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Fashion vs. Style: Know the Difference

Most men get confused, intimidated, and overwhelmed when it comes to the subject of dressing (and I don’t mean the kind you put on your salad).

When a man wants to dress better, where does he turn? Unfortunately, most men look to current fashion trends for the answers. The problem with trying to copy what you see in GQ or style blogs is that it sets unrealistic expectations and it leads to men looking and feeling uncomfortable in their clothes. Remember; images in advertisements are highly polished, and the models are pinned and photo shopped. Before you fill your wardrobe with this season’s fleeting fads, let’s consider a more personalized approach…

The Flusserian approach would have you change your question from “what width of lapel are men wearing right now?” to “which width of lapel is right for me?” It really is that simple. Put a portly gentleman in a skinny lapel and the proportions will be off. It’s all about what works for you.

Distortion vs. Proportion

Your individual figure must be taken into consideration. Here are some basic guidelines:

  • Lapels should be half the distance from the base of the neck to the outside shoulder. Anything narrower or wider is considered fashion. Coat length should cover the seat. Wearing trousers as close to one’s natural waist as possible elongates the leg line, which makes a man look taller and slimmer.
  • A man with very short legs in comparison to his torso will benefit from a slightly shorter coat (giving the illusion of a longer leg line). A very tall and thin man will want to use every excuse he can to break up a streamlined look with horizontal lines (balancing the length with some visual width).
  • Someone who still wears a short coat with narrow lapels and low-rise trousers they purchased five years ago, when it was in fashion, will look dated against current fashion.

It’s easy to see how chasing fashion can be a lose/lose game for the consumer; that’s how the industry makes money. The way to break the cycle is by wearing clothes that flatter your individual proportions, whether they’re in fashion or not. If well-made and cared for, these garments will serve you well for decades.

Recast vs. Contrast

You would never put a prized painting in a frame that didn’t complement it. Leveraging the contrast principle is the practice of framing your face with your clothing. Here’s a few tips to consider when it comes to leveraging your contrast:

  • If a medium contrast man has light brown hair, he should wear medium grey suits and a midnight tuxedo. In general; he should wear colors that don’t clash too much.
  • A high contrast man with light skin and dark hair should wear charcoal grey suits and a black tuxedo. He should combine colors on extreme ends of the spectrum (lights with darks).
  • Men with red notes in their hair look best in a fall palette (rusts, olives, reds). That’s not to say he should wear a red suit, but rather something like a navy tie with a little red in it will flatter him.

There’s a lot more to it than that, but the general idea can be summed up by “as above, so below.” If you’ve ever had someone say “that’s a great color on you,” then it was probably flattering for your contrast.

Stale vs. Stealth

There’s a reason why a group of tailors is called a disguisery. A blazer/sport coat/suit coat is the most flattering garment a man can wear. Once you start applying these concepts to your day-to-day routine, people around you will be quick to notice.

The difference between fashion and style boils down to this: Wearing an eggplant designer skinny suit that you saw Joseph Gordon-Levitt sporting in GQ will get you some “nice suit” remarks. Dressing to flatter your contrast/proportion will yield an entirely different type of compliment – it will sound something more like “You look great, but I can’t figure out what’s different.” Which would you rather receive?

Sink vs. Swim

Go into the water slowly before braving the sartorial deep end. You must first learn the rules before you can break them tastefully. Consult with an expert, express your style, let the compliments roll in, and start feeling better with what you wear.