In the first part of this article series I spoke about taking the first steps in a style reinvention. I highlighted the fact that, despite the excellent advice given to the readers of this site, some of what we wrote about was perhaps still a step too far for those newcomers less confident in their image, more unsure about where they wanted to go or intimidated by the direction and severity of suggested changes. I had wondered whether reinvention was too strong of a word. The whole point of the article was to encourage small changes; gradual developments that would sharpen up your image but not make you uncomfortable.
After more thought however, reinvention is exactly the word we need.
Changing your personal style is a huge undertaking and requires a great deal of physical input, it is not something that can be done by halves and it will almost certainly have a big influence on your life. Regardless of whether you take big, leaping strides or opt for a steady pace, reinvention is your ultimate goal and your first steps are only the start of a much longer journey.
The purpose of the second and third articles in the series is to give you an idea of exactly what I mean by taking small steps. For many of those nervous about the process as a whole, refining what you know is the best way forward. You need to be absolutely comfortable in what you wear and even if it is just a case of changing the cut of your clothes or introducing a shirt or two, it still makes a difference. Style is a very personal thing and therefore no one can define exactly what it constitutes or decide who has it. That is entirely up to the individual.
Possibly the most important thing to bear in mind if you are considering a change in the way you dress is your attitude towards clothes and your appearance; you MUST overcome any stereotypes and preconceptions that have previously held you back or dissuaded you from taking an interest. You must also be willing to change; there is little point in forcing the issue if you don’t have the desire to make a difference, a lack of enthusiasm is plain for all to see and will become obvious in the end result.
Of course, you need to be comfortable with the changes you make. The whole point of refining what you know is that it doesn’t take you too far out of your comfort zone, but it is just as important that you are not afraid of trying new things. Changing the fit of your jeans, wearing shoes rather than trainers, making more of shirts, these are all small changes but they WILL have an impact on the way you look and how you feel in what you wear; you have to expect it to look odd at first. Your new image will almost certainly look strange to you and will take some getting used to but you have to have confidence in the fact that it does work and that the changes are all positive.
The key to any successful wardrobe, whether it be one already developed or only in its infancy, are good basics. These form the building blocks for almost every outfit you will ever wear and are crucial to a more stylish look. Bearing in mind the minimal changes we are trying to achieve with our refine what you know policy, getting good basics is very important but it should also be very easy – we aren’t looking for anything drastically different from what you already wear and own, but we do need to ensure what you do wear is sharper, cleaner, simpler and slimmer.
Jeans are a definitive part of the modern man’s wardrobe and will undoubtedly be a central part of each outfit you wear; they are a classic, iconic and timeless style essential and it is very important that you get your jeans right. The biggest advantage we have here is that you will more than like already wear jeans, you are already comfortable in them and they don’t require a big leap in terms of refinement. For a lot of the men that this article is aimed at, the current wardrobe descriptors are ‘relaxed and baggy’, two words that represent the polar opposite of what you should be looking to achieve.
To refine your jeans you need to consider the cut; slim or straight leg styles are the order of the day, the majority consider slim jeans to be the most classic style but the severity of your change depends on what you currently wear. If you already wear straight leg jeans, try slim legs; for baggy jeans, try straight leg; you should be looking to make a change that will show a difference but not make you uncomfortable. Either way your ultimate goal is to tighten up your silhouette and create slimmer lines, which are much more flattering and a great deal more stylish.
Colour and wash should be next on your list. Simplicity is often the best way to come across as well dressed, so avoid like the plague anything over washed, purposely ripped and torn or covered in branding. Indigo and dark blue washes will be the most timeless and versatile but feel free to investigate black and grey options as well. However, for now, avoid the lightest blue washes – these are much harder to incorporate into a wardrobe centred around versatility.
For the investors out there take a browse through the premium Jean brands: Nudie, Levi’s, Edwin, Diesel et al (check the forums for numerous debates over quality and fit). For those with less cash to splash, H&M, Dr Denim and Cheap Monday all produce high quality jeans at a reasonable price. It is worth mentioning however that the fit and cut of a pair of jeans will vary massively between brands and even within certain cuts (slim, skinny, straight etc) do your research, shop around and try on as many as possible to find the perfect pair for you.
Jeans are a wardrobe staple that everyone should own, get them right and everything else will fall into place a great deal easier.
The humble t-shirt is the most basic of all basics. As with jeans, everyone will own some, everyone will wear them and we all feel comfortable in them. At first sight then, they would appear to be very easy; a simple item to be thrown on for an easy, casual look. This is true, but they are also quite easy to get very wrong. We tend to hold onto them for far too long – pulling out the oldest, most faded examples we own just as much as we do the ones we’ve only just taken the tags off. However, to achieve a proper style refinement, the use of the t-shirt needs to be a little more considered.
