Introduction

As sartorially inclined men, we always like to look our best. We take great pains over our grooming regime (note Duncan’s recent article) and we often sit somewhere between being interested in and fanatical about our clothes (note Matt’s recent article). The importance of our wardrobe is almost second to none and whilst some might see this as vanity, we see it as simply taking care of ourselves.

However, our carefully planned wardrobes don’t just develop by chance. Serious thought has (or at least should have) been put into every purchase, there should be a reason for every piece and every item you own should work in an outfit.

For those who have already established themselves within the world of menswear, there will undoubtedly be a few basic outfits you rely on – the go-to looks that we all know and love. But for those taking their first steps or for anyone looking to add something new, finding inspiration and direction can be tricky. The huge number of features that clothing retailers produce aren’t (in my opinion) especially helpful, as they assume at least some prior knowledge and are essentially encouraging you to buy an entire image.

You can’t always rely on your friends because one, they might not be that stylish and two, you need to dress yourself for yourself, not someone else. You can’t even rely on your own mum, because she just doesn’t understand.

Finding Inspiration

One solution is to take inspiration from other people. The world has an ever increasing population of well dressed men and it’s the total strangers that will often give you food for thought. For example, have you ever done a double take because of the way a chap was dressed?

Taking inspiration from other people works because you see clothes in real life: you see real people, making conscious decisions in the world we all exist in. The way you dress is as much a social choice as a reflection of your desire to look good – we do it because we want to impress other people. If someone else has impressed you, steal their ideas and make it work on your behalf.

Street style lookbooks are a great resource for this kind of inspiration; they take stylish men from around the world and bring them all together in page after page of fashion pornography. Take a look at FashionBeans’ street style gallery and you’ll see a vast array of different styles, ages, colours and cultures – all stuff to get your teeth stuck into.

But if you do choose to take this path it is important to be open minded. You cannot pore through thousands of images looking for something specific – it defeats the point. You must look at each image with a balance of objectivity and subjectivity: why do you like this one? What do you like about it? How could you wear it? Or why don’t you like this? What is it that you don’t like?

Even if you find an image that is as a whole not especially useful, you might still be able to pick out things you like: a particular accessory, a flash of colour. Look at the basic elements and the stripped back principles of how they dressed in order to make your own decisions. Adding pieces from lots of different influences is a great way of making your style truly unique.

My Inspiration

To help you understand what I’m getting at, I’ve decided to show you how I use street style photos to inspire my wardrobe.

Below I’ve identified four outfits, each with their own unique selling points, and discussed what I like, why I like it AND how I would work it into my wardrobe.

Look 1 – FashionBeans Street Style Collective

Anonymous, Photographed in TokyoPhoto By: Men In This Town
meninthistown.com

What do I like?
The colour contrast between the shirt and jacket draws me in and the little touches give it that extra edge. I also like the great potential it has for layering.

Why do I like it?
A vintage denim shirt or jacket would work brilliantly here because the proliferation of mid to dark washes we used to see in the 1980s and 1990s (the kind of wash only just making a comeback) creates a much stronger contrast between the colour of the parka on top and the shirt beneath, making both tones seem a lot richer.

I also like the difference the subtle details make: shirt buttons left undone and popping the collar affect the way the clothes hang and how each piece sits against the other. Creating a strong barrier between the yellow jacket and your neck/skin is a good way of making sure you don’t appear washed out by the bold colour of the jacket.

How would I wear it?
I’m personally not a huge fan of double denim, even though it’s been worked well here. I would switch the jeans for some light stone chinos or some brown moleskin trousers and the shoes for a pair of worker or desert boots (because I have them in my wardrobe).

I would then think about layering things up a bit more with a jumper under the shirt. I’m a big fan of this look and even though there are things I would change, it will definitely be working its way into my repertoire.

