Introduction

We here at FashionBeans are very lucky to have a loyal, committed and ever-expanding readership who are keen to get involved in almost every part of the community. In return, we writers strive to produce work that will keep you coming back, day after day – and would hope that each and every one of those days you are informed, intrigued, stimulated, excited and inspired by the content we create.

In this respect it’s extremely important that we constantly push ourselves to challenge your expectations. Reading the same type of content every day or seeing the same clothes/ideas quickly becomes boring. Questioning yourself, your style and even what we write is what keeps things fresh; our words aren’t gospel and contrary to what you might believe we do actually want your honest feedback. If you disagree with something, make your thoughts heard – we’ll only work to make things better.

I personally write these debate articles because I want you to think about more than just the clothes you wear: why you wear something, why you like ‘this’ more than ‘that’, why you abide by certain style rules and why you disagree with what someone else is wearing.

Questioning every facet of your style and your clothes forces you to rethink everything; it makes you wonder why you bought something, how you might wear it, what you really need and where you are going. It continually pushes you forward in a world that is constantly changing, and that can only be a good thing.

But that’s enough about me and you, the real reason we’re here is to have another menswear debate. It’s time for us to question why we have chosen to dress the way we do. So, to dress up or dress down, which do you prefer?

The Question: To Dress Up Or Dress Down?

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and style is an entirely subjective creation based solely on personal taste. We choose to wear the clothes we do because we feel some kind of connection – whether that be a colour, pattern, shape or fit. But as with anything in life, there isn’t just one concept of style or one set of guidelines that we all follow; it all comes down to the individual.

This means that everyone almost without exception will dress in a different way, even if the difference is provided by the smallest of details. The way you dress will be born of many influences: the people around you, the latest runway shows, magazines you read and the products available in the shops. In short, whatever appeals to your personal sensibilities.

But whilst I have previously stated that there isn’t a set concept of style that we all follow, there are niches that we often find ourselves drawn to. We can choose to focus on a particular look – Berlin Grunge, 90s Skater, Rockabilly, Mod, Riviera, Italian etc. – or we can mix a couple together to create something altogether more unique and personal.

It is also possible to simply take the above (which is far from an all inclusive list) as a set of influences; not a set idea but a starting block for something bigger.

Men's Niche Looks/StylesWhat specific niche or style does your look revolve around: Dandy, Heritage, Formal, Mediterranean-esque, Streetwear, Mod, Workwear, Grunge, Preppy? Or a unique fusion of two or more?

Duchamp AW12Ted Baker AW12Reiss AW12 TailoringL.B.M 1911 SS13Topman Southbank Skate TrendBen Sherman AW12H&M Spring 2013Topman Denim FeatureUNKNOWN

However, in the broader spectrum, most looks can be categorised under three more general banners: smart, casual or smart-casual.

These banners create a powerful divide between the personal style of many a well-dressed man. But whilst these ideas divide us, they do not tell us why we dress the way we do, or why one person prefers casual to formal styles. To understand that we must question the reasons we each have for choosing to dress the way we do.

The Debate

As with many debate articles, this one was inspired by a thread on the forum. The issue raised was the feeling of being under-dressed, and specifically how a t-shirt and jeans combination just doesn’t seem to ‘cut it’ in the majority of situations.

This piqued my interest because it is one of the clearest examples of the huge divide between the aforementioned styles (that being between smart and casual), or even individual perceptions of those categories. For instance, whilst a simple tee and jeans combination would be insufficient for one person, it would be a perfectly acceptable outfit for another.

For the former it might simply be the need to introduce something else; that the outfit is somehow incomplete with these two pieces and will only be complete with an extra layer or perhaps a change to a structured shirt. For the other person, their acceptance could be a clear case of it’s ‘how you wear’ not ‘what you wear’.

I, for example, see nothing wrong with wearing a pair of jeans and a tee on their own, but that is because I alter the fit and patterns as well as the other parts of the look to suit my style as it exists now. Choosing a tee with pattern can make a world of difference over a plain basic alternative. The question here is: why does the former feel so under-dressed?

Varied Jeans and T-Shirt CombinationsWould a classic jeans & tee combination ever be good enough for you? Or would you need to alter the t-shirt (middle row) and/or add additional pieces (bottom row) in order to give it your own spin?

H&M Summer 2013AllSaints SS13Reiss SS12Minimum SS13River Island Holloway Road SS13Pull & Bear SS13AllSaints AW12AllSaints AW12Zara AW12
Why Do You Dress Up/Down?

What is perhaps most intriguing are the reasons people choose to dress up or dress down. Why do some people choose to follow streetwear trends, whilst others opt to pore over images of Pitti Uomo every year, all in the name of developing an Italian-esque style? What is it that grabs people’s attention and makes them want to dress in one particular way?

It isn’t as clear cut as it might at first appear, because some people might be more fashion forward or casual in their overall style but are still able to appreciate the qualities of good tailoring or smarter dressing, and vice versa. It could be argued therefore that there is no clear cut niche into which we can place ourselves; the fashion world is just too variable.

If we cannot place ourselves in any specific niche then it is perhaps more prudent to look at the reasons why you dress the way you do. For example, I dress the way I do because it suits my lifestyle, it suits my personal tastes and despite trying, I’ve not been able to work with a style other than the one I have now.

