Getting Over Your Fashion Phobias
Men of the world, I come to you today with an important public health message; there is an epidemic affecting men the world over, it’s something that at some point every man in the world has had to deal with, no matter if he’s a plumber or a rock star. I speak of course about fashion phobia. Over the course of this article I hope to educate you about this terrible affliction, discuss how it affects us, and more importantly how you can beat it once and for all. Get ready boys, this is [hopefully] going to change your life.
What is Fashion Phobia?
In simple terms fashion phobia is the irrational fear of wearing something fashionable and stylish because you’re worried what people might think about it (note: the fear of wearing the jumper your Nan knitted you six Christmases ago is in no way irrational).
Women are lucky, they have a much more varied choice in what they are allowed to wear, with endless possibilities, trends and combinations. Men on the other hand are less lucky and no matter how we try to dress it up, the everyday male seems doomed to the “trousers and shirt” rule – be they chinos and a shirt, jeans and a t-shirt or any other combination of the men’s fashion prototype. So because the rules of men’s fashion have been so strict, for so long, it puts the fear of God into us when faced when wearing something against the “norm”.
The norm in this context is how those in your main social circle usually dress. So for example if you work in the city at a merchant bank, all your friends probably wear tailored suits and dressing too casually might be frowned upon. Equally if you’re a 17 year old student, where the people in your social circle usually wear jeans and a t-shirt/hoodie, wearing something smarter (a blazer in tweed) might also be frowned upon.
But it’s not simply just a case of dressing up or dressing down – it’s unique to all of us and our friends – there’s always an item that nobody in the group wears, even if that item is bang on trend or a timeless piece. So fashion phobia is as much our friends fault as our own I’m afraid. As much as we love our friends, people get uncomfortable when someone in the group makes a change; it threatens their way of life or the perception of themselves. Did you know for example that American television personality Oprah Winfrey lost some of her friends when she lost a lot of weight? They preferred her fat because it made them feel better about themselves. But fear not, by beating your fashion phobia, your friends are bound to respect you more and you may even prompt them to make a change in their own wardrobe.
Below I’m going to discuss some of the things that give people a bad case of the fashion heebie jeebies. Of course these will be different for everyone, and some things that terrify some, will be everyday wear for others.
Personally I love hats, to me they have an understated essence of ‘cool’ and if you pull a hat off correctly it will transform your outfit from good to great. However, for some the wearing of hats is a daunting thing – I am talking mainly about brimmed hats, most people have no trouble wearing a beanie in the colder months (please don’t wear one in summer), but brimmed hats are so much more of a fashion statement. They scare people because they are noticeable, they make you stand out, and while secretly we’d like the idea of every one noticing us, we don’t actually want to draw attention to ourselves.
Also, if you’ve never worn a hat before, you think that it will be odd when your turn up to work in one. That being said, I refer you to my previous comment: hats are undeniably cool and can even become your trademark. Don’t believe me? Frank Sinatra wore a hat, Pete Doherty wears a hat, as does Usher. Why not you? Below, I’ve listed my three favourite types of fashionable brimmed hats:
- The Drivers Cap: A great entry level hat, works great with the town/country trend, as well as smart casual items such as polos and blazers.
- The Trilby: A mid level hat – wear it with a suit to finish off the smart look, or throw on some skinny jeans, graphic tee and a leather jacket for more of an indie look.
- The Bowler Hat: Advanced hat skills here my friends, mainly because not many people are wearing them (although I’ve heard that after the success of The Kings Speech the bowler hat will be making waves in 2011, case in point Matt Smith wore one at London fashion week) but the bowler can be used in exactly the same way as the trilby, it’s very versatile.
In the run up to the spring/summer season, there seems to be a campaign on Fashionbeans to educate men about the use of colour in their wardrobe – something I couldn’t agree with more. To be honest I’m surprised we’re not all hormonal teenagers who want to paint our rooms black. I mean come on guys? Why all the monochrome? Well I’ll tell you why, it all goes back to the fact that we don’t want to stand out. Sure we want the pretty blonde at the bar to notice us but we don’t want her to notice us because we’re wearing green chinos, that would makes us look silly right? Wrong. Colour is all around us, it’s what makes the world a magical place – do you think Niagara Falls would be half as beautiful if it was in black and white? So here’s a list of why injecting colour into your wardrobe could be like a shot of adrenaline to the heart of your social life:
- Colour makes you seem instantly more friendly to new people you meet. Black, while smart and sophisticated makes you seem like you want to be left alone to brood.
