Foundations of Style, Part 2

Previously we talked about the importance of understanding your body type as one of the foundations of developing a personal style. This time, we will be focusing on the other two critical pieces of the puzzle, your interests and your environment.

Often times when I am looking at the upcoming fashions for the upcoming season, I am impressed with the way the marketing campaigns revolve around the designers choices for the season. A while back, a particular designer decided that everything in the sportswear line that he was designing would have a sailing and sailboat racing theme. It played well for the summer line, with light fabrics, solid blocks of colors, and all kinds of interesting nautical accents through the entire collection. The advertising played into this as well, with tanned models casually steering a boat wearing the shirts, shorts, shoes and jackets that made up the central points of the summer selection.

I was working for a department store at the time, managing one of the departments, and I added several pieces to my wardrobe. I even began to be interested in yacht racing.

Which was absolutely hilarious.

I lived in Utah, one of the driest states in the lower 48.

I had never even been on a sailboat, yet here I was buying a jacket that was “designed for foul weather conditions that challenge the hardiest sailors.”

A little silly, don’t you think?

Well, looking back on it now, if that was the only reason that I was buying the clothing, it would have been silly indeed.

Decisions about personal style should be influenced by the things that interest the individual. An interest in sailing was born out of the purchase of some nautical themed clothing, and for a few years, everything in my wardrobe, from watches to ties, was impacted by the fascination I had with that interesting world.

And then I moved on.

I still have some of those ties, and I am still fascinated by the nautical world. And because it is interesting, it is entirely natural that some of my style decisions are impacted by the interest. It is also entirely natural for the environment that I live in and the activities that the environment dictates to have an impact on my wardrobe as well.

For instance, living in the mountain west, I find myself being drawn to things that are connected to the mountains, especially hiking and skiing. My winter wear was either inspired by snow sports or by hard work outdoors. Never mind that I didn’t own a farm and that I wouldn’t be hauling hay, I loved my barn coat. It was utilitarian, and continues to serve me well. And my brick orange ski coat, well it is a go to garment if I’ve ever had one.

My shoes? Well, I have a pair of cowboy boots (black Lariat boots, comfortable from day 1) but I also have several pair of hiking boots, including a pair that is decidedly more at home in the urban jungle than in the foothills of the Wasatch.

Slacks and jeans are equally likely to be part of my daily fare, along with the occasional pair of cargos, depending on the activities of the day. Shorts through most of the summer, on the golf course or off.

As I’m sure you are noticing, I believe that style must be directed by you, not your style dictated by designers. Feel free to pick and choose things that mix well with your interests and activities. Do you find yourself on gravel roads? You might want to limit the number of Italian loafers and silk slacks, though having one or two for those weekends when you are relaxing in more refined environs is totally appropriate. If you have an appetite for adventure of a more urban nature, trendier selections might work well, like the woven tie (which is currently back on the pallete of many designers this season, in spades).

Me? I have a denim jacket that I have been known to wear with white shirt, tie, and tropical weight wool slacks. It is covered with patches, and each patch tells a story. Fashion faux pas?

I prefer to think of it as authentically me.


What do you think?  Feel free to comment below.