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What is style?

Lel

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*Disclaimer: I'm going to reference a few members specifically and I hope that none of them take offense. I will only use them as examples and I have only selected each and every one of them mostly because that I respect their style and I think that they are very well dressed. So when I call someone out for critique it's not meant to be offensive.

A few things lately has got me thinking about style what constitutes someone as a stylish person. There are many, many different angles to approach this and I find that there is a lot of hostility lately towards what is considered as the "SF uniform". I have been thinking about this so much lately mostly because for a long time, I myself have had an almost grocery like list for clothing items and now that I am nearing completion, I find my wardrobe very dull. I have turned my purchases into a check list and I find that without a specific direction of style to head into, I find my fits mostly boring. Consistent, maybe, but still bland in my eyes. However I know that I don't have enough money to play around with more interesting aesthetics such as work wear and goth ninja. I pose this question of "What is style?" mostly because I find myself at a transition stage where I am completing acquiring the basics and now I feel I can move on to more interesting pieces and outfits. Style is such a vague and complex term and I feel that there are several main components.


FIT

Arguably the cornerstone of being well dressed, I think that "fit" is the aspect of style that the SF uniform mostly revolves around. As I mentioned, there seems to be an almost backlash against the SF uniform because it seems so prevalent but it's understandable why it's such a popular aesthetic. For one, it's very universal. It seems to be mostly about taking fairly common items and making them well fitted. It's about having the design of the clothes themselves be a bit understated as to fully show how well the fit of the clothes themselves are. Also, in real life (as in NOT the WAYWT thread), it's inoffensive and difficult to stereotype. Allow me to explain.

An example would be how I wore my TaT suit one day to school along with a skinny tie (I was doing a presentation) and one comment I got was "Wow you look very Beatles today". Sure, maybe the skinny tie and slimmer lapels are sort of similar but overall the TaT aesthetic =/= Beatles. It wasn't an insult, it's just that I clearly did not intend to dress that way or came off that way whatsoever. In most peoples eyes since they are not used to the look they relate it to the closest thing they can. It's not done as an insult, but rather a result of ignorance. It's sort of like equating all punk rock and saying it's "Emo" or lumping together all jeans that aren't super loose as "girl pants". My point is, if you show up in slim but not tight jeans, nice boots, and say a well fitted button up shirt most likely the reaction you will get is "You look nice".

The SF Uniform does nothing to provoke reactions (like goth ninja would) and it does nothing to offend to unsettle someone. It's simply being well dressed. For some it's just starting point and for others an end destination. By itself, there is nothing wrong with the SF Uniform and it does not deserve the flak it's been getting lately (through members that wear it very well). Another strong point of the SF Uniform, which I find is a key part of being stylish, is consistency.


Consistency

Consistency to me has always been a major point. I suppose this comes from my experiences in school where girls would wear sweats and uggs about 3 days out of the week, jeans and a plain tee shirt for one or two, and then every once in a while I would see something nicer like short dresses, leggings, sweaters, etc. My point is, I believe that there should be some standard of dress in your wardrobe. If you can only put together nice outfits maybe 1 day out of every week then I think you either need a lot more clothes, or you need to downgrade your standard. I find nothing wrong (except for maybe blandess) if someone just wore AA shirts and different jackets every day. However if you show up most of the time in sweat pants, baggy sweat shirts, and then on Thursday you show up in nice jeans, dress boots, button up shirt and a sweater then I think there's something wrong.

Get Smart is a great example of consistency because every day it's more or less the same. There's nothing wrong with this, it's actually a good thing to know that throughout the week GS's standard of dress will always meet a certain level. To him, wearing say a Fred Perry polo, breakless trousers, and Paul Smith shoes might not be the most exciting thing but to a passerby on the street it would be quite well put together. He has, for himself, defined an aesthetic that is instantly recognizable by myself and so much that other people can actually emulate his style. So what if he has the same look over and over again, it means that while Get Smart might not be the most flexible dresser he has perfected his own look.


Creativity

Two of my absolute favorite WAYWT posters are Superbobo and Chris. In my opinion, they absolutely perfect their style niches (workwear and goth ninja) as much as Braidkid/Saucemaster do to the SF Uniform. I suppose that if everyone wore workwear on this forum then there workwear itself would get a lot of flak, like the SF uniform does. I like Superbobo and Chris mostly because it's so utterly different and yet well executed. One could try to put together an outfit similar to Superbobo and simply look like they tried to dress up like a train conductor for Halloween. Or one could try to put together something goth ninja and look like a rejected Hot Topic employee. It's risky to dress in such narrow and specific manners but both posters do so very well and if I mind using the word, in a very authentic manner.

