There are few occasions where staring at someone in the street is a comfortable experience. No matter how well they are dressed, looking them up and down is more pervy than studious, so understandably we fail to learn by taking inspiration from people you see every day. If you’re like me, you’re also unlikely to want to give them the satisfaction of you noticing how they’re dressed.
But thankfully, someone has already solved the problem. The solution is called ‘Street Style’, and it lets you see the way ordinary city goers are interpreting and defining fashion. The type of outfits you have wanted to have a closer look at have been catalogued by intrepid photographers with no apparent sense of social awkwardness, and you can reap the benefit.
There are two sources I would recommend; the first is our own Street Style section and the second is Coggles’. In these repositories of style lie literally thousands of outfits you can – and should – be taking inspiration from.
The real benefit comes from the fact that these men are not dressed by a designer but by themselves. Real individuality, real flair, real brilliance can be found in a way which is more authentic and more accessible than a catwalk show. These men also have nothing to sell you: They will be mixing up whatever they find in their wardrobe rather than restricting themselves to one season’s collection. As a result, their clothes are worn innovatively – without exception.
If you dig into the principles behind their appearance, you can find approaches you’ve never seen before, and a clear denial of the idea that there are or have ever been a rigid set of style ‘Laws’.
Photographed By: http://workitberk.blogspot.com/
Summer fashion exemplified.
To start with colour: Look at the effect created by basing an outfit around two simple contrasting colours. The jumper introduces new tones, and avoids over-matching.
Pattern is also used brilliantly: The key with matching patterns is a size/scale difference, and the striped jumper and camouflage rucksack work well together because they fulfil this criteria.
Finally, check out the matching of sunglasses with espadrilles/loafers: This prevents either item looking abandoned on the peripheries.
Photographed By: http://www.21arrondissement.com/
Double breasted tailoring, smart separates, patterned bow tie, cuffed trousers, fringed shoes… Every trend going has been hit here.
So why isn’t it an eyesore? Because the colour palette is muted. No overwhelming centrepiece is used, and the stand-out quality comes from paying attention to detail (on a personal note, that has always been my favourite approach).
Notice, also, how the trouser hems break. They sit around the ankle, relatively high, so that the shoe’s aren’t overwhelmed – that is the main point of the roll up trouser leg, not to get a tan on your lower calf.
Photographed By: http://malmostreetstyle.com/
I’m often not a fan of the indie look – it can be a bit samey – but this an exception. I think that’s the case because of texturing: We have a scarf, a leather jacket, a camera case, a shirt and a t-shirt. The textures change throughout (respectively; knitted, leather, cotton) and this complexity is a symptom of considering how you dress.
Apart from the fact that I am outright jealous of his leather jacket, there’s nothing wrong with this outfit. That is to say, there is something wrong – it’s not too perfect. He has dirty shoes. It’s all in the spirit of sprezzatura.
Preppy is often attempted, but I think the wider public often miss the point. Preppy is not about, or not necessarily about, tailored style. The prep version of casual is often, actually, the opposite of classic tailoring. Lisa Birnback, the author who brought prep to the world stage, puts it like this:
“Authenticity is communicated in a lot of ways, such as an attitude of disregard. Someone who’s wearing a pristine, pressed, tucked-in and spotless shirt — that’s one version. And the one with the ketchup stain is the other version. And the one with the ketchup stain and the frayed collar — now we’re talking. Someone with a genuinely aged thing, whether it’s a button-down shirt, khaki pants or taped-together loafers, that’s one way to go. The less stylish, the better.”
(Find the whole interview here)
Arguably, this photo shows how preppy casual should be done in a less American context. The two-tone brogues are both a nod to tradition and suitably ruffled, and the Madras blazer does the same. If you want to channel the spirit of the yacht club, be aware that imperfection and outrageousness are key parts of that “authenticity”.
We’ll begin with fit this time. Notice how throughout the fit is straight – consistently relaxed but solid. The whole reason this outfit can be seen so easily as a low-energy approach is because the fit is the same, therefore a single message is conveyed. What he actually wears is less relevant; it is the shape of the clothes that is of most importance.
I know we say it often, but find your local tailor. Do it now. As in, leave this article for later (it’s not going anywhere) open a new tab and Google it. I know it’s an effort, but either you do that or spend countless hours looking for shop-bought clothes that fit you well.
From low-energy we descend to minus energy. Either this guy is on his way to a pyjama party or he is in serious danger of falling asleep on the pavement. Regardless, we have lots to learn.
Look at how he uses his shoes as a complete contrast. Everything else is very relaxed, and then there is the utility-harshness of boots. This has given me an idea – in the way only street style can. How about you take that pair of ‘loungewear’ trousers you ill-advisedly brought during the height of Jack Wills’ popularity, cuff them, and wear them in the same way? A minor embarrassment you use to slouch around the house in can be turned into a brave new option.
(For those of you who never indulged in that kind of trouser, congratulations, but the principle of reinvention still applies.)
‘Street style’ is a love of mine, because for someone who finds fashion an insight into other people and the image we like to project of ourselves, it’s a seemingly endless archive of character. In the same way as you engage with art and the story it can tell, you can engage with photographs.
In terms of practicality, street style is also a great source of ideas and lessons, as well as being the prime way to keep on top of the real pioneers and what they’re doing. I think most of us could use it more often and more effectively.
One pointer to finish: If you must stare at people in the street, try to avoid doing it when the object of your gaze looks smug. We don’t want anybody wandering our streets with dangerously sized egos.
[Editor Note: If you liked this round-up of recent street style, please let us know in the comments section below. We could turn this into a once a month round-up if people are interested.]