Here’s Part 2 of the Science of Style!
Stage 2 is all about modeling off the best, gaining understanding of the language of style in our culture, and building important shopping habits to set yourself up towards realizing your unique and best style. Once you follow through with all the exercises and pass the checklist, you’ll be able to move onto stage 3.
STAGE 2: Modeling
Do you understand fashion? Or do you feel completely lost when you find yourself in a clothing store?
In order for you to master your own style it’s necessary to learn the “language” of style by studying how our culture defines it first. Like learning any new language, the fastest way to learn is by imitating after others who are more fluent and experienced.
Look around, and you’ll notice that there are stylish people all around you. You might see someone on the street who’s outfit catches your eye, or love the way your favorite actor is dressed on the big screen. Sometimes you get inspired by these people to try a new look, but most of the time this desire dies quickly. You might have thoughts like, “Eh, that’s not me,” or “I can’t pull that off.” But be aware that these thoughts only suppress your creative expression and is why you haven’t become a master of your own style.
* Action Step #1: Studying and Modeling after the Best
When I work with a client, one of the first things I do is show him a portfolio of different looks that might work for him. I usually use photos from top tier fashion magazines such as GQ or Details. I don’t care much for their articles, because most of the time it’s the same rehashed crap, but I like to rip out the fashion ads.
When people ask me how I’ve grown my eye and taste for fashion, I show them my photo collection. I’ve literally collected thousands of fashion photos from magazines and the internet. There’s no other way I know that’s as simple and effective as this for anyone to learn our cultural language of fashion – you can see a photo of my photo binder here where I’ve written a short article on this topic.
It’s going to be super helpful for you to have a collection of photos to flip through because as you refer to it regularly, the photos will go directly into your subconscious, so that when you go shopping, you’ll be turned onto items and looks that have never caught your attention before.
I recommend subscribing to a fashion magazine such as GQ or Details. You can find deals online (like Amazon) for $1-$2 an issue, but since it’s going to take some time for you to get your first magazine in the mail, buy one at your nearest magazine stand. Once you have your mag, what you’re going to do is rip out all the clothing advertisements. Save them in your binder or folder so you can look at them at any time, or refer back to them whenever you need.
Recently I met one of my clients who had amassed a really nice collection of photos – which he neatly slipped into plastic covers and placed them into a binder so he can look through them more easily. This is a great idea if you want to avoid a mess of photos.
The whole point of this exercise and habit is that you’ll quickly learn all the trends and pick up the language of style. What’s great is that these models in the advertisements are literally dressed by professional stylists, so if you look closely at the details of the way these guys are dressed, you’ll start to see patterns.
You’ll develop an eye for what goes well together, why it does, and gain loads of ideas for outfit combinations.
Here are some examples of what you’ll find in magazines and what you can learn from them:
If you notice, he adds chinos as his bottom, rather than a pair of jeans or sweats, which balances the outfit out towards classy. This could easily be counteracted with a pair of sneakers – not to mention without socks for a more relaxed summer look.
Simple, right? By focusing your mind on analyzing the elements of an outfit, and asking yourself questions like “why was that put together?” you’re fashion sense will develop very quickly.
Below are some stylish examples of how many looks you can pull off with just one blazer. You can pick any outfit from this picture and model it for whatever occasion you need. Whether it’s lounging with your friends at a cafe, a night out at the bar, an upscale cocktail party, or a wedding.
1st outfit (from left to right)
Get a cotton blazer as a casual jacket that’s both classy and stylish. Pop the collar or push up the sleeves of your blazer for a laid back look. Pair that with a casual polo, and wear chinos for a more sophisticated style. A pair of boat shoes or loafers will give your outfit a stylish marina theme.
This look is nerdy chic, perfect for a formal occasion, still showing a hip and fun personality with Van sneakers. Try on a bow tie for bold style, if you don’t like it you can switch it out for a necktie.
Perfect look for an upscale party. Loose tie, pocket square, perfect fit. All class.
Want to look you’re “bringing the party?” This low-cut v-neck carries a cut of sensuality, and the blazer adds status. The pocket square upgrades the look a notch but the whole outfit is kept simple with no belt and some fresh white sneakers.
The sophisticated guy with edge. Show a bit of your edgy personality with a studded belt and a striped shirt, then show your class with some sharp dress shoes and a blazer.
Simply dashing. Eye catching on the bottom, classy gentleman up top.
Alright, so with these examples, you’ve gotten a taste of how you can model off fashion photos and the creative ideas you can extract from them.
You can also collect inspirational looks from the web, but I like having a physical collection I can flip through rather than tons of files on my computer. You can print photos but it’s not worth the money because printer ink just costs too much these days.
However, if you want to collect photos on your computer, Kinowear’s Lookbook is a great place to start. Some of my other favorite websites are YesStyle.com, TheSartorialist, ThisIsNotNew.com, and LookBook.nu.
* Action Step #2: Shopping
Okay, once you’ve collected a good amount of inspirational photos, there’s no point in them collecting dust on your desk. You want to start hitting the stores with all your new outfit ideas.
Remember these words forever: “Try it on.”
You may be tempted to laugh at these three words, but I can’t even count how many times I have to say this to people. When your brain resists an outfit, and it will resist anything you haven’t tried on, just remember the three very important words: “Try it on.”
