Few things make getting dressed simpler than having a signature style. It means you know what works for you and how to put it together. It helps you navigate the rails in every store because you can easily discount everything that doesn’t fit that look.
But ‘signature’ does not mean wearing the same look every day. “There’s a difference between a signature style and a uniform,” says Luke McDonald, from men’s styling service Thread. “A signature is the essence that you put across, whereas just having one look makes you look kooky. It’s consistency, not repetition.”
The aim, therefore, is to be stylish – not stale. Here’s how to nail it.
Style Tips For Finding A Signature Style
Go With Your Gut
Your look isn’t going to become a signature style overnight; it takes several outings, which is far less likely if it’s one you don’t actually like. “A lot of it’s about experimentation,” says McDonald, “but your gut is often right. If you feel uncomfortable in something when you walk into a room, then it’s not for you.”
Often, this discomfort comes when the outside doesn’t match the inside. “[Your clothes] reflect who you are and express something about you even before you’ve said a word,” says McDonald. That means choosing a look that echoes the way you see the world and want it to see you. If you’re wearing something that jars with your personality, it’ll show.
Take Inspiration From The Greats
There are few style moves that haven’t been attempted before, which means finding your own can be as simple as playing follow the leader. “Look at men who look like you and base it on that,” says McDonald.
If you’re particularly tall and lean, Jeff Goldblum’s personality-driven spin on fitted tailoring can be a blueprint. If you’re definitively not, look to the streetwear-heavy wardrobe of Jonah Hill for inspiration. “It can be trial and error, but emulating other men is a good way to cut out a lot of the error.”
Know What Works For You
One of the best things about a signature style is that you only need to figure out how a handful of clothes should fit. Just make sure you spend enough time getting them absolutely perfect. “A signature style should suit you and it should physically work for your body shape,” says McDonald.
Your two best moves are to get professionally measured and to try out as many brands as possible to find out which make their clothes for men of your dimensions. If you decide to go all-in on denim, sample widely to find the cut and the label that works best.
Buy In Bulk
Once you’ve found your brands, go deep. Signature pieces are going to get a lot of wear, and you’re going to kick yourself when the T-shirt that defines your look gets discontinued.
“Once you find something that works – and are 100 per cent sure that it works – load up,” says McDonald.
Financially, you’re going to regret buying three bespoke suits if you then decide that tailoring isn’t the look for you. So while you’re still figuring out your signature, experiment at the affordable end.
“Things like footwear and jeans can define you,” says McDonald. “Fashion guys might go wide and cropped, but a classic guy can go with something like Levi’s 501s. Your signature could be lace-up shoes, it could be punchy trainers. They’re things that say a lot about the direction of travel. It’s the stuff you wear day in day out.”
Three Men who’ve Nailed Signature Style
There’s a difference between a signature wardrobe and a uniform. Cocker nails it. “What he wears has changed since 1997, but it’s the same vibe,” says McDonald. “It’s a version of the person he was then.”
Cocker’s wardrobe is built around tailoring and texture, which means he can mix things up but still feel consistent. He might wear a corduroy suit one day, a velvet blazer the next, but they evoke the same vibe. It helps that he keeps his palettes and eras consistent. “The clothes have a ’60s and ’70s junk shop vibe, but the inner place hasn’t shifted.”
Pharrell embodies the idea that a signature style can be fluid. ‘Experimentation’ is the thread that runs through everything he’s ever worn, from the head-to-toe Chanel you’ll find him in now to the Japanese streetwear he brought to mainstream attention with N.E.R.D.
Often, he’ll let a particular piece define a style period – the Vivienne Westwood buffalo hat, say, or his BAPE hoodies – but this more-is-more approach allows him to discover new brands and pieces in a way that feels like he’s the one wearing them, rather than the other way around.
The master of Americana dresses like the man his brand represents. And like his brand, it’s an aesthetic that adapts and evolves over time, but feels like it’s coming from a single set of references. “He hasn’t changed markedly from the ’70s, but he wears things like big running shoes with his tuxedo jacket and jeans,” says McDonald.
This is the power of a signature style – you can try new things, add new pieces and even dabble in trends, but know that they won’t overwhelm the rest of your outfit. “There are these consistent fits and markers, but the difference between signature style and a uniform is that you can dress by mood.”
Five Key Pieces For Creating A Signature Style
If you think something as everyday as a white T-shirt can’t be distinctive, you’d best let Marlon Brando know. Quality and fit are the differences between any old tee and one that becomes a signature. Pick a point between trim and boxy and stick to it. Then pick trousers that work with that shape, not against it.
We’re all for matching your fragrance to your mood, but there are benefits to loyalty. Smell is a remarkably powerful sense – we’ve all caught a whiff of something in a crowded train and been transported back to our first kiss. Try either citrus or floral notes, which tend to work everywhere and in any season.
For a lesson in making a utility jacket a wardrobe signature, just see the late, great street style photographer Bill Cunningham. His choice is also a lesson in practicality – he needed all those pockets for film, batteries and cameras, which meant its form was almost secondary to its function. Find one that works for your lifestyle, and you’ll want to wear it every day.
From Don Draper to Tom Ford, the right suit has always been a way to carve out your own style niche. Now that tailoring (in its traditional form, at least) is disappearing from most men’s wardrobes, it does the job even more effectively. Go for something versatile, that you can adapt to different environments – a slim-fit, navy two-piece is a good start.
The one thing you’ll wear every day, glasses (whether optical of sunglasses) convey something about how you see the world, quite literally. Because of how often you’re seen in them, you don’t need to go all Elton John to make an impact – just pick something that suits your face shape and that feels in keeping with your personality.