This style journey is a long one. For me, there isn't any specific destination but the goal is to be better than I was before. Without a destination it forces me to always be a student of the game, constantly learning, constantly tweaking and experimenting my style. I don't want to fall victim to having "arrived" and act cocky like I wasn't dressing out of place when I first started this journey. There are guys (one of whom inspired the idea of this post, Tanner Guzy) out there that I look up to, listen to and yes I read their blogs because they are more advanced in this journey than I am and there's always some nugget to be learned. With that being said I've also traveled quite a distance in this style journey enough to speak on this topic and give you my experiences and opinions.
What Is Contextual Style?
Ok, I had my own definition of it but I decided to google it to see if there was a more professional sounding definition. Well, there wasn't. It seem like a no brainer, there must have been some style blogger who has used the term before, right? There wasn't even those words together anywhere. Could I be the first to coin the phrase and define it? So what does it mean Ian? I'm glad you asked. When I first thought it i defined it as dressing in accordance to the context you're in. See? Simple and to the point. No fancy wording or crazy formula. Context just means your surroundings for example Ian at work with co workers is different from Ian in Vegas with his frat brothers, same guy different context and I just learn to adapt to the context I'm in. So I want to tackle this in terms of style and your surroundings and three areas I want us to dabble in. Let's begin.
Assess Your Environment
If you are familiar with Tanner Guzy (if not, simply youtube his videos and be enlightened) you know he gets into the psychology of what we wear. This past Stylcon 2017, he gave a presentation about this very thing and mentioned how when some guys start out dressing well they sometimes go all the way left field with it and just dress like that everywhere. It got me thinking when I first started revamping my wardrobe thanks to my job at Men's Wearhouse. I would go to work with a suit and tie or sportcoat, do my thing and if I had to stop by the store, or a friend's house I wouldn't change. I would waltz in there with my suit and bowtie like it was the most normal thing to do. It may have been back in the 40s and 50s but in present day America, society has a much laid back feel to it. It would have cost me nothing to lose the tie and jacket and roll up my sleeves after work. C'mon, if I was going to my homeboy's house after work, I didn't need to be suited and booted just because I work at Men's Wearhouse. I deserved the funny looks and slick comments I got from them, who did I think I was and what was I trying to prove? That I was a fly motherf@#$^? Not worth it bro. You can still dress casually and be respected for your sense of style. Fashion is what you wear, style is how you wear it. As I evolve I'm starting to see this. I would wear a plain crew neck t-shirt and chinos and still be complimented on my style. You wouldn't wear a suit to a pool party would you? Yea that's an extreme but it doesn't negate the fact that a poor assessment of the environment you're about to enter will make you stand out in a bad way. Jaygats, a popular stylist on instagram, says his mentor once told him "dress outstanding, don't dress to stand out" True words to live by.
Understand Your Fabrics
Style and comfort go hand in hand. Not only does that fit of what you wear affect your comfort but the fabric too. Can you imagine wearing tweed in the summer or seersucker in the fall? I've made the erroneous mistake of wearing my wool sport coats in the summer and wondered why I felt so hot. Contextual style when it comes to fabrics is knowing the types of fabrics that are best for each season. Silks, linen, seersucker and cotton are best for warmer climates because they are loosely woven therefore allowing more breathability, nothing worse than looking fly but being hot and sweaty. Likewise, the wools, tweeds, corduroys are best for colder climates since they are tightly woven and help contain your body heat. For the most part, guys just know about cotton and wool, maybe silks which limits the options for comfort. I'm just starting to appreciate linen and the wrinkle look that comes with it. Alot of people shy away from it because of that but I think that's the whole point to linen. To be honest, I don't see the everyday man wearing linen or seersucker. I generally see that from style aficionados so perhaps there is a general lack of knowledge of these types of fabrics. Even the heavier ones like corduroy aren't seen much and if you do it's by the more seasoned gentleman. Bottom line is understanding fabrics is not only beneficial to your style journey and knowledge but also allows you top adapt to the whims of mother nature.
Know Your Peer Group.
Sort of goes hand in hand with assessing your environment because knowing your peer group is based on the environment you're in. Knowing how to seperate your professional and personal relationships and how to dress according to who's around shows style maturity. This is where you can come off as a straight douche to your buddies, if you come around them all the time with a suit and tie. I saw an interesting quote recently that read "fashion is what you buy, style is how you wear it", alot of us including myself, when we start revamping our wardrobe assume style iss when you are dappered down but in reality you can be stylish with a V-neck shirt, shorts and boat shoes chilling at your buddy's house gathering. I went to an off site company meeting at a local resort once, my initial reaction was to ditch the tie and sport coat and go business casual with a button down shirt and slacks. Thank goodness I didn't because everyone there was in a suit and tie and I would have been out of place if I had gone how I initially felt. Besides, it's easier to dress down, had I gone in a suit and tie and everyone else was more casual, it cost me nothing to lose the jacket and tie and probably roll my sleeves. Intuitively knowing your peer group or simply asking what the dress code will be will help you dress more contextually and not be out of place.
Style maturity. That's it. It gives you the confidence to be presentable in any given situation. The world sees you, your peers see you and may be secretly inspired to revamp their wardrobe. You adapt to the situations life throws your way, your style shouldn't be any different. The journey continues.....