Myth #1: It Doesn’t Matter What You Wear…
…it’s who you are that counts.
I used to believe this – seriously I did – and I looked absolutely awful.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that who you are isn’t important. On the contrary, I’m absolutely sold out on the idea that who you are is far more important than the way you look. I’m sure we’ve all met someone who looks quite fine but who, on closer examination, turns out to be a complete… well, you know. Who wants to be that guy? Not me, that’s for sure. Id choose substance over style any day of the week.
To be, not just to seem to be.
Great motto, that.
But that’s not the whole story, is it? Just because the way you look isn’t as important as who you are, that doesn’t mean that your appearance is something to neglect altogether. On the contrary, how you look is really rather important.
Nobody Wants to Hang with Mr Messy
If you look a mess, then you’re doing my friends a disservice in more ways than one:
- They have to look Mr Messy… and that’s not nice
- The way you look reflects badly on the people who spend time with you
To those who chose to endure my looks back in the day: I’m sorry. Please forgive me.
The Way You Look Tells People Who You Are
I can’t lie to you: people judge you by the way you look, and first impressions stick. If you want people to take you seriously, if you want them to discover the treasure you’ve got within (and believe me, there’s more treasure within you than you know), you’re going to have to advertise. Your exterior is your shop window: dress it well.
When You Look Good, you Behave Better
When you know you look good, you’re more confident. And when you’re confident, you’re more productive, more outgoing, more relaxed, easier to be with. I’m not saying that dressing like a king will make you a saint, but looking like a pauper surely won’t improve your demeanour.
So do the world – and yourself – a favour and smarten up, OK?
Myth #2: Men Who Dress Well Are Self-Centred and Vain
It is true that some of them are. But there are other reasons to dress well:
Looking Good is an Act of Appreciation
The human body is a marvellous thing. When you dress it well, you express your appreciation to God / your parents for the one that they’ve given to you.
Looking Good Improves The Environment
Have you noticed that you feel happier in some environments than others? Isn’t one the main reasons for this aesthetic? I’m certainly more cheerful when I’m out in beautiful countryside than when I’m surrounded by urban sprawl. Looking like a scruff isn’t doing anyone any favors, whereas looking smart can benefit others.
Looking Good Makes Others Look Good
When people are seen with someone who looks good, some of that goodness rubs off. Your friends / girlfriend / wife will appreciate the effort you make to make them look better.
Myth #3: Dressing Well is Dressing Up
Dressing up is fundamentally about costume: it is what clowns do, what actors do. Dressing up is about presenting yourself as something you’re not. In contrast, dressing well is about wearing what’s best – for your body, your personality and your lifestyle.
So, being stylish isn’t about wearing your suit to play footy, nor wearing your tux to the pub! On the contrary, one of the cardinal rules of men’s style is to dress appropriately for your environment and your activities. It’s about wearing the right thing as well as wearing it right.
You don’t have to wear a suit – just take care not to look like a tramp.
Myth #4: Being Stylish Means Following Fashion
Oh, dear me, no!
- Style is based on principles that have stood the test of time, whereas fashion is about being trendy.
- Style expresses your personality, whereas fashion is focuses on what everyone else is wearing.
- Style makes you look good, whereas fashion is about making clothes look good.
- Style is based on what you like, fashion is based on what other people like.
- Fashion is fleeting, style lasts.
Of course, there is some overlap between fashion and style. There are several reasons for this:
- The stuff in most shops is influenced by current trends.
- You may not want to dress too differently from your peers.
Nevertheless, the overlap is often much smaller than people think.
Myth #5: If You Want to Look Good, You Need Lots of Clothes
Dressing well isn’t about quantity, but about quality and versatility. You’re better off with a few really good pieces than a room full of clothes that don’t really work for you. You really don’t need a lot of clothes as long as every item you own:
- is a good fit for your body
- is a good fit for your lifestyle
- is of high quality
- goes well with everything else in your wardrobe
Buy less. Choose well. Make it last. Quality, not quantity.Dame Vivienne Westwood
Myth #6: You Have to Spend a Fortune
You don’t. But, as with all spending, you need to treat buying clothes as an investment rather than an expense. So, if you’re currently buying cheap clothes then you may need to pay a little more for individual items, but:
- if you buy better quality items then they should last longer
- if you buy more versatile items then you shouldn’t need as many clothes
- if you focus on style and not fashion, your clothes will look good longer
- you don’t have to buy everything all at once
One strategy to avoid spending too much is to check out second-hand clothes. A quality vintage piece may be far better value than something new, even if you have to pay several times the purchase price to have it adjusted to fit just so.