Perhaps that is why Engineered Garments is so popular because it takes workwear and does make it wearable in everyday contexts. The magnificent thing about Superbobo's fits is that he is not decked out in EG from head to toe but he has the look (workwear) defined. Same with Chris who often integrates pieces from GAP but looks like he could be in an advertisement for Ann D. The SF Uniform gets attacked a lot because of the lack of creativity but to effectively dress in such narrow style niches without looking ridiculous is extremely difficult. For instance, if I started to try to dress goth ninja I would eat shit from all my friends and floormates for a while until they got used to it. It's such an out-there and risky look that even attempting it is risky but if pulled out, has potential to be truly unique and stylish looking.


Quality

I walked into H&M today, first one in the US I have ever been to, and was impressed with a lot of pieces. I saw a lot of things I liked, and really interesting in terms of knits. Then I wondered, why can brands like W+H and Nomme de Guerre even stay in business when stores like H&M are pumping out similar pieces for a tenth of the price?

What stops someone from walking into any Zara/H&M and looking "stylish"? I tried on a blazer because it was my size, 34, and I think I found my answer. I'm not a snob, or an elitist. I try not to be one, at least, and I want to keep an open mind. The only real experience I have with suiting is TaT, which has sort of become my standard. First off, the fit was terrible. The shoulders were too big, too padded, but the chest was well fitted. So right off the back either the jacket was designed for someone with really awkward proportions (someone with my chest but much wider shoulders) or it was designed poorly. I think it's the latter. If worn as intended, it would fit well in the shoulders but be so tight in the chest that it would look silly. Also in comparison to the shoulders the lapels would have been tiny. I actually saw an employee decked out in full H&M and the impression I got was slightly euro-trashy. Skinny jeans, vest with a bright blue tee shirt and Rick Owens like high tops. It was so over the top and incoherent I tried to stop from laughing.

This, if anything, is not an attack on H&M. I was genuine in my question, what stops someone from just walking into any H&M and coming out looking stylish? This I feel is a significant problem for women, whose style is an entirely different beast, because there's an overload of cheap rip off but trendy stores such as Forever 21, H&M, Zara, Anthropologie, etc etc. What's the difference in heels from Forever 21 and ones form say, Miu Miu? Is it entirely within the brand name? Obviously there's very slightly traditions in constructions and material but overall women's clothing is not designed to be durable.

On the surface a pair of Allen Edmonds might not be to different from Bostonians but after wear and time you can tell when the cheap plastic-like finish on the Bostonions start to crack, soles beginning to wear away, and the leather just about falling apart. With suits, a fully canvassed suit that's bespoke/MTM feels made for you, light, airy, and comfortable to wear. Fused cheap RTW feel like wearing cardboard boxes.


Context

This is a very over arching theme that umbrellas many other points. For instance, you might look stylish in a suit and tie but is it really appropriate to wear the gym? I was very serious about consistency and I feel that, to be truly stylish, one should be able to look good in any contexts. There is nothing wrong, for instance, with wearing clothes to lounge around in and feel comfortable. At the very least though you should look presentable. I have made the mistake of thinking "It doesn't matter, I just want to look comfortable" and throwing one sweat pants 2 sizes too big, any old shirt, and throwing on a hoodie. I would became really conscious of what I was wearing when I would run into a cute girl I knew. I also have this problem of having a huge lack of summer clothes because my wardrobe is mostly an autumn/winter one with lot's of layers and jackets. So I tend to feel uncomfortable in what I wear during the summer mostly because I feel that it doesn't live up to the standards of the rest of my wardrobe.

My point is, one should look good at all times. Dressed up, casual wear, weekend wear, on the beach, in the gym, etc. It doesn't mean wearing suit and tie when you lounge around in your house, but at least invest in say nice sweat/comfortable pants (like AA), simple but nice sneakers, and then throw on any well fitted tee. It would be ironic because just by the fact that I'm wearing well fitted clothes I imagine I would still be better dressed than people who weren't in sweats. Put someone in some slim but comfortable pants, jut a tee, and nice retro sneakers and I would say they would look better than someone in bad fitting dress pants, tent like shirt that's tucked in, and ugly square toed "dress-shoes". That's one reason why I would always prefer to wear a nice fitting black(!) suit to a formal function than an bad fitting rented tuxedo. I realize I just said that fit>context, but the difficulty of style is that sometimes you must weigh it's own features against one another. And yes, I do think that a black suit is acceptable for formal wear.

