If you thought fashion shows were all about the collections and catwalks, you’d be very much mistaken. They’re about clothes, of course (and Instagram likes, and rushing around high on caffeine). But the clothes that get photographed and written about are not always those being shown by designers.
These days, street style is every bit as influential as what’s on the runway. Which makes street style photographers high-level arbiters of what looks good in the world of menswear. When there’s a flock of try-hard peacocks flapping around Pitti Uomo trying to catch everyone’s attention, the assembled photographers have to separate the truly stylish from those that just have the loudest (Balenciaga-branded) plumage.
So, what exactly does it take to make it onto the grid of a notable style snapper? We asked five of them to find out their rules for looking good enough to get their cameras clicking.
Be True To Yourself
Jonathan Daniel Pryce, better known as Garcon Jon, is one of the foremost street style photographers in the world, with work published by the likes of Mr Porter, Time, and T Magazine.
A globetrotter who can be found lurking outside fashion shows all over the world, this is a man who knows how to sort the eminently stylish gents from the fair-weather fashion freaks. “Someone with personality in the way they present themselves is always good,” he says. “I tend to enjoy a more nonchalant look, rather than anything bold and daring. Overall, it’s about appearing genuine. The subject who looks like they wear these clothes all year around, rather than put on a show for fashion week, catches my attention.”
But Pryce is not averse to a little bit of vanity when he’s looking for stylish subjects. He admits that anyone exhibiting his own style will get special attention. “If someone’s wearing a baker boy cap or navy wide-leg pants, then I’m all over them. I love vintage workwear clothes and you can see that in who I like to photograph during fashion week.”
Overall, however, this is a man who is more focused on an authentic subject, who can show attention to detail. Substance over style, if you will. “This can be shown through a hat perhaps, or an interesting way of holding a bag,” he says. “This will often suggest personality over wearing a certain brand or bright colour.” We’re taking notes.
Yu Yang For FashionBeans
Don’t Try Too Hard
It is easy to think that street style photographers such as Milan-based Yu Yang – who has close to 15,000 followers on Instagram – are looking for something that catches their eye. And they often are, of course. But it might not be that intarsia Gucci jacket you just dropped half a month’s salary on. “Most of the time I can tell if people are trying too hard,” she says.
“Street style photographers like hot pieces from top brands, but if you try too hard and wear too many things together, I know that you’re just trying to catch my eye.”
The way to dress, in Yang’s opinion, is simply, and in a sober fashion. “Wearing colour is not a big issue for me,” she says. And a bit of sophistication goes a long way. “I focus on the total look. I like gentlemen in suits which are elegant and have good texture. If there is an accessory that is special, like a hat or glasses or even a pocket watch, that’s a bonus.”
Where, then, is the city that best-represents this simple, elegant approach to style? “I like Paris,” says Yang. “Most of the time during Paris Fashion Week I get really good shots in between shows; there are always really stylish people there.”
Yu Yang For FashionBeans
A street style photographer who is also the founder and editor of the trend site Omnistyle, Andrew Barber suggests going the extra mile to turn his head when meandering between shows. “Hidden messages, cool prints and distinct shapes or textures on outfits catch my attention,” he says.
We wouldn’t suggest going for Conor McGregor-style tailoring (he famously wore a suit in a press conference last year with the words ‘F*CK YOU’ embroidered into pinstripes), but an animal print or graphic T-shirt can be a welcome distraction.
Barber, who recently shot for FashionBeans as well as GQ Italy, is also keen to impress that making a statement with the brands you wear should be avoided. “The cost of the outfit and who designed it is not the focus for me,” he says. However, catching Mr Barber’s eye extends further than just the clothes. “I like it when the person wearing the outfit exudes confidence and attitude,” he says.
If you do decide to add some extra detail to your outfit, ensure that you’re comfortable doing so. Never wear anything that is out of character. “I love capturing natural moments during fashion week,” says Barber. “I find it easy to spot someone who is uncomfortable wearing something.”
Yu Yang For FashionBeans
It’s All In The Walk
Brand new Off-White sneakers? Check. Vintage tweed trench? Check. Soya latte? Check. You’re officially ready to hit the streets, take in a show or two, and, most importantly, attract the attention of waiting fashion photographers. But hold it right there.
According to Robert Spangle, the man behind the Thousand Yard Style blog, you have to walk the walk before you make it onto his camera roll. “The first thing I notice is almost always a person’s silhouette and how they walk. They could be walking tall or trudging, it doesn’t really matter, but gait telegraphs attitude at a great distance.” In short, work on your posture. Stand up straight, and make sure you walk in an authoritative and purposeful manner. No meandering aimlessly, then, hunched over Google Maps.
Wearing clothes you feel comfortable in will only help that, as will going for some smarter pieces (there’s nothing like a suit to make you stand prouder). Mr Spangle has some pointers: “A person’s style comes down to what they are communicating and if it strikes me as authentic. There has to be some kind of narrative there, biography or fiction, as long as it’s a story. Colour is important. But best of all is a few colours worked into harmony through texture, complement and contrast.” You’ve been told.
Yu Yang & Andrew Barber For FashionBeans
Less Is More
A Milan-based photographer who now works mainly on high-fashion projects, Stefano Carloni understands what goes into a great street style shot. “I don’t like those crazy eccentric looks,” he says when explaining his tastes. “If I can sum up everything – less is more is the key.”
So, if you want to appear on Carloni’s Instagram feed, ditch those new Balenciaga and Vetements pieces and go for something a little simpler. If you need somewhere to begin, try the foundations of your look. “I start by looking at the shoes,” says Carloni. “In my opinion, they make the whole outfit. If you wear the wrong shoes, I won’t shoot you.” Our advice? Keep it subtle and sturdy if you’re wearing smart shoes (some trusty brogues or Derbies), and pared-back and pristine if it’s sneakers (think: Common Projects or Converse).
Whatever shoes you wear, remember to keep your cool. “I avoid those people who just go outside shows to show off, without even having an invite,” he says. Those people who try to catch your attention walking five times in front of you holding their phone.” We have no idea what you’re talking about. Ahem.
Yu Yang For FashionBeans