Dressing Like Yourself, or Grown Men Style in the modern world.
A conversation with my friend PG at mostexerent.tumblr.com led us to discussing what he refers to as Grown Men Style. This is my take on it…
From our earliest experiences we dress in costumes, preparing for the world we hope to tackle. From the cowboy at 5 to the skater at 15, we don the costume and feel the strength to play the role. We affiliate with our tribes though the badges we wear, be it a nike swoosh or a bespoke Oxford, and learning which of these are someone else’s costume and which are our own is the essence of dressing well. For many the first business suit is much the same. A costume to wear from nine till five, until the Friday bell sounds and the costume of weekend comes out. The one pair of black shoes, the two charcoal suits. A dreary garb for that aspect of life we endure, waiting for a time when we can dress as ourselves.
But more often than not our non work garb is as much a costume, a uniform, as the business suit. The porsche owners ball cap or the yachting jacket, the monogrammed loafer and the designer underwear that proclaims style through association, but not necessarily style in and of itself. The most confident dressers I have met are those that are able to eschew these badges and dress in a way appropriate to each facet, each endeavour in their lives.
A suit and tie is as much a costume as a pair of overalls and red wings, depending on who is wearing them, where and when. In the correct context garments regain their utilitarian aspect, and what is more masculine, more grown man than that? To drop the costume, the badges, the associations that come with a certain brand or team, is a frightening prospect for many. While for our grandfathers classic dress was a learnt skill, part of the essential lore passed down from father to son along with manners, etiquette, how to shake a hand and how to meet an eye, for many my age that is a verbal history that has been severed. The rise of street wear and youth culture means that many people that were youths in the sixties had no interest in dressing like their fathers. The rules were abandoned and clothing was liberated. By the seventies and eighties, the rules were back, but being rewritten each season by designers trying to sell a new look.
When progress is dictated by obsolescence and change, both the good and the bad are abandoned, to the detriment of the man trying to dress well. It’s little wonder that many men approach shopping and classic dress with as much enthusiasm as a chore. But an increasing number of men are rejecting the lack of individuality in mass market clothing. Men want to know the rules. Not to be bound by them, but to be empowered by them. To know what works and why takes the power away from the designer or the retailer and places it squarely in the hands of the everyday man.
I’ve often suspected that the first bespoke suit a man makes is like learning the magicians secrets - that moment when a man understands that he can dress himself more aptly as himself with much better results than any designer can. A man who has dressed himself and understood why it works, rather than following the advice of his spouse or partner, has one more weapon to face the world with. Literally he has gained his suit of armour. So to make it simple, how you dress depends on you.
Grown men style is literally that - the style of a confident, self aware man. Dictated only by where you are, what you are doing, and who you are with. A dinner suit is a tool, perfectly adapted for the formality of a black tie event. As inappropriate at a breakfast as jeans in a board room. To respect the occasion and the people you are with by the formality, or lack of, in your appearance is truly grown man style.
More important when shining shoes in your opinion - technique or materials (wax, creme, etc.) used? Recently have bought a few mid-range pairs of shoes, wondering how whether time or money is more important.
Love what you do.
I’d say a combination of both. I have heard that some people get a great shine with Kiwi, while I’ve only ever been able to achieve anything good with a beeswax based polish, like Saphir. I also find the quality of the leather makes a difference - corrected grain, the type you’d find on Church or sometimes Loake, is very hard to get a polish on because the leather is so heavily treated, while a very high end shoe tends to be lasted much longer, stretching the leather and making the pores more shallow, so getting a high shine there is very easy. Without doubt, the most shine friendly shoes I’ve polished have been bespoke.
But more than anything, you should enjoy the process. I learnt to polish shoes with a friend who liked to sit around drinking tea and talking all afternoon, so polishing shoes became a good excuse to do that. It should be something you can relax while doing, don’t take it too seriously. Once you get a great shine, inevitably someone will step on your toes, or you’ll kick a chair leg, or something will happen to mar that shine. If you don’t enjoy the process, keeping that shine up is going to be more work than it’s worth.
That guy is peanuts. You've been at the center of so many incredible things (Evisu, Herringbone, P Johnson, the Armoury) and your Blogspot site, along with 13th and Wolff, have been the early sources of inspiration for so many people. Keep doing what you do cause your track record and history puts you way beyond the reach of what some nitwit on Tumblr says.
You don't have to publish or answer this post. But I thought credit should be given where credit is definitely due.
Dieworkwear is a great tumblr, and a great guy to boot.
You are one of the nicest menswear bloggers I have come across. Don't worry about the haters. You can block asuitofclothes so that he/she cannot reblog from ethandesu. Cheers and keep up the good work.
Do you bull the heel stacks as well? And is it done the same way as the rest of the shoe? Thanks very much!
I do - the heel stacks and the sole edges. Often overlooked, the sole edge makes all the difference between a shoe looking sharp or ratty. Especially on suede. Same principal, just apply wax in line with the grain of the heel and feel free to use a little more force. You notice the quality of shoe here, as a great shoe will have a tightly compacted heel that is very cleanly finished, and hence polishes quickly and well.
Communities are an odd dynamic in every iteration they take, be it as small as a family or as large as a city. The breadth and variety of the members is what makes it exciting, the disparity between how one might see the world to yourself, and the potential for you to grow through this new perspective. The constant re-analysis, the compromise, the debate, is part of the creative process, even when the differing opinion isn’t asked for or even offered. Exposure to action inspired by a different set of values, even when it is not directed at you, can sow the seeds for fundamental change in yourself.
The online community affords constant and extensive inspiration. The lack of inhibition that is brought about by a lack of face to face contact means that social taboos can be shrugged off, and sometimes this is a great thing. Honest discourse can take years to reach otherwise.
Where I feel that the online community is let down, however, is when the lack of repercussions gives some people the sense of entitlement to act out simply for attention. Whether it’s a troll or a snark, Internet bullies that fail to contribute anything but negativity always feel to me like a parasite feeding off the great creative efforts made by others. Disagreement and debate is always welcome - if someone tells me they have cooked something differently, set up a shot in a way more effective, or set a sleeve for a greater line than me, I’m curious to see it. If I can learn, I will. When I stop learning and growing, it’s time for me to step away from what I’m doing. It becomes joyless and unhealthy when what you do is only to reinforce an image of yourself that may not be justified.
I got to thinking about this recently after seeing someone constantly reposting images from myself or those close to me, solely with the intention of belittling and insulting the original poster. This “asuitofclothes” has acted out only to insult, never to offer any real insight, never submitting anything creative to be judged by. Really just standing on others shoulders, pushing them lower only to feel a little higher.
Is it silly and immature to be insulted by this? Sure. As a heavy set and balding man trying to offer a creative output that is so deeply rooted in our own narcissism and vanity, I should be thicker skinned. But I’m not. I do this often just to share some of the joy I experience doing what I do with those that never get close to it. And I truly feel blessed some days to be doing what I do - if I can inspire anyone else to take an interest in traditional crafts like tailoring, it’s well worth it.
This community of people, more often than not hidden behind an anon button and a lack of recourse for their actions, can become bitter and hurtful. While i can’t remove myself from their field of vision, I can remove them from mine. So, asuitofclothes tumblr - unfollow. I don’t have the infallible love of myself that allows your jibes to roll of my back, so I choose not to hear them. Until this community decides that these sort of leeches aren’t welcome, it’s the only thing I can do.