- Colour makes you seem more confident, by doing something daring you’re improving your public image and standing out as a confident and strong male (as long as it’s not too daring – e.g. an all pink suit.)
- Adding colour frees you up to the possibilities of what you can wear – your old wardrobe becomes a sea of new exciting combinations.
Ahhhhh the tie, one of the quintessentially male items of clothing. For many of us a tie isn’t just an accessory but an essential part of both work and casual wear. Ties however can be boring; I mean everyone who wears a suit wears a tie. Meet the ties oddball cousin: The Bow Tie. So why are some so afraid of the bow tie? For years it’s been the bastion of nutty professors, mad scientists and stuffy old folk, but no more! This has been due to two main factors; firstly the rise of geek chic – it’s actually cool to ironically dress like a geek now and a bow tie is a great addition to the geek chic look. The second factor is without a doubt Matt Smith’s eleventh doctor in the popular sci-fi programme Doctor Who. This has been the most stylish doctor yet, with his whole look bang on trend and with Matt personally adding his own attitude and edge to the character. Take it from the doctor himself “Bow ties are cool” – who are we to argue with a 900 year old timelord?
Essential Reading: Men’s Fashion Basics – Part 34 – The Art of Wearing a Bow Tie
The humble belt started off simply as a way to keep men’s trousers up, but as the years wound on it became a bona fide fashion accessory itself. However, for most men – whose belts are usually non-descript – the best statement we could make with it was “look my belt matches my shoes!”. Fear not my brothers there is another way you can keep your pants up and look bang on trend, I speak of course about braces.
Now men are generally reluctant to wear braces for their associations. Some associate the brace with the skin head youth culture of the 60s and late 70s, whilst others with seedy wall street traders thanks to Michael Douglas as Gordon Gekko in the 80s smash hit wall street. But as ever, we must rid ourselves of this fear, as the brace is back and undoubtedly very chic in an undeniably British way. It’s a great way to make a statement without trying too hard and a great way to keep your pants where they should be. Of course you can wear braces with your everyday work wear, but personally I’d pair them with jeans or chinos, a polo shirt, boots and a nice flat cap to finish the look off. Your braces and hat become real statement pieces and a focal point to your outfit, separating you from 99% of other men who do not dare to wear!
Essential Reading: Men’s Fashion Basics – Part 31 – Belts & Braces
Time To Get Over Your Fears
So there are three examples of what terrifies the average man when he opens his wardrobe. Of course this is different for everyone; we all have that one thing we love, but we won’t wear it because we’re afraid of what people might think, and this is a tragedy, so below I will try and provide some ways of getting over this:
- Wear the particular item of clothing when visiting somewhere you don’t know anybody, or people you haven’t seen in a while – they will assume the item is part of your everyday personal style. This will help boost your confidence, and after wearing it with people you don’t know, wearing it in front of your friends will be easy.
- Ask a close friend in private if he likes the particular item of clothing, and then wear said item out together when you’re in the company of the whole group.
- The bottom line is the more you wear something, the more confident you’ll be wearing it. The first time will be the worse, but it will get easier from there I promise.
- Ask a female. Wear an outfit built around and topped off with the item you are nervous about and then ask some female company if they like it, preferably someone you don’t know too well. This is important for a few reasons: Women are more likely to be open and more constructive in their opinions/criticisms then men. It is also harder to approach women than men which means your overall confidence will rise, and finally, if girls like what you’re wearing, who cares about the guys?
- Try to forget you’re wearing the item in question – make it effortless – clothes always look better if you just have the right attitude (see my previous article: The definition of cool).
- In the end be brave! We’re all rooting for you, and I hope in the end by taking the plunge, it will not only open you up to the endless possibilities in your wardrobe but point you in the right direction in overcoming other fears and doubts you may have in your life.
So there we have it, a journey to the depths of man’s fashion psyche. I hope this article has inspired some people to make a change to their wardrobe, but I’d settle for you enjoying listening to me waffle on. Thanks guys.
“Each time we face our fear, we gain strength, courage, and confidence in the doing” – anon