My Take

  • Topman Grey Marl High Roller Short Sleeve SweatshirtTopman Grey Marl High Roller Short Sleeve Sweatshirt
  • Asos Denim JacketAsos Denim Jacket
  • Selected Fisherman JacketSelected Fisherman Jacket
  • Reiss Wickham Clean Cotton Pressed Chino StoneReiss Wickham Clean Cotton Pressed Chino Stone
  • Ray-ban Clubmaster SunglassesRay-ban Clubmaster Sunglasses
  • Mark Mcnairy Suede Desert BootsMark Mcnairy Suede Desert Boots
Look 2 – FashionBeans Street Style Collective

Craig Lansdale, Photographed in LondonPhoto By: Menswear Style
menswearstyle.co.uk

What do I like?
The double-breasted jacket and the structured, smart-casual nature of the look – created through the use of separates.

Why do I like it?
I’m a huge fan of double-breasted tailoring because it’s still so rare to see and remains very masculine and classic.

The tie and shirt combination helps to retain a formal air up top whilst the wool trousers bring everything down a notch or two, stopping it from becoming too uptight and rigid.

How would I wear it?
My style is inherently casual, so wearing an outfit made up entirely of separates or too many tailored pieces is a step too far. I would dress this down further by wearing my DB jacket (part of a suit) with a pair of skinny jeans and some smart, dark brown, suede chukka boots. I would retain the shirt and tie combination but I would switch from a contrast collar to a crisp white version.

Because my style is less formal than this dapper chap I would opt for a four button jacket, take in the waist slightly and lower the sleeves. This is of course only personal preference – his jacket is fine because it’s a six button closure and suits a more classic cut.

What is most important with this look is the fact that I would have to make quite a few changes to make it fit my style. However, it is a very good example of how you can appreciate an outfit more for its basic components and ideas, rather than the final look.

My Take

  • Reiss Pluto Super Slim Shirt WhiteReiss Pluto Super Slim Shirt White
  • Ami Double-breasted Linen BlazerAmi Double-breasted Linen Blazer
  • Reiss Heath Micro Dot Printed Wool Tie KhakiReiss Heath Micro Dot Printed Wool Tie Khaki
  • Nudie Thin Finn Skinny Jeans Organic Dry TwillNudie Thin Finn Skinny Jeans Organic Dry Twill
  • Valentino Camouflage-print Silk Pocket SquareValentino Camouflage-print Silk Pocket Square
  • Grenson Silas Suede Desert BootsGrenson Silas Suede Desert Boots
Look 3 – The Sartorialist

On the Street, Via Borgognone, MilanPhoto By: TheSatorialist
thesartorialist.com

What do I Like?
The use of classic items to create a proper man’s outfit – nothing fancy, nothing wild or fashion forward, just simple and effective menswear basics.

Why do I like it?
For me workerwear (or for want of a better description, masculine dressing) is really just a development of the military trend. The basic elements are the same; outfits are simply created with a slightly different aesthetic.

The combination of chunky boots, rolled up trousers, a plaid shirt and a pea coat is a fantastic look that any man can pull off and it’s been one of my go-to outfits this past autumn/winter. The pea coat is one of the easiest coats to wear because it suits almost every style – find one in navy and you’ll never need to buy another coat again.

Rolling up the trousers to sit on top of the boots is another great touch, one that I highly recommend. If you’ve spent good money on your boots you want to show them off, right? It also gives you the opportunity to surprise people with colourful socks.

Finally, I like they way everything looks relaxed. It doesn’t look over-thought; he’s pulled a few clothes on and walked out the door. Having a very casual attitude towards your clothing makes everything look so much more natural. And despite the possible negative associations, the wallet chain is a brilliant, unexpected finishing touch.

How would I wear it?
There is very little I would have to change about this outfit to make it fit the contents of my wardrobe. The colours would of course be different (my coat is navy and I don’t own a brown plaid shirt) but the basic principles would remain the same.

