The grown up continuum.
A false dichotomy is running rampant in #menswear. The idea of what I’ll call “the grown up continuum”. This pseudo theory posits that one can dress like an “adolescent” or a “grown ass man” with little space between the two, and less regard for what they actually mean.
Tremendous amounts of advice ignores what actually developing a personal style requires in favoring of pedantically detailing what “grown ups” wear and how to “look like an adult”. How you too can develop the style of a “grown ass man”.
The problem is that style isn’t just what you’re wearing, it’s also how you carry yourself. I hate to break it to the internet, but a douchebag wearing an immaculately fitted 3 piece suit is still a douchebag. No amount of “grown man style” can change that.
What’s been glossed over is the idea of style as personal expression. If we’re speaking stylistically, I’m more offended by the content of people who barely dress themselves than the form (ed note: I am still offended by the form). But the larger problem with modern standards for dress is that by wearing what is “comfortable/adolescent” (e.g. crocs, hoodie and pajama pants) or “adult/self-important” we ignore that once we leave the house we’re no longer just dressing for ourselves.
Your style, above all else, should tell others who you are.
I dress the way I dress because I have the freedom to. I work at a consignment store where being eye catching isn’t a failure of style, it’s an asset. If I was a lawyer, I’d dress differently. If I was a carpenter, I’d dress differently. If I was a a cop, I’d dress differently. But I’d carry myself the way I’ve always carried myself, my “style” wouldn’t change significantly.
The problem with sweatpants and flip flops and ratty emblazoned t-shirts is when you wear them outside and say ‘who has time to look nice/looking nice is for the rich/effeminate/douchy’ what you’re actually communicating to the rest of the world is
a) I wish I was still in bed
b) I carry myself in such low regard that I do not warrant 5 minutes to put on real clothes to do anything
c) I hold you in such low regard that you are not worth putting on a shirt with buttons.
Likewise, if you run around in a bespoke suit on your blackberry, taking phone calls while you order/pay for things, and generally acting like you can’t be bothered with anyone elses existence, you communicate
a) I believe I’m the center of the universe
b) I literally can’t take 45 seconds away from my schedule to interact with the people around me
c) My business is more important than acknowledging the real world.
Most of #menswear could benefit from perspective. For instance, many consider stylish dress to be sober, professional, and businesslike. This is absolutely fine, if it is your desire to be perceived as sober, professional and businesslike. However, if it’s not your desire, if you dress that way it’s not truly your style. I like to look good, but my standard of what looks good does not follow classic CBD (conservative business dress) guidelines, so I choose a different angle to approach things.
The real issue is that style isn’t a single continuum. It means different things to different people. You probably shouldn’t look to blow peoples minds with your trendy forward thinking if you work in a conservative business environment, likewise you’ll probably look silly if you make sandwiches and show up every day in a bespoke navy pinstripe suit under your apron.
You need to dress for your life, and do it in clothes that fit that lifestyle. That’s (for lack of a better term) “grown man” style to me. As long as you’ve spent your time thinking about it, wear it. As long as I get a sense of who you are, you’re on the right track. The problem with much of what’s on the internet these days is that people don’t think getting dressed should be enjoyable. Instead it’s either an exercise in memorizing a litany of tailoring details or a scramble to be up on the newest brand to stay ahead of the curve.
Style and dressing well should be embraced because it helps you express yourself. Not because it gives you a chance to feel superior to people who you don’t think look as good as you. And if you think that your clothes and the way you dress actually make you superior to other people, you’re probably a dick and a shitty person and most definitely not a “grown ass man”, and no amount of style will change that.
(Ed Note: This post adapted from an earlier version posted on my old blog)
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