What’s Missing in #menswear?

There is a dis­tinct lack of inter­est­ing takes in the world of #menswear (defined in terms of peo­ple who care about what men wear). There are two gen­er­al camps: peo­ple who tell you what to wear, and peo­ple who tell you how to dress. They are both inter­est­ed in “ele­vat­ing” the lev­el of how men dress, but the “tell you what to wear” folks don’t tell you why, and the “tell you how to dress” folks expect you to already know why.

I think there’s a gen­er­al igno­rance of design prin­ci­ples here that would be of greater ben­e­fit to men try­ing to dress well than just being shown what to wear or told how to dress, which, to be frank, are both patron­iz­ing. To abuse a cliche, what we have in menswear is giv­ing a man a spe­cif­ic fish and telling him how to cook it instead of teach­ing him to catch what­ev­er he wants and pre­pare it in a vari­ety of ways.

There’s also, quite clear­ly, a cap­i­tal­ist incen­tive for most of these sites — they make mon­ey by telling you about sales, pick­ing the items they think you should buy, and get­ting you to come back to the site using the most pow­er­ful 4 let­ter word: SALE.

There was a time when I was dressed by the inter­net. I made a lot of mis­takes devel­op­ing an aes­thet­ic, and I’m sure I’ll make more as it changes. In gen­er­al I’d like to see more dis­cus­sions of per­son­al aes­thet­ics and how a per­son devel­oped it. Dif­fer­ent nuances of taste, rather than style or fash­ion. Not every­one wants to be a hype­beast, pea­cock, or basic. If you pay too much atten­tion to how peo­ple say you should dress, you run a seri­ous risk of look­ing like you’re in cos­tume when you go out.

Where I Get My Information

  • Dap­pered — This is a good site for find­ing deals on basic stuff. They nev­er get out of “stan­dard white sub­ur­ban guy who works in finance” zone. I pret­ty much only keep an eye out here for plain stuff that I need for work, as they do a good job with sale round-ups.
  • Per­ma­nent Style — Simon Cromp­ton does an amaz­ing job chart­ing the world of lux­u­ry bespoke menswear. I can’t afford a damn bit of it, but I’ve learned a lot about cloth & fit from read­ing this blog. The next time I need to buy a suit, I’ll do a much bet­ter job from what I’ve learned here.
  • Put This On — This site is prob­a­bly clos­est to what I’m look­ing for in terms of help­ing you define an aes­thet­ic. They do a great job find­ing good sec­ond-hand pieces and help­ing you search on a bud­get. They’re way too LA-cen­tric though, and also want everyone’s to always wear a sport coat/blazer, cuff links, and pock­et squares.
  • Well Spent — Dai­ly rec­om­men­da­tions on well-craft­ed, not inex­pen­sive clothes. Very occa­sion­al­ly they’ll pull some­thing in a lit­tle off the wall, but typ­i­cal­ly they pick stuff that’ll appeal to the widest vari­ety of guys, or are offered by their spon­sors. I vis­it here to learn about new brands.
  • Union­made Goods — This is a store. Their clothes are always unique & I reli­gious­ly fol­low their look­books, as they get quite cre­ative. I’ve made more than one mis­take try­ing to make one of their looks work for me, though.
  • GRAILED — eBay for qual­i­ty menswear. Once you know what brands you like, you will find inter­est­ing stuff here, usu­al­ly at a deep dis­count.
  • eBay — The OG. Even with cus­tom, very refined search­es, it’s still like find­ing a nee­dle in a haystack.

What’s in an Aesthetic

I haven’t talked about this much. But I do think there are some gen­er­al prin­ci­ples to fol­low if you want to devel­op your own taste after nav­i­gat­ing past the peo­ple yelling about style and/or fash­ion.

