It’s that time of year, when the breeze turns from cool to abrasive, leaves crinkle into golden cocoons, and style blogs publish lists of “essential” items for fall. A Google search for “fall essentials for men” gives me 84.9 million results. That’s a lot of essentials. Taking the union of all the lists even just on the first page of this search gives me well over 200 items.
“If you’re in the fashion world —and I have one foot in it —at some point you have to come to terms with black. Black can be very chic, and guys who are into tradition are generally not into chic.” – Alan Flusser
As I prepared for my first real job interview, a friend gave some advice that proved prescient. He told me that the more senior the interviewer, the less you need to worry. The junior employees are the tough ones because they’ll see you both as a potential rival and as someone they may have to rely on. With anyone very senior, he said reassuringly, it’s just an airport test. Seeing that I had no idea what he was talking about, he explained: imagine you’re stuck in Wichita. Could you stand to talk to that person until you can get the next flight out?
Although the United States has always been remarkably homogenous for a country of its size, the increasing ease of sending people, objects, and information from coast to coast have made the States more similar than ever before.
I wrote last week about clothes that contrast with what everyone else is wearing – that is, clothes that are non-conformist. This post is instead about contrast within your own outfit – specifically, contrasting lightness of color.
Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote that “whoso would be a man, must be a nonconformist.” (Here the word “man” is used in the archaic sense of a person who is powerful and self-reliant.) Silvia Bellezza and co-authors from Harvard Business School have published a paper on what they call “The Red Sneakers Effect”, which suggests that the implication works in the other direction as well: non-conformists are perceived to be more independent, successful, and of higher social status.
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.
Brand name products cost more than generics, and aren't always any better. Compare the brand name and generic drugs at CVS, for instance, and you'll find the same active ingredients each, just with more profit to the manufacturer mixed in for the brand name version. It's tempting to think that the same applies to the sunglasses sold next to the checkout line.