It's also a matter of attitude too. If I did the above and wore it to class, I would still come with an attitude of being comfortable. The MC forum has a certain term called uhm... speruzza, sperrutza? Something along those lines, it escapes me right now. But it's essentially this nonchalantness that many Italian gentlemen carry. This air of not trying hard, but still managing to look natural and amazing no matter what. I believe that the SW&D equivalent is, to borrow a SuFu term, steeze. As in a "I don't give a fuck attitude". One example of this would be Rye who, for more or less, wears relatively "okay" outfits. The clothes themselves are ok. However it's the attitude he sort or portrays that somehow makes it work. This is a compliment to Rye, not an insult. If I attempted to wear the same outfits he did (tee shirt, tight KC jeans, Carpe Diems) I think it would go of horribly and I would look terrible. Yet, I always like Rye's style because he has a certain steeze about him that allows him to have style. So part of style is a manner of how you carry yourself, how confident you are so that it's almost borderline arrogant, but not douchebaggy (like Abercrombie/stripped shirt/popped collar type).

----

On one last thing, under all these different parameters, I would say that Socal is the most "stylish" person on SF. Even though I have a limited wardrobe, every now and then I find myself getting really bored with what I normally wear and find that I have no range. Socal is able to pull off multiple designers, Jil/Thom Browne/Raf/etc. He is able to fill narrow niches like Chris and SuperBoBo do but instead of just perfecting one, he is able to switch between different looks. One day he could look entirely Jil, the other day be head to toe in Thom Browne and look just as good as the day before (but in a different way). On top of that he is able to personalize each look. He doesn't let the designers wear him, he wears the designer and integrates them into his own wardrobe and style. I find this amazing because he is able to take other people's works and not only represent them, but also personalize them. Socal also has the guts to try new things. For instance, a lot of Rick Owens and especially lately, Yohji. Sometimes these experiments work and sometimes they don't. Overall though, Socals WAYWT posts are perhaps one of the most interesting because I always have a certain idea of what to expect, but I am still often surprised by what Socal is able to put together. So cheers to you Socal.

So I've talked a lot, shared a few personal anectdotes, and singled out a few members. These are just my thoughts and I may have missed a few points or probably I have contradicted myself a couple times. If you have read this far, thank you. I would like to hear every one else's thoughts on the subject of "style".
 

Kregg

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Originally Posted by Lel
Socal

I knew it was only a matter of time until this name was dropped. Cheers.

I would add (more than) one person to the list, however, and that's PG. The man takes the phrase consistency to a whole new level. As for attitude/steeze, nothing beats that smile (Rye's white birks come in a close second).
 

bluemagic

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You are one of my favorite writers on SF. uh...but who's Chris...? "pinoy"?
 

james_timothy

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Chris channelling Cousteau
 

bluemagic

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^^ Undeniably stylish.

I believe posture, facial expression, and how fit you are play a big role in style, maybe even more than facial looks.

I am seriously deficient in all three categories; but am much more aware due to StyleForum exposure.
 

Biscotti

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Hmm, I am lacking in the consistency unit; for me it is nudies/docs/plain tight t ereday; dress up in very nice outfits going out.
 

ahjota

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FYI, the word is "sprezzatura". And of course, it doesn't "belong" to MC.
 

JustinW

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Great post. And extra props for not creating a wanky 'i' word like iStyle or iStreet or iGent.
 

robbie

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I haven't read that much on the internet since college.
 

PinkPantser

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No doubt the vultures will come along and pick out little parts of what you wrote to snark on, but thanks for putting it out there Lel. Some other threads with the same premise: What is your style philosophy / What does your style revolve around?, pinoy http://www.styleforum.net/showthread.php?t=41516 What does "Style is timeless" mean?, Get Smart http://www.styleforum.net/showthread.php?t=55105 Personal Style Manifesto, Get Smart http://www.styleforum.net/showthread.php?t=40101 Where is your style going?, SuperBobo http://www.styleforum.net/showthread.php?t=56565 Your style, where you live and SF, Get Smart http://www.styleforum.net/showthread.php?t=66737
 

PinkPantser

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I don't have anything significant to add, but I do have an anecdote. When I was in college there was this one tall lanky asian dude with thick rimmed black glasses that I would see on campus every couple months. Guy always dressed in clothes that looked baggy but somehow never sloppy and when he was standing still it was nothing special but when the guy was moving it was really something. He obviously thought the world of himself too, you could see it in his face and his walk.

About a year after I graduated, I joined this forum and saw the guys picture posted here - Fade to Black. Monumental fucking prick and I hate to say it, but the guy has 'style'.
 

wmmk

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^^haha, nice. out of interest, where were you guys at school?

anyway, great post by Lel. I get what you're saying about H&M. it's terribly frustrating to have a budget that limits you to H&M/Zara/yesstyle.com/thrift stores, while you know that there's better stuff out there.
 

bbaquiran

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Originally Posted by PinkPantser
Fade to Black. Monumental fucking prick and I hate to say it, but the guy has 'style'.

I agree with both points.

Was just thinking about this thread over lunch, and my take is that style is how well you a) define and b) express/execute your personal aesthetic. Lel touches upon this idea quite a bit in his lengthy post.
 

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