Continuing in the vein of all my previous articles, I’m going to talk about yet another facet of men’s style: Individuality. This has been a very difficult subject to cover because by the very nature of individuality it’s hard to tell other people how to achieve it. I mean, how can you be individual following someone else’s advice?
However at the risk of making a fool of myself I’m going to attempt it anyway; so in this article I’m going to debate whether individuality in fashion is a good thing, or if it will lead to disaster. Then I’ll give you some looks that I think capture what I am talking about, and finally I’ll give you a general list of tips that I feel will help you find your own individual look.
The Individuality Debate
The debate: Is individuality in matters of style a good thing?
Everyone likes a good debate, so I’m going to kick things off with something that I hope will promote a lot of constructive and interesting discussion. Remember to join in below in the comments section.
The case for being a stylish individual is a good one; no matter how we try to dress it up with polite conversation and manners, we as males are all in direct competition with each other – every man wants to be top dog and to get the lion’s share. In the past we would settle this by seeing who could hunt the most woolly mammoths and other such primal activities. Luckily things have moved on considerably and we’ve all left our loincloths in the proverbial loft of manhood.
In modern times it’s all about success; who is the most financially successful? Who is the most successful with women (or men)? And most importantly to this article, who is the most stylish? To be the alpha male, I think you have to do something that separates you from the crowd. You don’t want to look like everyone else, and being an individual, style-wise, makes you more noticeable to everyone. It also makes you seem more confident, a man who is truly comfortable with himself; if you look like a man who has mastered his style and himself, then you look like a man who has or can master every other problem that life might conjure up.
On the other hand, there is also a strong argument against individuality, and to see it you only have to walk down your local high street and look out for all the men who have refused to “conform”. These men have decided to have their hair cut into a blue mohawk, or decided that excessive facial piercing is the correct way to show their contempt for mainstream culture. I consider myself to be a stylish male – as I’m sure you all do too – and like me I imagine that you are equally horrified when you see (what are probably lovely) people dressed like that. It’s enough to make anyone run to their favourite local high street fashion store and dress like one of the window mannequins. Now of course this is an extreme example, and there are many more subtle ways to stand out and be an individual, but the conundrum is still the same; how much is too much without becoming “try-hard” instead?
Now to offer my two pence on the subject: I’m a great advocate of finding what Aristotle called the golden mean in life – in other words, to find the happy medium. In terms of individuality, I think it’s an essential quality all truly stylish men should have, but like so many things in the fashion world, it must be executed in exactly the right way. Too little individuality and you become a fashion victim and a slave to trends, too much individuality and you might be seen as a bit of an eccentric oddball.
My tips on getting it right
The first and most important point about being a stylish individual is to do it subtlety; you want your clothes to look effortless, and if you pick the right combinations then they will speak for themselves without you having to make them shout. So here we go:
- The first thing to do is to look at how you already dress, and honestly identify places – could be in terms of particular items in your wardrobe (such as trousers) or situations/occasions, such as at work or on a night out – where you are a bit plain or boring.
- Then take a look at how the people in your social group dress. Now that you have two reference points to work from, you want to do something that sets you apart from the group yet doesn’t ruin the overall group aesthetic. Equally you want to do something that’s a little different from how you usually dress but not so drastically different that people notice straight away and ask you “why are you are dressed like that?” – it is an instant confidence killer.
- It should be like getting your hair trimmed or cut ever so slightly differently, people should be asking if there’s something different about you when they first glance, but shouldn’t realise what it is until a few minutes later.
- A great way to do this is dressing up or dressing down according to how your group dresses. So if you usually wear a suit, turn up without a tie on, wear a bow tie, or even substitute the suit jacket for a blazer that is slightly different from the trousers you are wearing. Equally, if your social group dresses more toward the casual spectrum wear a blazer instead of a more casual jacket – just make sure it’s not a black one, try navy or something brighter, that way you’re in keeping with the general causal theme.
- It sounds obvious, but colour is a great way to show individuality. Most men tend to wear darker colours (something that has been discussed and talked about numerous times on Fashionbeans – I suggest you read Matt’s excellent articles on colour) so do something different and inject some colour into your wardrobe. On the flipside, if the people you hang out with most are already a colourful bunch, feel free to turn up in monotones and go all suave and sophisticated on them.
- The most important thing is to do this subtlety and in a way you are comfortable with. You have to be happy with yourself before anyone else will be. If you want to make a big change to how you dress, do it gradually, slowly include aspects of your old wardrobe into your new one. People will get used to seeing these new items on you, so when you get rid of your old look and rock this new one, it won’t be such a shock for people.
So as we are discussing individuality it is hard to provide you with a selection of current items that will be individual to you. You might already work coloured trousers or hats into your look, which means these items are just standard pieces to you. However, based on the general population and what I see men wearing everyday, key items which show individuality are usually things like; bold coloured pieces, jewellery, formal hats (think fedora/trilby/pork pie), bow ties, pocket squares and unconventional colour choices such as beige or khaki for your tailoring. You will all have your own ideas about how to achieve your desired look, but here are some current examples for you:
Here I want to include some lookbook photos that I feel show a bit of individuality. Now because everyone will have their own opinion on this, don’t take it as a literal example of individuality, what’s individual for one person is standard fare or another. At most I hope these pictures just give you some inspiration:
So there we have it guys, my article on individuality, As I’ve mentioned before it was a very difficult subject to write about, and I’m sure you will all have your own opinions on what individuality is and whether it’s a good thing in the style stakes. I hope the article gave you all some ideas and promotes some discussion in the comments section.
Until next time guys,
“Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else’s opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation” – Oscar Wilde