Which reminds me: one place not to skimp is on tailoring. Having clothes altered so that they fit you perfectly is a worthwhile investment.
Myth #7: It Takes Too Much Time and Effort
Sure, it will take some time and effort. But “too much”? That depends. Will the benefits you get out are greater than the resource you invest? If so, then the investment is worthwhile. And to be honest, it needn’t take all that much time and effort, as long as you stick to the basics.
Myth #8: I’ll Need to Start Again from Scratch!
There are two good reasons why this isn’t true:
- There is a good chance that at least some of the things you already own are already stylish.
- I t takes time to build your personal style, so you won’t be replacing everything all at once.
At the end of the day, it is your wardrobe, so you can upgrade your style as quickly or as slowly as you like. If you only ever replace your clothes on your current schedule, you just need to make sure that you upgrade your style with each new purchase.
Myth #9: Dressing Well is Fine for the Ladies, but I Ain’t No Big Girl!
It’s true; the ladies generally take better care of their appearance than us chaps. But does that mean that looking good make you any less of a man?
I don’t think so.
In my view, taking responsibility for yourself is the epitome of manliness, whereas slopping around in any old thing is just childish. Dressing well isn’t matter of gender, but one of maturity. It is about taking care of your body and presenting yourself well. What that means in practice may very from man to man, from situation to situation, but whatever it means, it is about being more manly, not less.
If you doubt me, you could always ask one of your female friends. Better still, just take it from another dude: some of us need to grow up a little (me included).
So, if you think that dressing well is feminine, that may say more about your idea of being stylish than it does about actually means to be well dressed. See, dressing well isn’t about looking fancy. If you got the difference between dressing up and dressing well than you’ll get this one, too.
Myth #10: There Are No Rules of Style (Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder)
This is a common misunderstanding that isn’t limited to the world of style. For example, taste in music, art and so on is often understood to be a matter of personal preference: something is good if you like it, but bad if you don’t. Therefore, say some, the only guide to good art / music / style or whatever is whether people like it or not.
Of course, there is a lot of truth in this. I don’t generally wear clothes if I don’t like them. I wouldn’t hang a painting on my wall if I thought it was ugly.
But I don’t believe that is the whole story.
Consider this: there are certain pieces of music that I dislike, but at the same time I can appreciate the genius of the composers and musicians who make it. For example, I recognise brilliance of Freddie Mercury and I understand why other people recognise his band, Queen, as one of the greatest bands of all time. For example, I am very much aware of the originality of the music, how powerfully evocative it can be, of its dynamic range and of its technical merits. At the same time, however, I don’t actually like many Queen songs.
Consider another area – painting. It is generally agreed that there are principles that make a piece of artwork aesthetically appealing: the golden ratio, colour theory, the way that certain shapes draw your eye across the canvas and so on. Many of these principles arise from the way that human perception works, others from the conventions that artists have developed over centuries, and by which they express certain ideas and evoke certain emotions. For this reason, a painting can be technically brilliant, powerfully evocative and generally considered a masterpiece. At the same time, it may not be to my personal taste.
Finally, then, the same idea applies to personal appearance, where there is a similar difference between preference and style. As we’ve said, preference is about the things you like and dislike. I don’t especially like Polo shirts, for example, so I wouldn’t wear one. Style, on the other hand, recognises the intrinsic value of something, even when you don’t like it yourself. I understand that there’s nothing aesthetically wrong with Polo shirts, I just don’t choose to wear them.
So, whilst it is true that people have different preferences, that doesn’t mean that there are no principles behind what looks good and what doesn’t. There most certainly are – and if you want to look your best, you would do well to learn them.
Some people say that style is just a matter of taste. I agree: good taste and bad taste!
Bonus Myth: You’re Already the King of Style
I’ve met chaps who think that they’ve already got everything sorted. They imagine that they already know everything there is to know about style, and that they don’t have a thing to learn.
Don’t be one of those guys.
- Your body is always changing
- Your circumstances are always changing
- There is always more to learn
For my own part, I’m happy to admit that I don’t know a lot about style. Part of my reason for writing about style (and everything else on this site) is that it helps me to learn. And I am learning.
- Well Built Style: Top 5 Men’s Style Myths explores similar ideas to some of the ones I’ve presented here.
- YANSS: How the clothes you wear change your perceptions and behaviors discusses research into the idea that what we wear can effect our behaviour.
- Dress Like a Grownup! is one of the best sites around for explaining the principles of dressing well.