They say that imitation is the greatest form of flattery. This is all very well for pop-star impersonators and tribute bands who make a living from copying others, but the wholesale imitation of others’ style is best avoided by the average man. It’s all too easy to look like a fashion victim.
Copying a style that you’ve seen in a magazine or on TV is certainly easy, especially when shops like H&M and Zara provide a ready supply of cheap copycat clothing. But it’s not very rewarding. In addition to being labelled unoriginal, there’s a very good chance that the style you’ve adopted simply doesn’t suit you. Each of us is different. We have unique body proportions, personalities and non-verbal tics (like the way we walk, or the gestures we use). The way we dress can help to accentuate these features, but this can be for the worse as well as for the better: unless he wants to be mistaken for the Hulk, a chap who’s built like a brick outhouse should avoid super-skinny jeans and t shirts.
Draw inspiration from, rather than imitate, people whose sense of style you admire. Take the time to consider what drew you to them in the first place. Close inspection will reveal that it is the little details, such as the way a jacket’s tone compliments the wearer’s hair, that make these individuals stand out from the crowd. Focus on small stylistic cues like these, rather than the look-as-a-whole, and see if you can find some that might work for you. Many won’t – and you’ll find yourself looking quite foolish trying them out – but experimentation is the key to future success.
I draw stylistic inspiration from everywhere – from the dapper gent who boarded the same train as me this morning, to old photos of Antarctic explorers, to an army surplus store catalogue. Here are a few examples of people I’ve drawn inspiration from in the recent past. Their styles are quite dissimilar, but I’ve learned something from each of them:
Newman always looked effortlessly cool, casual and relaxed. His simple wardrobe enhanced, rather than distracted from, his person. Watch any of his films, and you find yourself drawn in by his charisma first and foremost; in fact you might not even notice his clothes at all.
It’s clear Mos Def (AKA Dante Terrell Smith) is very comfortable in his own skin. His inner confidence allows him to freely express himself though his clothes. He’s not afraid to occasionally go with crazy colours and wild patterns, but they’re used sparingly and harmonise well with his overall look.
Patrick Grant is a rich vein of inspiration for men working in workplaces with conservative dress codes. He’s always immaculate, but rarely gives the impression that he’s spent hours deciding what to wear or agonisingly labouring over minute details, which is definitely a good thing.