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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