What’s Missing in #menswear?

Friday, 10 November 2017

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 cliché, 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

Sunday, 6 March 2016

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.