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Style & Substance – Mutually Exclusive or Easy as Pie?

Time spent idling in the dentist’s or doctor’s waiting room is enough to engender pangs of anxiousness in even the most poised and level-headed members of the male species. Sometimes it’s not the looming root canal or colonoscopy that’s the problem, however. It’s the magazines.

What starts as a nonchalant flick through a glossy men’s magazine can become a harrowing journey of self-scrutiny for the average Joe, with endless lists of rules and regulations on everything from decorum to deltoids.

How are we meant to find time for the latest ab-tightening workout when we’re busy finding ways to wow her in the sack and make our mark at the office? And that’s before we’ve had chance to brief ourselves on the latest political hot potatoes and the 25 new celebrities whose style we must start stealing.

All is not lost, however. Unlike workouts, watches, womanizing and wayfaring, getting dressed in the morning is something we all have to do whether we like it or not. Cultivating a sense of style should be fun but it’s all too easy to get bewildered by the to-and-fros of the fashion industry.

In fact, a survey of 100 Americans and Brits showed that almost half of us have worn clothing that feels unnatural to us just because it was fashionable or expensive.

With this in mind, we set out to balance the style scales in favor of the man who craves both style and substance. We consulted the fashion experts to create a more democratic list of style rules that can be used as a springboard for your style evolution.

You can read what they had to say below. But first, a round-up of their dos-and-don’ts:

  • Fit is key – you should wear the clothes, not the other way around;

  • Buy natural fabrics where possible;

  • Dress your age;

  • Key pieces include dark jeans, classic lace-up leather shoes, a crisp white shirt and a trench coat;

  • A navy blue suit is appropriate for nearly all formal occasions;

  • Off-the-rack suits should be altered to fit;

  • Relax into your clothes and don’t over think it.

The Fashionistas

Alice Kim - NYC-based men’s style advisor and author of Veritas Men’s Style Blog. David Evans – Better known as the Grey Fox, David is The Guardian newspaper’s resident style blogger for men aged 40 and over. Julia Middlebrook – Military Tailor at Gieves & Hawkes, No. 1 Savile Row, London.

Any style choices that men should avoid at all costs?

Alice: Wearing ill-fitting clothing: It doesn’t matter how beautiful or expensive the piece is – if it doesn’t fit you right, you earn negative style points.

David: I’m not a great believer in being too proscriptive. Experimenting is to be encouraged – you’ll learn from people’s responses and adapt your style accordingly!

Julia: There are all sorts of rules such as no double denim or double stripes, but there will always be someone out there who can break those rules and make it work for them. Confidence is absolutely essential and lack of confidence shows in your body language regardless of how stylishly you’re dressed. Having said that, occasionally going outside of your comfort zone can do wonders for your self-esteem.

Any key staple pieces that everyone looks great in?

David: A good pair of shoes – spend as much as you can afford on a pair of classic brogues, great with jeans, chinos, cords, a suit. A tweed jacket is good on all ages if it fits well.

Julia: A good quality navy blue suit. If you’re buying off-the-rack, get an alterations tailor to ensure it fits right. Provided it fits on the shoulders and chest nearly everything else can be altered.

Alice: When in doubt, I always advise men not to overthink anything.  Stick to the classics that make any man look gorgeous, like a crisp white button-front shirt, a navy blazer, a pair of clean dark jeans, and lace-ups in good quality leather.

Any minimum quality standards that everyone – both men and women - should try to adhere to?

Alice: Make sure your clothes fit properly, because this will instantly elevate the quality perception of even budget-friendly clothes.

David: Good fit is essential, especially when choosing an off-the-rack suit. I advocate buying as ethically as possible – avoid cheap sweatshop stuff – you’re doing nobody any favors buying what is effectively disposable fashion.

Julia: As a basic guide your garments should be natural fabrics (wool, silk, linen, cotton etc) and lined with non-synthetic linings (acetate, viscose etc). Shoes and bags should be leather where possible. Fit is important - you should wear the clothes, not the other way around.

Any advice for guys who don’t care how others perceive their style?

Julia: Stick to the basics and you’ll always look fine.

Alice: Regardless of whether you care about fashion or not, you still have to get dressed if you want to leave the house. With this as a given, why not make clothes work for you instead of against you?

David: Give it a go. Those who dress well feel good about themselves; it helps self-confidence, will help at work and your love life will look up too. Fashion isn’t an unimportant fad – looking good is a basic human need.

Any advice for those who worry far too much about how others perceive their style?

David: The best dressers are those who relax into their clothes. Spend time on selection and fit, but then try to let the clothes sit on you comfortably – the Italians call it sprezzatura, looking good without apparent effort – if you fret about style you’ll look stiff and unrelaxed.

Julia: You should enjoy molding your own style; don’t take fashion too seriously. After all, you’ll look back on yourself in 20 years’ time and think “why the hell did I ever wear that”.

Alice: Lighten up and stop taking everything so seriously. The right clothes can be a confidence booster but they’re not designed to make up for the lack of true confidence that dwells within you. Build a strong sense of self so your clothes become tools that bring out your brilliant individuality – not the other way around.

Guest Author: Article originally appeared on the blog of premier menswear retailer Woodhouse Clothing. View the survey.

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