At this point in time my style is inherently casual. I’ve tried the whole ‘smart’ thing and whilst I liked it, it just wasn’t for ME. It felt too forced and didn’t suit my situation – dressing up to go to university for an hour and a half seemed like a big waste of time and I always felt slightly uncomfortable wearing a roll neck and double-breasted blazer whilst wandering around town on a lazy day off. As previous articles can attest, I’m all about being able to get dressed in a matter of seconds without fuss, without hassle and yet still know that I’ve put together a good outfit.

That being said, I can still appreciate a good suit, I still love tailoring and still covet a bespoke suit – I just don’t currently buy anything of that nature because it doesn’t fit my wardrobe. It isn’t necessarily a bad thing that I don’t own an ‘essential’ navy blazer, I just have no use for it. I am also inclined to invest in my tailoring if the need for it arises and, more often than not, it is too far out of my price range.

In summary, I don’t dress up because It doesn’t suit my lifestyle, it doesn’t suit my social circle, it doesn’t suit my financial situation and I’m happy with my current personal style.

3 Ways To Wear Printed Shirts, Shorts and Chinos/TrousersThree distinct takes on the printed shirt (left), shorts (centre) and chinos/trousers (right): Smart (top), Smart-Casual (middle) and Casual (bottom). What is your go-to approach?

Sanahunt SS13Zara August 2013Zegna SS13He By Mango SS13Paul & Joe SS13He By Mango Summer 2013AllSaints SS13Pull & Bear Heritage SS13H&M SS13

I have clearly defined reasons for not dressing up and these dictate the purchases I make, the sources I take inspiration from and the way I develop my wardrobe. There is little point in me investing in another facet of style when it just isn’t applicable.

This works equally well the other way around: for someone that loves tailoring, looks to Italy for inspiration or abhors streetwear in almost all its guises, buying bold prints, oversized cuts or sports-inspired clothing is redundant – but that doesn’t mean you can’t appreciate it for what it is or how it’s being used.

Being narrow-minded restricts your options and makes it much harder to move forward; there is a whole world of inspiration out there that goes far beyond the little piece you choose to take and it would be foolish not to explore it, at least a little…

Example Pieces
Dress Up
  • Reiss Donnie Two Button Suit Airforce BlueReiss Donnie Two Button Suit Airforce Blue
  • Reiss Pinot B Two Button Cotton Blazer TaupeReiss Pinot B Two Button Cotton Blazer Taupe
  • Billy Reid Walton Flecked Silk And Linen-blend BlazerBilly Reid Walton Flecked Silk And Linen-blend Blazer
  • Topman Blue Tonic Skinny SuitTopman Blue Tonic Skinny Suit
  • Reiss Wine Checked Shirt OrangeReiss Wine Checked Shirt Orange
  • Asos Smart Shirt With Collar TabAsos Smart Shirt With Collar Tab
  • Topman Blue Curve Collar Smart ShirtTopman Blue Curve Collar Smart Shirt
  • Asos High V CardiganAsos High V Cardigan
  • Canali Wool Rollneck SweaterCanali Wool Rollneck Sweater
  • J.crew Striped Linen And Cotton-blend TieJ.crew Striped Linen And Cotton-blend Tie
  • Topman Hudson Brown Oxford Lace Up ShoesTopman Hudson Brown Oxford Lace Up Shoes
  • Reiss Atic Sailing Boat Pocket Square YellowReiss Atic Sailing Boat Pocket Square Yellow
Dress Down
  • River Island Light Pink Short Sleeve ShirtRiver Island Light Pink Short Sleeve Shirt
  • Allsaints Reaper ShirtAllsaints Reaper Shirt
  • Allsaints Shion ShirtAllsaints Shion Shirt
  • Reiss Caddy Cotton Casual Coloured Denim StoneReiss Caddy Cotton Casual Coloured Denim Stone
  • A.p.c. Petit Standard Slim-fit Dry Selvedge Denim JeansA.p.c. Petit Standard Slim-fit Dry Selvedge Denim Jeans
  • River Island Grey Washed Slim ChinosRiver Island Grey Washed Slim Chinos
  • Topman Bleach Denim Western JacketTopman Bleach Denim Western Jacket
  • Asos Leather Bomber JacketAsos Leather Bomber Jacket
  • Sunspel Loopback-cotton SweatshirtSunspel Loopback-cotton Sweatshirt
  • Asos 3/4 Sleeve T-shirt With Crew NeckAsos 3/4 Sleeve T-shirt With Crew Neck
  • Reiss Juke Mutli Yarn Crew Neck Jumper RoseReiss Juke Mutli Yarn Crew Neck Jumper Rose
  • New Balance 574 Suede SneakersNew Balance 574 Suede Sneakers
Final Word

Questioning why you wear something or why you dress the way you do can help take your personal style to the next level. You can also save yourself a lot of time, money and hard work, simply by knowing exactly what you want, when you want it.

There is little sense in trying to force yourself into wearing something because someone else has said it’s an ‘essential’ or because someone else is wearing it. You should wear something because you want to wear it, because you are comfortable in it and you know it works for you.

But now it’s time for you have your voice heard:

  • Why do you dress the way you do?
  • Can you categorise your style in a particular way?
  • Did you try lots of different styles before you found the one you really loved?
  • Would you agree that always questioning yourself makes for a better style?

Let me know in the comments section below…