If you’re anything like me you probably spend a fair amount of time noticing what others are wearing. Instagram and Tumblr provide hours of images of chaps swanning about various cityscapes in all manner of finery.
In that mix of images there are many that look good, a number that look as though they are trying too hard, and the rarest of all, those that look sublimely effortless. Those that most stand out—I am happy to report—are not of ‘model’ looks but rather characterful gentlemen of all ages that look extremely pleased in their own skins. Their outfits are surprising yet nonchalant like a new idea that makes one exclaim ‘of course'. There is flair in their ensemble and there is confidence—oodles of confidence—but they aren’t baiting our attention with ostentation or mere flamboyance. Theirs is an outward celebration of something happening on the interior.
The good news is that this effortless elegance is an acquired skill and like all skills it can be learned thru practice and attention (the latter being the most important). The same muscle that is worked when learning about wine or fine dining is what is being developed here: personal taste. This sense of taste is developed thru trial and error, through careful observation and guidance from those that have more experience.
The only word of caution is that time is required. Results are not achieved after a shopping spree or from the subscription to a couple fashion mags.
Here are some simple steps to set you on your way to effortless sartorial style:
1. Pay attention to what you like in what others are wearing. Be specific. What is it exactly that makes the ensemble work? Is it the combination of textures or patterns? Or perhaps a surprising mix of colours? If you can identify this special something you will be able to recreate it. The development (and maintenance) of this awareness will always keep you updating what you wearing. This will prevent you from getting stuck in a style rut, making your sense of personal style future-proof.
2. Focus your efforts on getting your basics in order. Before investing in more accessories or a new suit, make sure you can nail a clean, no-nonsense look. This is the foundation upon which you build your new sartorial self. So build on solid ground! I suggest beginning with a dark suit (navy or charcoal) and a lightly coloured or white shirt. Preferably plain. Can you make your basic outfit pop? Here are some questions to ask yourself:
- Is the fit of the suit working for you? If not, visit an alteration tailor to refine the shape.
- Use a simple, dark tie. Are you tying the knot well enough? Check with a tailor your trust or if all else fails consult Youtube videos on tying good knots.
- Try using a basic white pocket square. How are you doing this? Investigate new ways and choose the one that you like the most.
- What are your shoes like? How well do you care for them? When was the last time you polished them?
- What are your socks like? Keeping them dark and in the tone of the suit to start with and go from there.
- Repeat these steps and observe the feedback. Most of this will come from yourself in how much better you feel about your presentation of self, but often others will begin to notice your transformation.
3. Once you’ve got the basics nailed you are ready to begin to experiment. Keep to your basic, clean look, but now change only one detail at a time. Try a coloured pocket square, or a different coloured sock, or a brown instead of black shoe. Trying one detail change at a time will allow you to get accurate feedback on what’s working. This will also give you a clearer sense of how these changes make you feel—the most precious feedback of all.
I advise working on the above three steps for at least a couple of months BEFORE you go about buying a new wardrobe. What you glean from this experiment will not only assist you in making better decisions about what you purchase going forward but also give you a boost in confidence that is subtle but the beginning of long lover affair with the delicate art of being no one other than yourself.