“Clothes make the man; naked have little or no influence on society. ”
– Mark Twain
I’ll be the first to admit it: once I started wearing clothes that properly, I made a classic nerd mistake: I started to over-correct in the other direction. I started getting a little style obsessed. I started dumping a lot more money into clothes. I tossed out half my closet, raided the mall like a Viking and did a lot of experimenting with my look. And to be perfectly honest, I made some mistakes. Like, bad ones. Things for which I’m grateful that Myspace is dying, since there are untagged photos out there that I wouldn’t mind disappearing from the net.
We won’t get into any specifics (*koffkoffSalvagekoffkoff*) but… let’s just say that it was a long and somewhat pricey learning experience as I fine tuned my look and my sense of style.
Fortunately for you, you get the benefit of learning from my mistakes without having actually bought an Affliction knock-off in the first place. I suffer so that you may benefit. Because I am like Nerd Jesus only better because I didn’t mouth off and get nailed to an Empire Strikes Back standee.
So let’s get started with these common fashion mistakes that men make.
Dressing Like Someone You Aren’t.
Your clothes are an outward expression of who you are as a person; they serve as a visual short hand of the type of person you are, the social niche you fit into.
Yes. Your stereotype. It’s an ugly word and conjures up all sorts of racial issues, but at it’s base, it’s the popular belief about a group of individuals… and these beliefs can work for you as well as against you.
The fact of the matter is, we are programmed by our culture to associate certain styles of clothing with different types of people. When I say “Punk”, you get one mental image. When I say “Surfer”, you get another. When I say “Movie Star”… well you get my point. We have these images of attractive stereotypes, and it’s natural to style yourself after them in hopes of attracting the people who are into those particular types.
The problem, of course, is incongruity. Trying to dress as a type that you simply don’t fit into, whether it’s your physical shape or your personality will only serve to make you stand out. And not in a good way. Being incongruous with who you really are will only serve to make you seem weird and make people subtly uncomfortable. Dressing like a rockstar in skinny jeans and leather when you’re a conservative business-type at heart works about as well as dressing a Hells Angel in Sean Comb’s suits.
You need to be honest with yourself about who you are; if you’re a hip-hop guy, dress like a hip-hop guy. Don’t try to force yourself into a stereotype that doesn’t match your real self. The easiest way to figure out your stereotype and how to make it work for you is to look to celebrities and characters from TV and movies. A little on the conservative side? Try looking at Neil Patrick Harris in “How I Met Your Mother”. Do you have a more of a Broseph in you than you’d like to admit to? Study Chris Evans or Ryan Reynolds. More traditionally nerdy? Joseph-Gordon Levitt or Andre 3000 both have made geek-chic work.
There aren’t any stereotypes out there that can’t be made attractive.
Well… except hipsters.
Don’t be a hipster.
Clothes That Don’t Fit
I’ve covered this before, but it bears repeating: your clothes need to fit you. Most guys out there are wearing clothes that are too large. Whether it’s from a misguided attempt to hide a less-than-perfect body or just sheer ignorance, men are almost swimming in their own suits. Shirts should touch your body without being binding. Jeans should be snug enough to sit at your hips with out falling down past your ass and the legs should be roomy enough for comfort without making you look like the bottom half of a Saturn V rocket. Sweaters shouldn’t be those bulky oversized monstrosities well-meaning family members gave you every Christmas.
Whether you’re overweight or underweight, oversized clothes aren’t going to disguise your issues the way you think they will. Properly fitting clothes will make you look far more attractive, even when you don’t meet society’s ideals of a perfect body.
This isn’t to say that going in the other direction is any better. Too tight clothes just give the impression that you’re in denial about your body and that you honestly believe that those too-tight pants are really disguising your gut. Unless of course, you have that sort of perfect body that’s been sculpted by hours in the gym, strict low-carb, high protein diets and amino acid supplements. Then those too-tight shirts that cut into your rock-like biceps and highlight every dip in your abs sends a completely different message.
It says “I escaped from the Jersey Shore.” And that’s really not a message you want to be sending. To anyone. Ever.
Mixing and Matching
When you’re exploring various styles and looks, it can be tempting to try blending them together. It’s the sort of thing that you see guys do when they’re trying to emulate looks that they see in magazines; they can’t quite decide which one they like best, so they run with them all. Polo shirt, tight jeans, wrist cuff and big chunky rings? Sure! Why not! Pinstripe suit, spiked hair, beat-to-shit Chuck Taylors and a giant belt-buckle? Sounds good to me!
You think you’re being fashion forward. You think you’re being stylish.
You’re looking like an idiot who got dressed in the dark with whatever came close at hand.
Your style says a lot about who you are. The last thing you need to do is send the message that you have no idea what you’re doing. You aren’t necessarily locked into one single look, but you do want to keep those looks separate from one another.
Once you start down the path of becoming more interested in style and fashion, it’s only natural to want to start looking at higher-end clothes than you’ve been used to. Maybe you started out getting all your clothes from Costco, but now you’re a Nordstrom’s man. You’re moving up in the world! You’ve gone from generic jeans to True Religions! OBEY tees! Diesel hats and watches! You’re no longer the schlub you used to be, you’re clearly a man of style and taste!
And what better way to show off that style than to make sure the world can tell who you’re wearing… by plastering their logos it all over yourself. Why, those giant reflective decorations on the ass of your jeans are just the fashion equivalent of the tail of an especially stylish peacock, displaying his natural superiority for all the world to see and tremble before it’s majesty. Surely women will flock to you now like mice to cheese while men will watch you in envy as they weep bitter tears, knowing they can never match your glory.
Of course, in reality, all you’ve managed to do is turn yourself into a walking billboard for someone else as well as looking like a jack-ass. And you’re paying for the privilege of doing so.
Congratulations. You’re a label whore. And a bad one. I mean, at least whores get paid.
It’s all well and good to love a particular label, but when you’re covering yourself head to toe with their logos, you’re sending a very distinct message. And that message is “I am profoundly insecure and want everybody to know that I’m trying to hide it.”
Nikki Sixx. Johnny Depp. Dave Navarro. Keith Richards. What do these men all have in common?
If you said “They convinced their sister to let them borrow their eye-liner at too young of an age”, you’re only mostly correct. The real answer is: accessories. Big chunky rings. Piercings. Enough necklaces to make Mr. T concerned about the strain it’s putting on their backs and more bracelets than a thirteen year old girl running amuck during a sale at Claire’s.
They can pull these looks off, mostly by virtue of being incredibly good looking and famous. Most of you can’t. Especially if you already know you can’t pull off the Rocker look. If you’re not heroin-chic thin and haven’t done blow off a hooker’s ass, you shouldn’t even try. My advice? Keep it to a minimum. Ring. Watch. Done.
Ed Hardy, Tap Out, Affliction, Von Dutch, Etc.
Don’t. Just… don’t.