Growing up in middle class India, I remember people only buying new clothes for an occasion. It’s mostly for the main festivals (5 ish per year?), your birthday and probably to attend weddings of close relatives. With accessibility and technology, shopping for clothes has taken off like never before. Dressing well boosts your confidence, new garments give you a temporary dose of happiness.
The human brain is a wonderful organ, but it comes with its fair share of heuristics/biases. Ever wondered why good looking, well groomed people often get away with a lot of things, or relatively easily persuade people to do things for them? It’s called the Halo Effect and we are all susceptible to it. While it’s hard to improve one’s looks (outside of going under a knife), focusing on presentation goes a long way in influencing other people’s heuristics in your favor.
Here’s what I have thought in the last few years, I do not think I am an authority on men’s fashion. I still want to pen my thoughts for posterity.
Steer clear of Fast Fashion
Your self confidence should not have to ride on under age or under compensated laborers working in poor conditions. Pay attention to the brands you shop at. Fast Fashion brands have business models that are ecologically unsustainable. They constantly make you feel you are behind the latest trend, that’s how they make money. The clothes you throw away end in land fills. Donating your clothes does not absolve you, your fast fashion clothes ultimately end up in landfills down the line.
You may think your fashion sense is all you, but fast fashion brands are in the business of influencing what you think is currently fashionable.
“You are not your job, you’re not how much money you have in the bank. You are not the car you drive. You’re not the contents of your wallet. You are not your fucking khakis. You are all singing, all dancing crap of the world.” – Chuck Palahniuk
You are all singing, all dancing crap of the world. Indeed.
Be cognizant of the number of wears you get out of each item you are purchasing. Most often more expensive items return a higher number of wears (keeping cost per wear same as or below cheaper alternatives). Your mind tricks you into buying the cheaper alternative, but you end up tossing it sooner.
Your body is not advertisement real estate
I avoid items with conspicuous logos or branding. This is another delicate matter. You want people to think you are well dressed, but a lot of people are conditioned to associate certain brands with some notion of well dressed. Nudge your friends and family to get out of the brand name mentality. You should not be paying good money to buy an apparel and also provide free publicity to the brand. It’s tacky. It’s not always possible to avoid brand labels, I am okay wearing those items from brands that are not fast fashion or at least have ecologically sustainable business practices.
Seek to understand
Now you know you are susceptible to cognitive biases. Before you judge someone based on their presentation, seek to understand what their point of view is. Some people just don’t care how they present themselves. Some people may be trying to avoid Ego Depletion and putting on the same grey t shirt each morning. Of course, a grey t shirt is out of place in a formal setting. How a person chooses to dress to work is not the complete story of one’s dressing sense at all. However, if the said person shows up in tracks, athletic sneakers and a hoody to work you are welcome to judge.
But what goes with what
After a certain age, graphic printed t shirts, music band t shirts and sports jerseys don’t go a lot of places. If you are wondering how to pair colors, just google for primary/secondary color chart and you will find plenty of results. It’s not rocket science.
There’s something beyond just apparel
Wear a good time piece, do not look at your phone or computer to tell the time. Designer wrist watches are not good time pieces. They’re the fast fashion equivalent.
Carry two clean handkerchiefs always. One for you, and one for the lady. Always place the handkerchief back in the same pocket it came from. Always offer the clean handkerchief to others. Never ask for your handkerchief back. It’s mildly satisfying to offer a clean handkerchief to someone in need of one.
Wear a smile and keep your wits close at hand.