When I was thinking about the most influential male style icons of the past century (as you do), what struck me most was that they had all found a winning style formula, then stuck with it. Two perennial-style favourites of mine are the Duke of Windsor and Gianni Agnelli. While their tastes were quite different – the former favoured bold patterns; the latter simple grey and navy fabric in a variety of textures – both always appeared completely at ease. This ease and confidence has been a hallmark of stylish men throughout history, and is something that many of us strive to attain.
Finding your own style can take years, even decades. It’s a process of trial and error that can be both fun and frustrating. We have all bought things that look great in a department store but decidedly dodgy at home, for example.
If you’re in your twenties and thirties, then the chances are that you’re still working out what your own style is. About eighteen months ago I decided it was about time I tried to lay the foundations of my own personal style. What I really wanted to do was create a business wardrobe that I would still be happy with in five or ten years’ time. I decided to start by simplifying my shirt collection.
Brits are famous for using their shirts, rather than their suits, as a canvas for experimenting with pattern and colour. Visit any branch of Thomas Pink and you will find shirts of colours and patterns so dazzling that they could be used to guide incoming planes at Heathrow. But I’ve never really felt confident wearing brightly-coloured shirts – I’m most at home wearing light, neutral-coloured ones that don’t attract attention to themselves. With this in mind I decided to remove all brightly-striped or dark-coloured shirts from my wardrobe and replace them with a mix of plain white and light-blue ones. Admittedly, I did buy some check and striped shirts, but they were basic in pattern and simple in colour. (I wouldn’t mind adding a simple Tattersall shirt to my collection, either. Suggestions welcome!).
When adding replacements I focused on fit above everything else. I feel much more confident in a well-fitted shirt. I can certainly appreciate why people are willing to pay a premium for bespoke: shirts made for you and you alone are hard to beat.
Since reorganising my shirts I’ve found that I wear all of them more often. Before I would always pick out and wear my favourites – which were inevitably simple in colour and design – and ignore the ones I thought too flashy. Another benefit of reorganising is that it’s now much easier for me to coordinate shirts with ties and suits.
Now that my shirt collection is in order it’s about time that I moved on to the next phase of my wardrobe experiment: sorting out my ties. I have a feeling that this will take some time.