Can you define fashion and style? Perhaps the most important question we should consider with this topic is whether there is in fact a difference between style and fashion. Can they be divided into two completely separate entities, with different meanings and purposes? Or are they too similar in context to separate? Of course if you took the physical definition of the two words you would find that they are in fact two totally different things, but in the context of clothes and being on trend is there still this same distinction?
The world of fashion is a fickle thing, to be a part of it you must be always mindful of your clothes and how you wear them. For those that take an interest in this world, we the writers and you the FashionBeans readers find that we must constantly judge ourselves and others. We do not do it in a malicious way, but still with a mind set on subjectivity; our personal opinion affects nearly everything. I am sure that nearly all of you will find yourself wandering around, quietly sizing up the outfits of passers by; gauging their confidence; deciding whether they are an individual or just following a crowd and whether they do actually have style or a concept of fashion.
Let us start by trying to define – in the context of clothes and how to wear them – what style and fashion actually constitute. We should remember however, that this is a very subjective issue, you may not agree with what I say, but that is the basis of a good debate. You SHOULD form your own opinions. To me, style and fashion are completely different things, they purport to different aspects of clothing and its related world as a whole.
Being stylish or having style is about much more than just clothes. It is about the lifestyle you choose, it requires a depth of knowledge and understanding that would make you a well rounded person, it shows that you have passion for all those things we often take for granted: music, food, travel, culture and art. You should exude a careful confidence and have mastered the sweeping glance that makes women really want to be with you and men really want to be you. To put it simply, you must become the perfect gentleman.
To help you understand what I’m getting at, here are a few men whom I consider – inasmuch as clothes are concerned – to have achieved the kind of style or perfection I have in mind. This is of course only a selection and a fairly restricted one at that but it does give you an idea of what I perceive so you are perfectly entitled to disagree. If so, suggest some of your stylish looks in the comments section.
You may well have noticed that the Look Book contains examples that are slightly different to what you might have expected, the most notable difference being that I have decided to use normal people in place of the usual celebrities or designers. This is because they are more often than not viewed as style icons; the people we look to for inspiration and to a certain extent, guidance. While they do represent style and stylishness, they do not necessarily represent the style consciousness of the everyday man, what I wanted to purvey was relatable style; real outfits on normal people.
Of course, style is just as much, if not more about the clothes than the lifestyle. After all there isn’t any point in being the perfect gentleman: cultured and refined, without a superb wardrobe. Style is eternal, it is classic, transitive, quality, considered and precise, each outfit should work perfectly for you and you should look perfect in it. This is not to say that everyone will think agree with your assertions of perfection (subjectivity remember), but not everyone has an eye for style. Those gifted with such a thing however will almost always recognise the person who has made the effort, and while they may be few and far between, if you are observant, you will catch the odd glance, the quick look that will tell you that you have achieved what you set out to achieve – a perfect look.
To create this look, the clothes you wear should reflect your attitude and what you are trying to achieve. You want to have outfits that look good all the time, but they won’t necessarily follow specific trends. This means style tends to err on the side of formal, with a far more tailored cut to your clothes. It should be more sophisticated and elegant, with emphasis placed on finding timeless and transitional key items; a pair of brogues, a cotton trench coat, a crisp white shirt, a fine knit piece of knitwear, a pair of perfectly fitting jeans or trousers.
Quality comes from investment; paying a bit more for your clothes makes a world of difference. This isn’t to say you should rush out and and spend hundreds of pounds on a shirt, but that little bit extra ensures you get a better cut and fit, finer material and more often than not, greater longevity. You can achieve style on a budget, you simply need to pick your items carefully and look after them. Confidence in your outfit is also a huge part of having style – you have to believe you look good.
For me, fashion is a thing of two halves. One half is the fashion based around trends; the latest brands and items and recreating the current looks – Military, Biker and Nautical to name but a few. It remains intrinsically linked to the constantly changing face of the fashion world and is far more temporary than style, but it is only temporary to the extent that it is always evolving and shifting. In this sense fashion is about the pushing boundaries, mixing new and old whilst always keeping sight of what is on trend.