  • Know the basics. — Learn what clothes are best for your body type. Learn about what clothes are expect­ed in cer­tain sit­u­a­tions. Think about what your social life is like and don’t buy clothes for sit­u­a­tions that are infre­quent to you.
  • Learn about col­or. — You can’t go wrong with neu­tral tones, but you should fig­ure out which actu­al col­ors are good for you, and stick with those.
  • Looks mat­ter. — I argue with my kid about this all the time. Your appear­ance gives clear social cues to those around you. If you look like trash, peo­ple are going to have assump­tions about that. If you are way over­dressed, peo­ple are going to have assump­tions about that. Do you care about this? If not, then why are you read­ing this?
  • Spend wise­ly. — Don’t buy stuff that’s on sale just because it is on sale. Shell out for a some­thing that’s exact­ly what you want, or wait to find that item sec­ond-hand else­where. I wait­ed 4 years to find a $200 shirt I want­ed (but didn’t need) on eBay for $20. I wait­ed 2 years to find the a 2 per­son kayak on Craigslist for $200. I spent a year look­ing for the right priced antique oak kitchen table, and end­ed up get­ting one for $30 from a neigh­bor a few blocks away. Noth­ing slows your devel­op­ment of taste than con­sis­tent­ly mak­ing deci­sions based on whim.
  • Feel con­fi­dent  & com­fort­able. — Most impor­tant rule. If you are pick­ing out/trying on clothes and you have any lev­el of uncer­tain­ty, don’t get it. You should wear stuff you want to wear, that makes you feel great.
  • Bend the rules hard. — Once you feel con­fi­dent, you will feel okay bend­ing the hell  out of the rules. Gonna wear black and brown at the same time? What­ev­er. You can make it work.
  • There is no God. — Every­body claims author­i­ty on how to dress. Don’t buy it. Only you know what works for you.

Those bul­lets are the areas I’d like to hear more about, from peo­ple who have devel­oped their own unique taste & design for their lives. How do the mate­ri­als in a person’s life reflect how they under­stand them­selves? This pro­file of André 3000 is a pret­ty good exam­ple, even if his style won’t work for 99% of the pop­u­la­tion.

My son & I delib­er­ate­ly dressed like hype­beasts for Brite Win­ter Fes­ti­val in Feb­ru­ary 2017

Fashion

I’ve spent the last cou­ple of years tak­ing a greater inter­est in dress­ing well — which has mor­phed into a greater inter­est in style — which has mor­phed into a greater inter­est in fash­ion — which is some­thing I’ve nev­er under­stood. Though, final­ly, I’m begin­ning to. I think.

There have been scat­tered moments in my life where I had a well-defined per­son­al style, my curat­ed EDM-hip­py vibe in high school (neon-print­ed ray­on shirts that glowed under black­light and vin­tage pants), pro­to-Zucker­ber­gian basic neu­tral norm­core for post-col­le­giate office work (khakis, grey t-shirts, blue but­ton-downs), to my cur­rent urban yup­pie pro­fes­sor dad steez (ubiq­ui­tous cor­duroy jack­et, flat-brimmed hat, worn-in selvedge, high tops).

If I had to assign three major qual­i­ties to clothes they would be mate­r­i­al util­i­ty (what’s it used for?), qual­i­ty (how well is it made?), and com­mu­ni­ca­tion (what does it mean to wear it?). Tra­di­tion­al­ly, I bare­ly cared about any of these — although util­i­ty would be the clos­est, which is the sta­tus quo for most folks (men espe­cial­ly). I would buy the cheap­est clothes that would serve the great­est num­ber of pur­pos­es and cared noth­ing about fit, prove­nance, appear­ance or style. So the world of high fash­ion seemed com­plete­ly ludi­crous to me. I nev­er con­scious­ly con­sid­ered that cloth­ing could be art.

I am a per­son who appre­ci­ates the well-craft­ed. I even­tu­al­ly grew tired of buy­ing cheap clothes that don’t fit my pro­por­tions and dis­in­te­grat­ed after a wash or two. I’ve sought well-craft­ed, Amer­i­can-made cloth­ing for the last 2 years, and through the research in and appre­ci­a­tion of that craft, I’ve been able to look to the next step to see fash­ion as art. The util­i­ty might be non-exis­tent — but there’s no util­i­ty to visu­al art, music, or cre­ative writ­ing either. I’m talk­ing mate­r­i­al util­i­ty, not social util­i­ty.

So now I pay atten­tion to my own dress, to the dress of oth­ers’, and to some extent what’s abuzz in fash­ion because I took the time to learn the lan­guage & what I say by the way I dress. A lot of it still seems like non­sense to me, but I’m will­ing to attribute that to my igno­rance. Here’s to fur­ther learn­ing.