Fashion vs. Style

Through this blog, I’ve presented some information about creating an individual style. I’ve spent most of that time suggesting that individual style is an outgrowth of things other than the fashion industry. Today, I want to take a few minutes to emphasize the role that the fashion industry can play in assisting that process.

All of us have seen “that guy.” You know, the one wearing a suit that was fashionable ten years ago, or the one wearing a tie that is so wide that it looks like it was pulled out of an attic rather than off a clothing rack, even at a second hand store. And to be fair, these men may be men of substance, men of principle and thoughtfully selected values, and I suggest that this is admirable, far more admirable than any amount of fashion awareness that they may have developed. However, we are wise to consider the power of correlation.

We all have seen this, the tendency of individuals to assume that because a certain type of characteristics are observed, another group of characteristics may be inferred. Using our example, we may be inclined to believe that if an individual manifests a sense of fashion in their personal style they are also a individual of principle and character. The reality is that character and fashion awareness are developed independently of each other, but they are not mutually exclusive, either.

Being a student of human nature, you who are working to be both a man of substance and style, you are wise to develop both aspects.

So how do you become aware of fashion? And how do you make it work for you instead of against you?

First, understand that fashion can be described in many ways, and three of these are high fashion, business fashion and sportswear. High fashion is often what we think of when we think of the fashion industry. High fashion pushes the boundaries of color and fabric, cut and accessorization. Extremes are the watchword for high fashion, and changes are made often just for the sake of making them.

Most of us won’t spend much of our time in the arena of high fashion.

However, by watching what appears in high fashion from time to time, we may be able to predict some trends in business fashion. High fashion is to clothing what the racing programs are to automobiles; it’s where things are figured out. How wide can the lapel be before it overwhelms the jacket? What about the peaks? Or the stripes? Or the contrasts of blocks of fabric? All of these things are tried out in the high fashion world in the same way that brakes, transmissions and engine technology is tried out on the race track before it is integrated into your car. Keeping your eyes on the world of High Fashion prepares us for what will show up in the board room, what I call business fashion.

Business fashion is what we are more likely to see in movies and on television. Actors depicting lawyers, bankers, wall street investors and the like are probably going to be spending at least part of the presentation in what is traditionally known as a power suit. Dark colors, white shirts, ties with a little red in them and leather shoes so shiny that they look ready for a tuxedo rather than just getting ready for lunch. These are the staples of business fashion and they are amazingly prevalent in popular entertainment. Business fashion is also what advertisers are most likely to use to sell upscale items to upscale clients. By that I mean that the models involved will likely be wearing business fashion when trying to sell accessories to those with disposable income. Think of advertisements for high end goods, like watches, leather goods, luxury cars and the like, and frequently they will be presented along with someone dressed in business fashion. By watching this arena, a gentleman can get a sense of the items that need to be making their way both into and out of his wardrobe.

Finally we make our way to the world of sportswear. In merchandising terms, these are the everyday clothes that are worn when you want something a little more dressy than a pair of jeans and a work shirt. Don’t be mislead, denim jeans are prevalent in most sportswear lines, but they aren’t the only thing in them. There are also twill slacks in a variety of colors, and sometimes even some patterns in the palette. Long and short sleeve shirts abound, from polos to rugbies, and they all have their place. Knowing when to wear which is a matter of practice and practicality.

Watch the changes in each of these segments of the fashion world and, over time, you will develop a sense of which pieces harmonize with your interests and your lifestyle. Interested in making the right impression all the time? High fashion may become a hobby. Feel like you never want to be the worst dressed anywhere you happen to be? Business fashion can make this easy. Comfortable with who you are, regardless of what you are doing or who is doing it with you? Find some sportswear basics and mix and match to your hearts content. Knowing when to wear each type of piece? Now that is one part science, one part art, and developed over time. Together, we will explore that tricky subject as time goes on.

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From Tears to Resolute

This weekend I went with my son and the local scout troop on a winter camp out. Living in Utah, this camp out was destined to include some cold, some sledding, and lots of snow. We had been talking about this camp out for several weeks, so when the day finally arrived, I figured we would be ready. With duffles packed and a quick kiss to mom for a goodbye, we were off.

