Finding your own style is about communicating through clothes what you want to project about yourself. We might think of Tom Wolfe’s white suits or Andy Warhol’s Brooks Brothers button downs and jeans as examples of iconic style identities, representing respectively Wolfe's immaculate, clinical detachment from his subjects and Warhol's insouciant delight in the visual library of the everyman. At the same time, a style identity ought to be about comfortable self-expression. We shouldn’t be dressing up for a part, playing someone we’re not.
My own style identity developed in two great leaps forward.
The first was the discovery of Bruce Boyer’s book of style essays, Elegance, on a bookstore remainder table when I was a junior in college. I ordered my first Brooks Brothers classic button down oxford shirts, and tossed aside my jeans for khakis. These were simple steps, yet for me at the time, groundbreaking.
Like so many men of my generation, it was the Internet that taught me how to wear coat and tie. Most Internet sartorialists find their stylistic lodestar in either Britain or Italy, with a stubborn sect of dissenters holding on to American Trad style. Classic American, and Southern, style is descended from British style, so turn to London was natural for me.
Today my casual wardrobe is essentially Southern preppy that is informed strongly by an English country look. While fundamentally conservative, the style allows for splashes of boldness, from plaid madras in summer to red corduroy trousers in winter. But the more formally I dress the more I drift toward London.
The seeds of my style were there all along; it reflects my tastes, interests and ideas about myself. But the knowledge and the insight of others armed me with the tools to express it. Traditional clothes echo my more traditional mindset. My love for history finds expression through the incorporation of vintage items such as cufflinks, neckties, fedoras, and overcoats. An influence from London channels a lifelong Anglophilia. Thus, despite my appreciation for their quality construction, the Hermes silk shirts and the Dolce & Gabbana trousers weren’t kept around long. They were sent along to others who would appreciate them.
Settling into a comfortable personal style identity isn’t meant to freeze us in sartorial amber. Instead it gives us a home in which to continue to experiment, while protecting us from being tossed to and fro by the winds of fickle fashion.