Standout Style

Emma writes:

Style, like religion and politics, can be ingrained in us from an early age. The dads who played golf raise boys who wear khakis, Polos and Sperry Topsiders. The fashionista mom has a fashionista daughter or son or both. The musically inclined father doesn’t place importance on haircuts, and thus, raises Slash’s doppelganger. Hippie moms have Birkenstock-wearing young. And if your parents don’t care and throw on dad jeans from Wal-Mart and a pair of old New Balances that double as lawn cutting shoes, you will too. Unless style (like religion, like politics) was your form of teenage rebellion, you will likely grow up dressing the way you were raised to dress.

Until now.

I once made a list of everything I wanted in a guy. The second thing on the list was “inherent personal style.” That doesn’t necessarily mean Ferragamo shoes and Armani three-piece suits, but it does mean intention. Dress with intention because it is a reflection of you. Dirty fingernails, greasy hair, old-as-the-hills glasses do not show that you care enough to take care of yourself, much less someone else. Women aren’t attracted to men who don’t look like they can take care of a human life. Women, unconsciously and consciously, factor your personal style into whether or not they would like to date you.

Shortly after graduating our psychology graduate program, my friend and I went on a road trip that included a stop in Blacksburg, Virginia. We found ourselves a couple cocktails deep and scheming an impromptu study on the way guys dress. We went up to thirty-five guys and posed the question, “How would you describe your personal style?” We didn’t get a lot of impressive answers. We got mostly got confused looks. The number one thing we heard was comfort. Guys like to dress comfortably and, as a result, describe their style as “comfortable.”

This disgusted two New York City-bred borderline psychologists trying desperately to spruce up a Thursday night in the middle of Virginia. Fairly, the sample cohort didn’t accurately represent the average man as freshman and sophomores in a college bar isn’t a diverse test population. However, it made me realize that many men don’t really know their personal style. Guys may not even think they have a personal style. And many guys view style as an afterthought rather than a powerful strategy to immediately attract the opposite sex.

When I see a group of guys, the one who intrigues me is the one who stands out. There are many ways to stand out and use your style as an avenue for meeting new people. My brother is a very shy dude. He isn’t the guy who is going to go up to a group of girls and hit on one or get a number. He will ask you out, but only when the situation naturally materializes and he knows for sure you will say yes. He has no opening lines or pick-ups. What he does have is incredible style. He has shocking blonde hair that he wears tussled around with hair gel or fashioned into a hipster fohawk. He has a passion for kicks and rocks old Jordans and antique Air Force Ones. He mixes street style with comfortable t-shirts and flannels. He is known for wearing hunting jackets. I don’t know where he comes up with stuff, but it works for him. While he is shy in many respects, he is confident enough to rock a unique style that attracts women. Consequently, my brother doesn’t have to approach women because women are always coming up to him to chat about his style.

That actually works. My current boyfriend was standing in a crowd of four fairly attractive men when I met him. I talked to him because he had a slimly tailored suit and funky glasses. I took the time to get to know the one that immediately caught my eye – beyond physical attributes, beyond confidence, beyond jokes and loudness – with his personal style. In fact, most guys I have dated have caught my eye this way. One had a mess of curly, greying hair and always wore a denim jacket. Another always looked fresh. Fresh crisp button up. Freshly polished shoes. Fresh shave. Fresh cut. His style might have been obsessively hygienic, but it intrigued me because it was interesting. I have dated many different kinds of men, but they all had very intentional, smart style.

Personal style doesn’t come naturally to everyone. Women realize that. But a little effort goes a long way. My stepdad swears a GQ subscription transformed his wardrobe. For me, reading a few choice blogs gives me inspiration. No, I don’t copy every chic outfit I lust. I would look ridiculous wearing six-inch heels and a leather dress in Georgetown on a Sunday afternoon, but I use the style as inspiration. I note small things I can take away and incorporate into my own. I happen to love men’s style as well and often find myself wasting away hours perusing the internet for the coolest combinations of menswear. Here are my top six men’s style blogs.

1. Mr. Porter
2. Style Girlfriend
3. Gilt MANual
4. Four Pins
5. Wax Wane
6. Inquiring Mind

Again, use the tips and tiny tricks as inspiration you can effortlessly incorporate into your daily life. Don’t take on a whole new you or do anything too dramatic to start. You’ll scare your loved ones. Do step outside your comfort zone and make choices that feel authentic to you. Style Girlfriend and Inquiring Mind have some excellent “how to’s” if you are iffy on how to get a certain look.

My advice is to go with your gut instinct. If you think something is ridiculous, you will look ridiculous wearing it. I know I can’t wear those loose pants or knee length skirts. I’m 5’3. I would look like a midget. Just like you can’t pull off high tops if you have tree-trunked legs. You can’t wear super skinny jeans if you are kind of chubby. You shouldn’t wear baggy jackets and sweaters if you are already kind of puny. Do your research and stick to what makes sense.

But definitely do something! Start with some style research and make intentional style decisions because wouldn’t it be nice to not have to talk through approach anxiety because the girls are coming up to you?

My commitment: to make this worth the read. Humorous, fun and introspective. I welcome your thoughts, ideas and feedback via the Comment section below.

One Comment on “Standout Style”

  1. Thanks Emma,
    Good stuff. I’m 69 going on 70 and I think as much about style now as I did when 20. I aim for the George Cluney style but feel sometimes this is boring and doesn’t stand out enough. Any suggestions?

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