How to Develop Fashion Sense
The following is a guest article by my friend Geoffrey Bruyere. Geoffrey and his associate Benoit Wojtenka are professional fashion consultants from Paris, France. They are the authors of the Style Guide for Modern Men.
Fashion continues to intimidate many men. They believe they don’t have enough money to buy nice things, or they feel comfortable and complacent in the clothes they currently wear.
Building your fashion sense is about discovering the intersection of what objectively looks more pleasing on your body and expressing your personality and taste well. It’s part art, part science. Let’s start with the science.
First thing to know: building your understanding of style takes time and experimentation. It must be done step by step.
Don’t hope to always make good decisions in just a few weeks or months. Like anything, there’s trial and error involved.
Understanding style is also an investment: you will not see the result at once, rather it’s a progression and quite a satisfying one at that. Training your eye must be pleasant, fulfilling, but not an hardship. Trying on an extra outfit, no matter how ridiculous you think it’s going to look, just to see, this has to be appealing to you, not a nerve-wracking procedure.
1. Getting Used To Nice Clothes
If you’re unable to recognize the difference between a high-quality garment and a low-quality garment, it is most likely because you have never seen or worn high-end clothes.
Here’s an exercise the next time you’re out shopping. Look for small shops selling exclusive designer clothes. Find the most expensive and exquisite store you know of in your town. Avoid Zara or American Eagle. Rather, focus on small tailors, small shops selling little-known brands: those places offer you the most occasions to discover treasures (and make good deals). Chances are, an Italian or French name is going to be involved.
Also, check out all of the high-end stores: the Dior, the Dolce and Gabbana, the Louis Vuitton, etc. The more expensive the better.
Just go in and look. Touch the fabrics. Look for the details that separate the clothes in these stores from similar looking clothes in cheaper stores. It may not be obvious at first, but it will be there — the unique seam along the cuff, the brass buttons, the distinct cut. Try some on, just to see. Chances are you’ll find yourself surprised, both at how unique the garments appear once they’re on your body, but also how good they look. It’s often hard to understand why a coat is $2,000 when it’s on the rack, but once you feel it, touch it, and put it on, you start to understand.
Not that more expensive clothing is ALWAYS better. We’re doing this for educational purposes. If you’re going to understand what’s good and bad, then you may as well try to understand what other consider to be the best and why.
2. Building Your Curiosity
Now for the art. It’s time to cultivate your curiosity and allow yourself to experiment. Start paying attention to whether you think men are well-dressed or not. When you spot one who is, try to pinpoint what exactly is well-dressed about him. You’ll find that this may be a bit harder than you expected.
Is it the way he layers his clothes? Is it the way his shirt tapers to his body? Is it the distinct collar and how it accentuates his facial features? Try to figure it out. Do it while browsing the internet or on clothing websites as well.
When you’re at the store, get in the habit of trying on anything and everything that looks remotely interesting to you. Even if you think it’s going to look terrible on you (and it often will), try it on and see for yourself. Once you try it on, try to pinpoint what exactly looks good or bad about it on your body. Is it the pattern, the fabric, the design, the cut?
If you want to get a bit extreme, then look at runways. Also, check out some magazines such as L’officiel Hommes, Optimum or GQ can help you (they give better examples than advice). Read and learn.
3. Common Pitfalls To Look Out For
There are some common problems many men run into when learning more about fashion and style.
As a novice, you will be tempted to see fashion as a black and white world. An item is either beautiful or ugly. Before rushing to judgment, accept the fact that you will not always have a clear idea. In fact, often it’s better that you don’t have an immediate understanding of whether something is beautiful or not. A lot of it is context-dependent. Some clothes will immediately move you. Others will seem as interesting as a discount pasta box in a supermarket. But try to maintain curiosity.
On many fashion forums, people fall in line and parrot the same fashion advice as one another. Don’t fall into the habit of mindlessly following the crowd, even crowds of people with fashion knowledge. There’s more to life than raw jeans, shaped toe boots, and slim fit jackets. Have your own opinion.
Being knowledgeable about fashion does not give you the right to judge or look down upon those who are not. Just because someone’s not into Ozwald Boateng flashy linings does not make them a lesser being. In the same way some clothes won’t excite you some times, there are people in the world who see all clothes as purely functional items. Deal with it.
(Pictures’ credit: Melinda Gloss FW’11 + Hermès Runway FW’10)
Learn how to look better and notice how differently people treat you. The Style Guide for Modern Men is a guide to how to dress well for men.
It’s loaded with hundreds of pictures and will show you everything you need to know to be a well-dressed man. Get noticed.