Not everyone enjoys camping. My youngest son is one who doesn’t enjoy the experience as much as I do, particularly if the weather is less than perfect. This night was one of those. It was a little breezy, and wind is my son’s kryptonite. As soon as we arrived at the drop off point and started to prepare for the 3 mile hike to the cabin we would spend the night at, his pleas began. “Take me home! Don’t make me do this! Call someone to get me!”. And with these pleas, real tears of sadness flowed down his cheeks.

I tried to help him understand that the wind comes and goes, that it never blows for long, and that most of the time moving a little way along the trail puts us in a place where we won’t feel the breeze, that helped a little, but not much. His progress was still slow, and his pleas to take him home continued.

At one point, about halfway through the hike, he asked me if I would have taken him home if I had been one of the leaders who drove. When I told him, “No,” I thought my heart would break, as new tears welled up in his eyes. He asked why we were out there, and I told him that these experiences were part of moving from boy to man, that we learned lessons out in nature, away from the distractions of civilization, that can’t be learned anywhere else. He didn’t seem pleased with the answer, but after a short rest he began to trudge on.

When the journey was nearly through and the breeze had almost completely disappeared, he told me that he couldn’t cry anymore, that his tears were all gone. When I said, “I’m glad! Now you can move past the tears,” I could see confusion in his eyes.

I told him of a time, also on a scout camp out, that I had cried and wanted to be allowed to bail on the experience. I told him how I had cried until the tears dried up. And I told him that when the tears were done, I was no further along to solving my problem. That was where I discovered the power of resolve.

I told him that resolve is what gets us to take action when we know we are in a situation that we are not pleased with and we know we have to take action but we wish we didn’t have to. We talked about it for a while, and then we were at the cabin. And he was fine.

As a man of substance, we must become familiar with resolve. Resolve is what allows us to keep going when things look grim and help seems a long way away. Resolve is what handles a job loss with grace, even when the awfully uncomfortable work of finding a new job looms ominously. Resolve is what allows us to stick to principles when it would be easy to abandon them for temporary gain. Resolve is part of what keeps us grounded to the nobility of being a faithful husband and father when the reality of daily life and its minutiae crowd into the mind.

My son and I wound up having a wonderful trip. He told me on the way back to the cars, after several hours of sledding in beautiful mountains under bright sunshine in a vibrant blue sky, that he was glad that I had not given in to his request to take him home. He was glad that he had been able to turn a difficult start into a good experience. I told him that I was glad too, especially because he has started learning the power that comes when we move from tears to resolute.

Resolutions or Goals?

The sounds of fireworks and celebrations are fading, and I am getting ready to close out the night and the year that was 2013, and I hear one of my children starting to talk about New Year’s Resolutions. His resolutions revolve around spending more time playing video games, which annoys my wife just a little bit.

I find it interesting that, even at the tender ages of nine and twelve, my youngest children have already begun the time honored tradition of setting resolutions for the new year. I wonder, though, if they really understand what this tradition is all about.

I’m not going to make this post about the history of New Year’s Resolutions; that is for minds far more ambitious than mine. But I do think that it is worthwhile to take a few minutes to talk about how to wisely set resolutions, and how to set the stage for keeping them beyond the 21st of January.

it might be a good idea to draw a distinction between resolutions and goals. Goals are specific, they are measurable and timed, and it is easy to tell whether or not one has reached them. Resolutions, however, are different. Resolutions, when made wisely, are more about the way we live. Rather than setting the goal to weigh a particular poundage, we often set resolutions to exercise more or eat more sensibly. Sometimes well meaning people encourage us to eschew these weak sounding resolutions for their more recognizable cousin, the goal. Personally, I think they both serve a purpose, and I am fond of setting resolutions as a means of attaining my goals. Let me give an example.

I have a goal this year of bringing my A1c, a blood sugar measurement key in treating diabetes, down to a level below 7%. This is a specific, measurable, timed goal. But one of the resolutions that I am setting that will help me realize this goal is eating breakfast at home every day. The resolution may not be specific, but it does set the stage for realizing the goal.

This entire discussion begs for a more expanded treatment, but I am tired and have resolved to be both more productive and to be more aggressive about getting enough sleep in the new year. With that said, I will promise to provide the full treatment later, wish you all a happy new year, and get some off that highly prized sleep.

Be magnificent in 2014!

TJW