For a smarter aesthetic you could easily switch in a plain white dress shirt or your trusty Oxford. The same goes for tees, Henleys and polos should you want to go the other way and dress down further.

One thing I would perhaps consider more carefully is the choice of footwear. I find most Red Wing styles to be far too chunky and think they can overwhelm your feet and make your look too bottom heavy. Thankfully there are numerous alternatives available on the market that would serve the purpose just as well.

My Take

  • Allsaints Murakami ShirtAllsaints Murakami Shirt
  • Allsaints Cabanel Pea CoatAllsaints Cabanel Pea Coat
  • Woven-cord And Metal Anchor Wrap BraceletWoven-cord And Metal Anchor Wrap Bracelet
  • Reiss Prominent T Unstructured Trousers NavyReiss Prominent T Unstructured Trousers Navy
  • Asos House Party Pattern SocksAsos House Party Pattern Socks
  • Frank Wright Mortimer BootsFrank Wright Mortimer Boots
Look 4 – The Sartorialist

On the Street, 10th St., New YorkPhoto By: TheSatorialist
thesartorialist.com

What do I like?
Elegant simplicity defined.

Why do I like it?
As some of you regular readers might already know, I am not a fan of complicated menswear. I like to be able to wake up in the morning, pull on some clothes and feel like I look great without really thinking about it. I want to leave the house and forget about what I’m wearing – there are too many other things in the world to worry about to care about my reflection. My wardrobe is small, everything in it goes with pretty much everything else and I’ll wear every item into the ground.

Shamefully, I’d never really thought of pairing a Fred Perry polo with tailored trousers AND tucking it in but this image lodged in my head and just wouldn’t leave. It’s just a great idea and it works so well. His trousers are perfectly fitted, just as they should be, so a belt is an optional accessory, used purely for aesthetics. Here he has opted out and I think it’s all the better for it. Overall it is classic, simple and fantastic.

As much as I dislike brand associations and the concept of wearing something from a particular company simply because of the name, I have deliberately identified Fred Perry because I truly believe there is something about the brand that gives an outfit that little bit of an edge. For me it’s the history and the culture that comes with the laurel wreath and they are a brand that can conjure up some kind of emotional attachment.

How would I wear it?
Unfortunately we can’t see what this chap is wearing on his feet but I would go for light suede desert boots. A pair of navy trousers or smart chinos would offer maximum versatility (and go great with light suede).

Consider having them cropped to sit just on top of the boot or to show a little ankle with loafers. In my opinion, basic colours on top would be the best choice: white, blue, burgundy, maybe even black depending on the colour of your trousers. Don’t mess around too much with the clean, basic principles that make this work so well.

A classic beige Harrington or light wash denim jacket would top this off a treat – I’ll be rocking it as soon as the weather improves.

My Take

  • Fred Perry Slim Fit Twin Tipped Polo TopFred Perry Slim Fit Twin Tipped Polo Top
  • Ben Sherman Harrington Bomber JacketBen Sherman Harrington Bomber Jacket
  • Allsaints Suke TrouserAllsaints Suke Trouser
  • Desert BootDesert Boot
Final Word

The people around you can be one of the most interesting, diverse and stimulating sources of inspiration you could ever hope to find. The fact that everyone is an individual – with individual tastes, desires and opinions and imaginations – makes the wealth of the men you pass in the street an endless resource of styling tips and outfit ideas.

Street style blogs bring people from around the world together in one place and it is well worth taking a good, hard look. Be open minded, be objective, be subjective and think carefully about what you see, because almost every image you see can make a difference, even if it’s just a confirmation that you don’t actually like something.

Hopefully this article has given you some food for thought. I always like producing work that has more of a personal touch because I feel it makes what we write more relatable, more accessible and allows us to give you genuine advice on topics that we all find interesting and enjoyable.

As always, we want to know what you guys think. How do you take inspiration from others?

Let me know in the comments section below.

Will