Here’s one for you – what, if anything, is the difference between being well dressed and having style?
We here at FashionBeans talk endlessly about being a sartorial gent, having style, being stylish, being fashionable – but what does it all mean? We give ourselves these labels and we place these labels on others, we have our style icon series and we constantly look for some point of reference.
These labels become our aesthetic identity; they define how we dress, our goals and our perceptions. We throw these terms around left, right and centre but do we really know what they represent? Have they simply become one big homogenised group of airy terms that manage to mean both something and nothing, all at the same time?
One might assume that being well dressed and having style are not mutually exclusive. To be well dressed you must of course be stylish and to be stylish you must, by design, be well dressed. But after digging a little deeper, I think you could argue that these two concepts are in fact two very different things.
It’s also worth making one thing clear, right from the off. It is possible to be interested in clothes and care about your image… and still look bloody awful.
The one big problem with this whole concept is that what we deem to be stylish or whom we deem to be well dressed is entirely subjective. To realise the concept of being well dressed or stylish in our minds requires us to take personal taste into account. We cannot look at it objectively – we each have our own ideas of what does and does not look good.
However, saying it can’t be defined in the general sense does not make for a good debate. Of course, we must always look at this kind of issue with our own views present, but I think there are certain things that we can all agree are indicative to either being well dressed or stylish.
The well dressed man must be consistent. Unless you have the raging man flu (in which case you should make as many people as physically possible aware of it, for safety) then you should be looking good every day. What you wear is up to you and will depend entirely on your style – it doesn’t always have to be your Sunday best, you can dress down and dress well but it should always be considered.
This man will probably have quite a simple wardrobe. It will be based upon all of those other terms we throw around: timeless, classic and versatile. It will be well thought out and easy to wear, and completely interchangeable. You could call it the perfect capsule wardrobe.
Certain elements of higher fashion may permeate – a camouflage pocket square here, a pair of coloured chinos there – but it won’t be obvious, obnoxious or outrageous, it will be a proverbial dip of the toe rather than a head long dive.
The well dressed man is understated; he will blend into the background but always be noticed. He has confidence in his clothes, confidence in himself and is comfortable in his image. He will appreciate all aspects of fashion and even have an appreciation of pieces he might not wear – he is open minded and flexible.
The well dressed man is, as with beauty, in the eye of the beholder. Being well dressed is a concept true to the individual. In the real world, in the everyday situation and for 95% of social experiences, the well dressed man is king.
Below is a collection of pieces the well dressed man might have in his wardrobe. There is a focus on timeless, refined clothing and accessories that form the foundations of any good capsule wardrobe.
To define the stylish man, you must first define style. Style (and thereby the stylish man) is, I would suggest, everything the well dressed man is – plus a bit more. Style requires consistency, versatility and appreciation but it requires the stylish man to take his personal image one step further.
Style can be challenging. It can often push the boundaries of what we would consider timeless, classic dressing. It puts a twist – and I mean a proper twist – on our most loved outfits. It mixes up the accepted aesthetics, it confronts what we would normally consider proper, but crucially, it always works.
This is what separates style from fashion.
Fashion can be confrontational for the sake of it, fashion can push boundaries that do not need to be pushed, and it can be both utterly fantastic and diabolically awful. Style tests our abilities, it asks questions, it goes against the norm but it always looks good. It can be one big statement, or it can be all in the detail – but style is always original.
The stylish man must be forward thinking and happy to trust in himself. He might embrace colour, take pattern to the next level or do something no one else will think of. He must forever look forward but always remain rooted in what he knows, in what looks good. He must remain the well dressed man.
This time, there is a focus on pieces that will help take a timeless outfit to the next level – bold colours, contemporary detailing, unusual cuts and other subtle touches that enable you stand out from the crowd effortlessly.
Any distinction we make between being well dressed and stylish will be subject to intense scrutiny, we all have our own opinions after all. But what we should all remember is that there is a difference.
Personally, I believe that the concept of style most of us prescribe to has become diluted. If we’re completely honest, very few men could be considered truly stylish. Many can be thought of as well dressed, exceedingly well dressed in fact, but never truly stylish. However, that is perhaps more my opinion than an objective view of reality – you might (and probably do) think differently.
You must remember that there is absolutely nothing wrong with simply being well dressed. Being well dressed doesn’t mean you don’t appreciate all aspects of fashion, it doesn’t show a lack of knowledge and it doesn’t show a lack of ability. It shows recognition of the real world (the world in which we all live). True style is still a step too far for 99% of the population.
We can all see that the world of menswear is becoming stronger and stronger each day. The number of men taking an interest in their appearance is increasing exponentially, although there is still a very, very long way to go. Most men are still following the crowd.
Being well dressed doesn’t necessarily mean you look the same as every other man on the street, because most of them aren’t even well dressed. Being considered a truly stylish man isn’t essential; it might be nice, but you certainly shouldn’t consider it a necessity.
Being well dressed is, more often than not, all you need to be.
As objective as I have tried to be, identifying aspects of both characteristics that could be considered universal, my opinion will certainly have permeated this article. Now, I don’t think a debate is a debate unless you have more than one view point, so it’s time for you to have your say:
Let me know your thoughts in the comments below…