When I say this I don’t just mean try on the safe purchase you’ve already decided on. I’m talking about trying on everything from pieces that grab your interest to pieces that you could NEVER see yourself in. Grab it all and take it to the fitting room. Disregard price, the annoying store clerks, and everyone who’s staring at you and your giant pile of clothes.
Most of the time clothes will look intimidating, foreign, and “not you” when it’s on a manikin or hanging from the store walls. You must get past this and decide only after you’ve seen it on your own body.
Sometimes it’s the silhouette, the way it fits your body, or how it accentuates certain features of your image that change your entire view. There have been many pieces that I thought looked horrible on the shelf, but after trying it on, became one of the most flattering pieces in my entire wardrobe.
This one exercise of trying on anything and everything will teach you more about style than reading a thousand style articles. It’s true.
If you ever do a consultation with me, you’ll watch as I raid the entire store for you. Sometimes, my clients are a bit embarrassed. “Jae, won’t they mind if we try on all this stuff and not buy it?
I just say, “For all they know, we might just buy out the store. Besides, this is what a fitting room was built for.”
On to the fitting room we go, and we throw together dozens of full outfits. It’s practically a fashion show, and a glorious learning session. 100% of the time, my client discovers a whole new look that he never thought he’d love.
Like with everything else in life, you can only grow to a level of excellence in style if you’re willing to be shameless about going the lengths to achieve it.
I can’t remember how many times clients of mine have said “That’s seriously not me,” to which I quickly reply “Try it on.” Many times, after trying it on, they actually love it.
Remember these words forever: “Try it on.”
* Action Step #3: Congruence Experiment
Now that you’re used to shopping and getting into the habit of trying things on, it’s important to make sure you’re stepping out of your comfort zone. You probably have a few favorite stores that you go to most of the time – and this is great – however this time pick a few stores that you don’t frequent.
Go into these stores and pick out clothing that you would never imagine yourself wearing, then try it on. If you have a camera, bring it with you and take pictures of yourself in the fitting room.
If it’s only one piece, ask one of the store clerks to help you find the pieces that compliment this. It’s also quick and easy to ask for an entire outfit that you see on a manikin.
However, don’t forget that the key is choosing pieces that are completely outside your comfort zone, unlike anything you’ve worn before. Maybe it’s that military jacket. Maybe it’s a pink blazer. Maybe it’s a pair of slim-fit premium jeans.
Try everything that you’ve collected, and check yourself out. Take some pictures if you want, but without the flash (they won’t allow that inside stores). The pictures will be helpful if you decide to go back and get the piece later on, you have something to refer to. You can also use the photos to get feedback from others.
Whether you’re just beginning to improve your style or you’re a seasoned veteran, this exercise shatters the comfort zone. You open yourself up to outfits you may have never touched in your life.
I guarantee you that your idea of what is “you” and what isn’t will change for the better.. You will discover tons of new looks. Most importantly, you will be one step closer to true style congruence.
Initial Resistance (where many guys stop) “Why are you so dressed up?”
This is what some guys hear from their peers when they change suddenly and dramatically. Most people’s ideas of clothing is a sweatshirt and ill-fitting jeans, so of course they’ll think you’re overdressed.
“Hahaha, hot date tonight?”
Of course, there is the opposite end of the spectrum where they’ll absolutely love it. However, if you get this initial resistance, know that it’s feedback that something is working, you are changing and it’s getting attention.
The truth is that people may start to feel insecure around you as you outshine them, and will try to bring you down to protect their egos. Essentially, others don’t hate you for changing, they hate the fact that you are putting their reality to question by your change. Many times they will do this without even realizing that they are putting you down. It’s a natural reaction.
Remember what I said about taking into consideration the source of the criticism. If it’s coming from one of your more stylish friends, then maybe dig for some more constructive feedback, but if this guy is wearing sneakers he hasn’t replaced in years, and hand-me downs from his older cousin, ignore and keep moving forward.
You’d be surprised how many guys dabble in improving their style, buy themselves some stellar pieces, and then end up shoving it back in the closest because of some uncomfortable attention they were getting!
Once you maintain that new level of style, your friends will get used to it, and will probably start modeling off you!
So how do you know you’re ready for Stage 3?
( ) You’ve completed all the above exercises
( ) You can imitate an entire look from head to toe
( ) You’ve been on at least three thorough shopping sessions where you modeled different looks and tried things on
( ) You’re beginning to get feedback from others about your changing image
If you can honestly check off all these points, you are amazing.
I hope you enjoyed the exercises and have developed habits you can take with you for life. I also hope that if you haven’t already, you’re starting to appreciate and enjoy working on your self-expression through your style as much as anything else in your life.
Thank you for letting me share my knowledge with you and I’m humbled by the chance to guide so many of you guys out there. I appreciate all the positive feedback and comments many have sent me ever since this blog has launched and throughout this series.
If you’d like direct and personalized guidance on your style development, don’t hesitate to sign up for one of our consultation programs, check out our program page at www.kinoimageconsulting.com. I’ll gladly help you take your style to the level you want.
If you have any questions about our programs, send your message to Jae@kinowear.com.
Make sure to check out Stage 3, but not before you test yourself through this stage!
Also, if you know someone who might benefit from reading this article please share it!