What is style? Is it a 5-piece suit, or is it finding a perfect hat? Is it ironing your jeans or making sure your socks always match your shirt? It is all of these things, I suppose. And I get it, the importance of being put together, and knowing it. I recall being on the job hunt: waking in the morning, I put on the suit and tie and put in a hard morning's work until around 11:30 am, when, feeling accomplished that I had shuffled enough resumes, I would settle down for a business lunch with my job hunting friends. Sitting there, unemployed though we may be, in our suits we felt important. We weren’t unemployed schleps. We were people that mattered. The suit makes the man.
Or maybe it is that the suit brings the confidence that makes the man.
I have never cared that intensely about fashion, but I have noticed that fashion is a confidence game. Look at nearly any important fashion designer: they often wear the most obnoxious and loud clothes—apparel that absolutely defies criticism. Seeing as they make the fashion, they cannot be caught in a fashion faux pas of their own.
The key word in this confidence game is “confidence.” Growing up, I interpreted style as a “thing.” Something physical and tangible. There were those folks in the know—they would keep their ears to the pavement and locate the newest cultural wave. What was stylish now? But often what became stylish was what took fire en-masse, or what a key group of high profile people chose as style. Try as I might to understand it, it became clear that there was nothing concrete in style. Style morphed. What was out of fashion one minute, raged loudly the next.
Suits always worked, so I always harkened back to suits for a starting point in style. Yet, as long as I have been around, there have always been businessmen. There have always been businesses, and businesses, as a rule tend to set standards. Among these standards is a dress code, and that dress code might very well include a suit. A dress code is an enforced wardrobe, not an individual’s style. At best, this sense of style is that of the business, the employer. That the suit represents class seems only natural. Employment, especially at a level where you might be required to wear a suit, alludes to power, importance: A class of people that dress like this because they are decision-makers. Decision-making and power breed confidence, do they not? And there is safety and comfort in numbers as well. So if enough people wear little white eabuds, then, at least for a certain group, that became a style. The cool kids are doing it.
And maybe the cool kids never really go away. Oftentimes this doesn’t matter. We have to wear something, and I have this particular kind of lifestyle so I will have this particular kind of wardrobe, and that just makes sense. So we may wear it to fit in, but maybe we also genuinely like to be clad this way. It makes us feel stylish; it makes us feel good.
And looking good and feeling good is grand. Just remember: do it because it makes you feel good. As I said before, style is a confidence game: if you feel confident, you’re in style.
I am not the most self-perceptive man, and I am also rather lazy, so I have made a few blusters in my day that will help provide examples at what I am talking about.
I had a beard. I was making no statement with it; it was just simpler than shaving. Bored one night, I decided to use this electric trimmer that I had never tried before. I decide to take most of the beard off. However, I only get through one side of my face before the charge of the trimmer gives out. I figure out how to charge it and decide to watch a movie while I wait. While waiting, I forget all about it and go to bed, as I want to hit the gym bright and early in the morning. I have completely forgotten my half-shorn face. Pumped and ready the next morning at the gym, a few people make remarks (which causes me to remember my uncompleted mission). Only a few folks seem to actually truly dig this half-beard look, but strangely enough, most everyone seems to respect it. Because I am standing confidently before them, and because they can’t fathom that somebody would be so absent-minded as to leave the house half-shaven. So they believe I made a decision. Having made a decision, I have created—or at the very least—decided on a style. I suppose I should state that the “a” in “a style” is very important. If you are walking the red carpet, you might get some grenades lobbed at you, that’s what they do. They get paid well to do that.
The funny truth is, though, even if your “style” is attacked; it can usually only be attacked at risk of sending compliments your way. “He should have kept the beard,” or “he should have shaven it all off” amount to little more than somebody taking the time to think about me and consider my best look. Which is more thought that I have given them. My half-beard and I stride off confidently.
I also went into a bar wearing a bathrobe one time. Long story here, but the absurdity of this costume, matched with me being entirely comfortable in my own skin suited the occasion just fine.
I guess what I am saying in long-winded form is this: if you do well by yourself, the rest will follow. There is not a whole lot we can always control in the world, but we can control our own skin and how we feel in it. And it is this: our skin, and what is underneath said skin that ultimately creates our style, not the clothes we cover it with.
Growing up, I often overheard on the TV and gossip shows that Lenny Kravitz is a very stylish man. And so he is—it must take him hours to leave the house; there is a lot going on there. However, it is mostly completely ridiculous. Put on one of his outfits and go grocery shopping, see what happens. Because it is not his outfits. It is the swagger and comfort he gets from being Lenny Kravitz. His clothes only boost his style because he dares to wear such bizarre, complicated concoctions . . . kind of like rocking a half-beard.
And consider also some of your rock idols, if you should have any. They look utterly ridiculous, most of them, if you remove them from their core essence of powerful purveyors of rock and roll.
It is not sunglasses, or a suit, or bling that will bring you to the forefront of style. It is you. It is owning yourself and being comfortable in your own skin. There is nothing anybody can adorn themselves in that will outshine the man that IS, and is comfortable doing so.
The hats are cool and so is a little timepiece on a chain. And you know what, so is a silly winter cap with all sorts of room on top where your head does not go, so that it just kind of flops back on top of your noggin, not really doing anything. That would look cool if enough people wore it . . .
I started this piece asking the question “what is style?” so I might very well understand if you’re a little miffed at the fact that I am beginning to close the piece without even so much as defining what style is. But don’t be! Style is the result of an equation hidden in plain sight. Comfort + confidence = style.
Think I’m lying? The ladies have figured this out long ago. Style for ladies may have once been elegant dresses and extended heels that you cram your toes into. However, we now live in a time when many confident, sexy ladies are grabbing plenty of attention in their yoga gear as they . . . go do things other than yoga.
Watch them gliding confidently and comfortably to their next destination, and ask yourself, “Are they not stylish?” And if you are still coming up with a conflicted answer, you might want to ask what the hell good is style anyway then, as it looks like you can get by just fine without it.
P.S. I wanted to add an addendum where I state that doesn’t mean just go and get sloppy and wears sweats everywhere, but then I saw some pretty cool cats rocking some nice clean sweatshirts and sweatpants. But the key is clean, I think. I don’t think confidence and swagger can beat out an old pasta stain on your favorite T-shirt. So do your laundry guys: style is laundered goods.