As with the style look book I wanted to avoid using images of celebrities so that I could clearly show the fashion of normal people. I also wanted to showcase how fashion manifests itself in the form of trends (particularly military) and experimentation. In this instance it is clear that fashion has a much stronger link to the catwalk and its transient nature, whilst style is more permanent. By using images of the everyday man it is also much easier to establish how much of high fashion trickles down to the high street; a key aspect of fashion and the clothing industry as a whole.
The other half is the fashion of the masses, summed up quite neatly on GQ magazine’s website by our good friend David Gandy.
“We have such a heritage in this country. People from other countries, all the R’n'B stars, they come to Savile Row and they’re in immaculate three-piece suits. Then you see British guys and they just can’t seem to dress. We have all these fashion agendas, punk and Vivienne Westwood and everything, but the queue seems to be at Abercrombie & Fitch down the road. That is just heartbreaking to me. Why does everyone want a polo shirt and three-quarter-length combat shorts?”
– David Gandy
It would be fair to say that the majority of males you see on the street will fit this bill, but this is not to say that either of these groups is unfashionable, nor is it suggesting that they have scant regard for their appearance – rather, they go about fashion in a different way. A key element of fashion or style is obviously the interest in clothes and fashion; you won’t take a particularly keen interest in something that doesn’t really bother you, and herein is the key to this half of the debate: can you still be interested in your appearance and how you look and what you wear, even be called fashionable, but not be the least bit interested in the latest trends or having style?
With this question we come back to good old subjectivity. We all have our own ideas, so it would be perfectly acceptable for example to argue that those God awful, ugly and disgusting joggers that a large number of men deem appropriate for public viewing are in fact very fashionable, why would everyone wear them if they weren’t? It is human nature to want to fit in, someone that is different in either action or appearance is often at a disadvantage. I experience it every time I go home. The look I have created for myself, which I should point out is nothing out of the ordinary, just doesn’t work back in my home town (a sleepy little farming town in the middle of Dorset) – while in Brighton it fits perfectly well.
My home town is a place of jogging bottoms, three quarter length combat shorts and an Abercrombie & Fitch polo shirt. The brands of choice are Superdry, Hollister and Jack Wills – but this is the fashion of the area, of the people. While we might sniff at these brands and the looks they produce, we should remember that the people who are truly interested in fashion and style are in the minority, so while we sniff at them, they probably sniff back at the chap who is being very fashion forward with block colour outfits, but to them looks just like a pack of skittles. When we consider both sides, it becomes a lot harder to distinguish which party is the fashionable, stylish one.
You could also argue that trends and this fashion of the masses are quite closely linked. As with nearly everything, joggers are a trend, they will not be ‘in’ forever, eventually something else will take over, looks will change and we will finally be rid of this dirty blot on our fashion radar. Real fashion-conscious trending however is far more transient and developed, but it still only makes limited use of style and the timeless items associated with it. Trending fashion is still dictated by change and what is new.
Perhaps the best way to trend and exhibit an understanding of style is to invest in heritage. Get a Barbour or Belstaff Waxed Jacket rather than a quilted one, get a good gingham shirt, a pair of slim jeans, cuff them and pair with a pair of chunky brogues – even mix in a paisley neckerchief for a great mix of style, heritage and bohemia.
In keeping with the idea that fashion and style are two different things I have chosen a selection of clothes that to suit either aspect; from the timeless classic to the experimental and individual.
In my opinion Style and Fashion are two completely different things but being part of one or the other is no bad thing, its how you create yourself within either of them that will mark you out from the masses. As for the question of whether the style of the few or the fashion of the rest is the better side, of course I would choose the former. No matter what people think, it is nearly always better to be different – be it subtle or obvious, daring or reserved – following the crowd isn’t always the best choice.
Now you’ve had my view, so let’s get yours.
(P.S. I would like to point out that I have no objection to joggers being worn in and around the house, where no one can see you. They have NO place outside the front door however.)
Give it all you’ve got and get your opinion heard in the comments below.
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