Sunday, October 20, 2013

The Three Pillars of Style


One of the messages we’d like to impress upon men is that the goal of style is to bring out the best in you and to let it be a reflection of who you are. To do this, we use style guides or rules to help us obtain these goals but with so many guides/rules out there, how are men supposed to know which rules apply to them? Furthermore, if everyone is following the same rules, how is a man supposed to personalize his style? Every man has his own unique characteristics, aesthetic strengths and weaknesses and personality. How are rules supposed to take into account all these personal factors?

The key to dressing sharply and with stellar personal style is to find the rules that apply to your own characteristics and to tweak the rules to ensure that they enhance your uniqueness. These conditions are satisfied as long as you adhere to the 3 pillars of style. These pillars of style must make up the foundation of your personal style and you must ensure that any stylistic rules you follow are consistent with them.

I won’t be delving into a lot of how-to details in this article, instead, I will be providing you with a general framework for you to adhere to before making any stylistic decisions.

Style Pillar 1: Your clothing must draw attention to your face.

This one of the most important factors when it comes to dressing well. Drawing attention to your face is a no brainer. Not only is the face where your words come from, but most of communication is in the form of sub-communication which is seen in the eyes and the face. The eyes and facial expressions often say more than words do.
In order to draw attention to your face, you must ensure that your clothing colour and combinations are utilized in a manner that revolves around your own personal complexion. For example, in order for a man with a high contrast complexion (a complexion marked by a stark contrast between hair colour and skin tone) to draw attention to his face, he must utilize a colour combination in his clothing that is also marked by a high contrast. On the other hand, picture a man with extremely pale skin who has light coloured hair. It would be a mistake for him to wear an outfit consisting of a high contrast colour combination because this outfit will draw attention away from his face and towards his outfit.
Our eyes are drawn to Jon Hamm's face because of his high contrast outfit coupled with his high contrast complexion.
Our eyes are drawn to Jon Hamm’s face because his high contrast complexion is coupled with a high contrast outfit.

Sound a bit confusing? Don’t worry, we’ll get into the specifics in a future article. For now though, just understand that your clothes should bring attention to your face.

Style Pillar 2: Your clothing must enhance your positive traits and minimize your negative traits.
Part of developing your own style and being stylish is to dress in a manner that brings out the best in you. This is done by accentuating your positive characteristics and minimizing your negative characteristics, thus creating an aesthetically pleasing package. For example, are you a shorter, stockier man? You can create the illusion of height by wearing clothing that has vertical stripes and you can minimize your width by avoiding horizontal lines.
Essentially, this pillar deals with aesthetic balance. You want to use style to counter-balance any anatomical imbalances you may have. For example, in our upcoming suit guide, we say that the fit of the shoulders of a suit should generally be determined by having the end of the shoulder pad be in line with the end of your shoulder. However, if you have a narrow or wide head, you can tweak the rule a bit to create better balance: if you have a narrow head, you can have the shoulders of a jacket sit a tad more narrow or if you have a wide head, you can have jacket shoulders that are a bit wider to offset the wider head.
A key factor that is crucial in accentuating your characteristics and achieving aesthetic balance is wearing clothes that fit you properly. You can’t be stylish and well dressed if your clothes don’t fit you correctly. We’ll get into the nitty gritty of fit in other articles but for now, just be aware that proper fit is crucial to satisfying pillar 2.

Style Pillar 3: Your clothing must reflect your personality.
Remember that terrible show “Jersey Shore?” Well admittedly, I have watched a few episodes and I recall one quote from the “The Situation” that really stood out to me: “If you’re looking good, you’re feeling good. If you’re feeling good, you get good results.” Related to style, you must ensure that whatever stylistic choices you make are a reflection of your personality otherwise you won’t feel well. And if you don’t feel well, you won’t perform well.
Are you a more conservative man? Then perhaps keeping up with the latest trend of more narrow fitting clothing isn’t for you. If that’s the case, it would be wise of you to stick to more “traditional” cuts of clothing. On the other hand, maybe you have a loud and boisterous personality. You can reflect this by selecting bolder colour combinations, patterns and clothes.
If what you’re wearing looks good to an outsider but makes you feel uncomfortable, then you have missed the point of style which is to allow you to have the confidence to take on the world. You must find a look that matches your personality. That’s not to say that you should just wear whatever you want and make sweatpants and sandals your personal uniform because you want to feel “comfortable.” Stylistic guidelines and rules exist because certain combinations of clothes, colours, fits and patterns just look more visually appealing than others. With that said, it’s up to you to find the items within this framework that allow you to look sharp and feel comfortable. Once you begin to master the rules and know what looks good on you, you’ll be able to bend and even break the rules to better enhance your style. Don’t worry, it does take time and some trial and error, but we’re here to here to help you.
I also want to point out that when it comes to style and comfort, it’s not one or the other. Many men have the erroneous notion that dressing well means dressing uncomfortably. While certain clothes are more comfortable than others, if your clothes fit you correctly, they will NOT be uncomfortable.
A young Clint Eastwood would never wear capris.
A young Clint Eastwood would never wear capris.
What works for one man (kind of) would not work for another.

A Final Word

At Well Built Style, we are firm believers in the basics and this couldn’t more true than when it comes to style. As long as you utilize the 3 pillars of style as your foundation, you can be confident that any sartorial decisions you make will be tailored to your individual characteristics and personality, because after all, that’s what style is all about.

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