On Style and Fashion

The strength of the male dress code lies squarely in its rate of change. Though ever-evolving, men's clothing rarely deviates from the established and tried bases all too hastily and, thus, we gentlemen tend to enjoy something far more enduring than fashion: style. We delineate from fashion by its permanence, and this contrast was best discerned by Oliver Wilde:

"Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months."

The trends of change slowly, almost generationally. Lapels get bigger or smaller, shoulders built up or deconstructed, pant bottoms wider and then narrower, etc. I feel that some of these changes come about as a way to differentiate ourselves from our fathers; we seek the respect of the old guard while aiming to tweak the stodginess of our inherited codes. Occasionally, such innovations create ideas that have permeated our cultures on a seemingly permanent basis - think Ivy, prep, workwear, and athletic styles.

And, lamentably, sometimes we get powder blue suits with wide, pointed lapels and flared pant bottoms once donned by a groom, only to be turned into a fantastically ironic Halloween costume that his son found in the basement two decades later (yes, there's another tale there!)

Few men illustrate the timelessness of better than Paul Newman, a man renowned for his enduring handsome charm as much as his career in motion pictures. By focusing on the execution of traditional rather than the trappings of novel fashions, he became an icon of men's style and rarely looked out of step with his surroundings. At any age or any decade, Newman retained an elegance and class befitting of his lofty reputation.

While some of the more brazen concepts fall to the dustbin of history, others shift from foreground to background and back at glacial paces. Denim trucker jackets, turtlenecks, corduroy, double-breasted suits and leather bombers are all trends that have peaked and valleyed over the years but never seem to truly disappear, and likely for good reason. Fabrics and styles with rich, practical histories are more likely to return to prominence than modern novelties, as such modes have stood the test of time and often based on mathematical proportions that appeal to the senses on an evolutionary scale. There are few accidents in menswear, indeed.

There is a wonderful merit to slow, enduring style. Core purchases are apt to retain their relevance for years at a time, allowing one to buy a higher quality good that will offer value over its lifetime that lesser goods simply cannot provide. It allows a man to buy fewer items that coordinate interchangeably with his existing wardrobe and create near endless permutations of outfits without having to replace his closet every season.

Style is an endowment; a gift many a man is apt to squander without the introspection and efforts of exploration required to find it. Style both simplifies a man's ways and grants a fuller expression of his inner workings. Some may come by this virtue naturally, though - like most wisdoms masculine - many are obliged by a trusted confidante or a sage professional.

Be well, gents.

Ryan W. A. Clark

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