Monday, February 7, 2011

Fashion Hijack

Recently I've been getting a lot of questions regarding the issue of -- what makes some looks 'work’ and others fall flat? Why is it when I try to be fashionable by putting on the exact same thing as so-and-so I just don't look the same? Now some of you will inevitably laugh at this remark, however this is a perfectly reasonable question. In order to both prove that this is a serious question and resolve it; I'll start by pointing out the obvious and subsequently allude to a more subtle point.

First the obvious point. When two people look nothing alike (ethnically, physically etc.) there is very little chance that either person will look as good as the other wearing the exact same thing. Indeed, John Doe down the street wearing the same thing that you saw walking down the catwalk in your most recent Armani catalog is unlikely to look nearly as "complete" -- his wardrobe may be matching but his attitude simply isn't. But now here I want to challenge you to consider whether this mismatch is due exclusively to a difference in physicality or whether there's something deeper going on. Do you happen to know any identical twins? Or even two very similar looking people where you would normally imagine them literally sharing wardrobes? If so, picture for a second what they'd look like having swapped wardrobes. Now picture them out in the real world interacting with you and everyone else in exactly the manner they normally would. Notice the disconnect? You've now discovered the subtle point, that even when all physical circumstances are equal, the way in which someone carries themselves on a day to day basis and more specifically how you perceive the totality of that person, mind, body and spirit, can make or break a look.

I call this level of personal wardrobe matching 'aptitude'; if someone has a high aptitude for a certain fashion, that person is very likely to be successful at a look with some diminutive bearing being granted to physical restrictions. Why is there any weight given to physical restrictions? Because at the end of the day, no matter how cool you may be as a dude, there's simply no way you'll be able to wear a V-neck T shirt as successfully as, say, Russell Brand without having a comparable physique.

The following is an arbitrary formula I've invented to demonstrate this quantitatively for all you business and math majors out there.

Attitude = (2 x Aptitude) - Physical restrictions

So what's the solution to wearing something successfully? First Stop. Now Breath. Now ask yourself in the privacy of your own head; am I comfortable with who I am deep down? If not, ask yourself, who do I want to be more like and why? Next, will others accept me more readily if I acted more like this person? Would they really see me in a similar light? Lastly, will wearing something different accomplish my goal of changing who I am? These are not easy questions to answer in honesty, and to be perfectly fair there is no right answer here. There are a lot of people whom deep down truly feel that they'd rather be someone else and work their asses off to be that ideal person; indeed so strong is their conviction that they eventually manage to pull it off. But this is where rubber meets the road folks, you need to be honest with who you feel you are and how you feel you want to express that through your wardrobe.

The golden rule: If you feel self conscious or uncomfortable about what you're wearing, that discomfort is magnified 3x by those viewing your discomfort.

This isn't to say you shouldn't try new styles and create new fashion. Far from it! Because everyone is unique there is no ONE fashion that is right or wrong. Indeed, nearly every rule of fashion is malleable so long as you're committed to working with it. It may not be ideal at first, but then again, where fashion is the reflection of a person, what person do you know is perfect to begin with?

Above and below are some photos from The Satorialist that I find to be masterful expressions not only of fashion, but of self. The last picture is undeniable proof that following this principle, you don't need to look good, to look great.