With that in mind, we need to establish exactly what role t-shirt will play; as we are not looking to create a style that is on the cutting edge of fashion or pushing the boundaries of trends, you can afford to make plain tees a mainstay of your normal wardrobe. Make the most of their easy versatility and excellent layering capabilities, use them as much as you wish, but there are rules as to what you should be wearing; graphic or branded tees are a non-starter, they are not indicative to a more refined style and should remain on the shelf, deep V-necks are also fast becoming a fashion faux pas and an unsightly blot of the clothing landscape; no one wants to see your nipples.
Plain colours and simple patterns are your best bet, pick up multiples of white, black, navy and grey crew necks as these can form the basis for any number of simple, stylish outfits; a white tee under a black leather jacket, jeans and some carefully chosen footwear is a classic look that will never be called unstylish (in fact, on our article on what women want, these items popped up a lot).
If you want to add variety, think about a simple Breton stripe tee or invest in some more colourful crew necks; burgundy, purple, green or yellow will introduce subtle flashes of colour to your outfits for minimal effort. For more variation consider a V-neck or a grandad/Henley top to make your outfit look just that little bit different. As always stick to slimmer cuts and more fitted styles and you will soon have a collection of easy to wear, simple basics that you can always fall back on.
Regardless of budget, t-shirts aren’t really something you need to spend a fortune on. Regular use and washing will fade the colour and they will wear more quickly; thankfully, good quality tees are not hard to find so take a look at American Apparel and Gap for some top spec t-shirts at very reasonable prices.
This is where things begin to get more complicated. Whilst they are very much a wardrobe essential, shirts and polo shirts are often a step into the realms of the unknown. For many un-styled men, the thought of wearing something that is purposely designed to look smarter makes for great discomfort. Often reserved for going out or when wearing your favourite jumper just isn’t acceptable, for a refined and well dressed man, shirts and/or polos should really be making more of an appearance.
It is important to note however that you do not have to approach them with only fixed and formal outfits in mind. Both actually work very well in more casual outfits that will more than likely better suit your style. A pair of jeans, shoes and a polo is an easy outfit that works well for a wander round town or an afternoon down the pub – the polo is more structured than a tee but not as restrictive as a shirt, it can easily be layered under a jumper or just have a jacket thrown on over the top. Stick to classic colours and shapes (the iconic Fred Perry Pique being a good example) and your style is immediately refined and more considered, it really can be as easy as making one change in a stock outfit.
Shirts should be no less easy to accommodate. Once again, you don’t have to buy the kinds of shirts you would wear with your suit or at work. You can stick to casual styles that smarten up your outfit and give it more shape. Check shirts are hugely popular and available everywhere, but where individuality is less of a concern, finding something that is completely different is wholly unnecessary; by their very nature they are associated with the outdoors and ‘manly’ jobs, which is a great selling point for the type of men that haven’t quite got over the connotations of the image conscious, modern gent. Pick thicker or more worked over fabrics such as brushed cotton, flannel etc to keep hold of this rugged ideal and choose a pattern and colour that works for you. If you are feeling even more adventurous, think about a denim shirt, an easy way to add structure and shape whilst avoiding any all sort of formality.
You could also consider the button down oxford shirt (the Oxford refers to the weave of the cloth). Even though it is a more formal style, it still retains a very casual air. These shirts are great for layering under jumpers or even hoodies and will immediately refine and improve your outfit. Look for one in blue or white for the most versatility and use it when the situation requires a touch of formality or just when you feel like dressing a touch smarter. The difference it makes to your outfit isn’t huge, but it is noticeable and the small changes add up to make a big difference. A shirt is an easy way to show that there has been at least some consideration of what you are wearing.
For a good selection of Oxford and denim shirts with an excellent fit and good quality give AllSaints a go. For check shirts, the possibilities are literally endless, as every major brand will produce a selection and it is just a case of finding the one that’s right for you. As with everything, just make sure you keep the fit slimmer and more defined for the best results.
Refining your style will be a gradual process. It will take time to get used to wearing different clothes, different cuts and different colours. For it all to work properly, you have to be comfortable in what you wear and that is why I want to highlight the importance of refining what you know – there is little point in jumping head long into a complete style change if you aren’t going to feel happy in the clothes you have.
If your priorities have left clothes at the bottom of your list, taking smaller steps towards improving your look and taking more interest in the way you look is probably the best policy.
The items I highlight in this and the next article are all basics that you need to begin your journey towards a complete style revolution, how far you take it is entirely up to you, but being more concerned with the way people see you is a start.
As always, let me know you thoughts and make any suggestions in the comments below and keep your eyes peeled for Part 3 where I will cover knitwear, footwear and outerwear.
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