept, and just plain creepy. You can deny it now but think about it the next time you’re in such a situation. That’s the power of clothes.
This is the same person, taken about two years apart. Which would you befriend?
The wearer’s personality should be apparent. Don’t copy each look (on a mannequin or in a magazine) piece by piece. Being stylish requires some degree of confidence, whether it be on how your clothes match or how well they fit. But if you or someone just reproduces a whole look from head to toe, you’re just agreeing with what someone else has suggested you wear.
There is an intrinsic appeal and virtue in quality itself. If someone takes care to produce what they produce, in any walk of life, then even if it comes out a bit wrong, or it’s not for you, you may still appreciate it and attribute value to it accordingly.
Men look good in tailored clothing. It can absolutely flatter a man’s natural physique if done properly. It can also lo terrible if done badly, and in general, American men don’t dress well in formal clothing. See the British or the Italians for better examples of how to do it.
There is no such thing as overpriced. The idea that something is overpriced means that the item you want to buy is priced at a level that is over what you are willing to pay. If everyone felt that the item is priced too high, no one will buy the item and the store will go out of business. Basic economics will tell you that you and your friends will each feel that different items should be priced at various levels (this is called your personal price point). If you feel that an item that costs $2 is a good deal, your friend might feel that it is “overpriced”. However, since we’ve just determined that you are willing to buy the item, the item is not “overpriced” — it merely “doesn’t meet your friend’s price point”. Same goes for stores. A store cannot be “overpriced.” If you ever say “Oh man, this store is so overpriced, let’s get out of here!” we can no longer be friends.
But T-shirts that cost $200 are probably always overpriced. My justification for spending a lot of money on particular clothes is that it’s just what you have to pay to get exactly the thing that you want. Menswear, in particular, is all about details. So anyone can get a shirt, or a cotton shirt, or a slim fitting cotton shirt and so on, but what if you want one that has a particular detail on it that appeals to you, like, high arm holes and very slightly flared cuffs. It’s probably not worth $200 to get those details, but if that’s what you want and there’re no alternatives, what are you going to do?
A guy in fashion forum once posted this:
“The jacket that I got recently is made out of old tracksuits, re-cut and then garment dyed and washed. The result is, from a distance, not entirely dissimilar to any other double breasted jacket. But there aren’t any other double breasted jackets that are made like that, or indeed that look or feel like that up close. Is it worth what I paid for it in terms of quality, materials, construction. probably not. But when I saw it, it appealed to me, and I knew that I couldn’t get it anywhere else. So to me, that makes it worth it. Clothes are just boring otherwise.”
Personal style is not something you can develop by lurking and looking at pictures of strangers on the internet. Clothes are meant to be worn, and when you put something on that is essentially you it feels right on some subconscious level. And, with the proliferation of fast fashion outlets that allow you to experience a wide variety of aesthetics at a relatively low price, it’s never been easier to buy a bunch of random shit and see what actually works for you.
“Changes in Women’s Choice of Dress Across the Ovulatory Cycle: Naturalistic and Laboratory Task-Based Evidence” http://business.utsa.edu/faculty/kdurante/files/6ChangesinDress.pdf
Gueguen, Nicolas. “Makeup and Menstrual Cycle: Near Ovulation, Women Use More Cosmetics”. The Psychological Record, Vol. 62, No. 3. 2012
Photos: GQ, r/malefashionadvice