How To Shape Your Inner Fashion Guru

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I know a lot of guys who have no fashion sense whatsoever, and couldn’t get one for the life of them even if they had a gun pointed to their head. Frankly, some of them have no social skills to begin with either, so it can be a very bad combination to have both. In all of my years of personal style, I have come across some valuable and practical ways of developing and enhancing the inner stylish guy, thanks to a lot of likely (and at times, unlikely) sources.

1) Read. When I was growing up, I had the privilege of subscribing to GQ, Esquire, and Men’s Health, so it was a natural progression for me to see style, fashion, and health. You don’t have to subscribe to any of these to learn fashion. But I do think that it would be beneficial to pick up a magazine every now and then and start browsing/reading for tips and tactics. Most men’s magazines (even Maxim for crying out loud) will have some sort of fashion and style guides for even the uber-treehugger of them all. So start using your eyes and read something more useful other than the bra size of the cover model.

2) Watch. I know this may sound a little uncomfortable for some, but I think it’s well worth the knowledge. Try to do some people watching when you’re out shopping at Best Buy, or window shopping with your girlfriend, or even hanging out at the local bar or coffee shop. Don’t just look at the girls, but look at style that the guys with them carry. Do they seem like they know what’s up, or are they slouchy and not put-together?

If they seem like they are all into style (and you can tell who is and who isn’t), try looking at the finer details, like color scheme (similar and contrasting colors mixed together), tailoring (do the clothes look cheap or expensive), style (v-neck, button-down, pullover, acid-wash, straight-leg, etc). Even just a 2-3 second glance can give you more wisdom on how to dress (or at times how NOT to dress) for the proper occasion.

3) Listen. “Ok orphans, listen to me… Listen to Ignacio.” (Nacho Libre). Pay attention to who is telling you something and the substance that they are sharing to you. If your girlfriend is telling you something about your style, then pay close attention and intently listen to what you’re hearing AND listening. She’s hinting about your sloppy attire? Go get yourself cleaned up. Matter of fact, ask her to help you — that will show her that you’re serious about what she thinks, and she’ll be so excited to have you be her guinea pig, I mean, have you be more appropriately dressed when you’re with her.

Don’t forget to listen to other people as well. All guys should have good tailors, so if you don’t have one yet, find one that will work well for you and your budget. Ask your coworkers, friends, or neighbors about the best one that they’ve had, and think more than just price (price will only go so far). Ask for quality of work, cut, value, and pricing (and don’t forget returns!).

You may also seek some professional advice from retail sales associates, although be prepared to be given the sales pitch in addition to what they may think. Great sales associates will tell you what they see in you, give you ideas on what to wear and how to wear them WITHOUT necessarily forcing you to buy their products. That’s their job, you say? Yes, it is their job to sell; however, and most importantly, it is their job to ensure that customer satisfaction. And having been in retail for a handful of years, building relationships in business goes a long way than getting a quick sale.

4) Be relational. If you can take anything out of this post, take this final point: BE RELATIONAL. Be friendly. I’m not talking about being sly or flirty with someone just so that you can get a discount. I mean build real relationships, just like you build them with your favorite barista or your favorite bartender. Yes, the perks are that they give you free stuff (or discounts at least)….

But the point of the matter is beyond the give or take, beyond the materialistic sense. Relationships stem from a development of openness towards another, and thus intimacy, however intense you want to let it, can and does make an impact on personal style.  What you wear yesterday may not be what you will wear today or tomorrow, and at times, that is bound by your emotional content and your object of affection.  So be adamant and purposeful about being relational to your fashionistas.  Who knows what sort of goodies they may have in store for you.

Tricks and Traits, volume 2

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Piggybacking on some tricks I blogged about, one of the greatest things that you can ever do when you shop for deals is to learn to build relationships and build them consistently.  The many times I hung out at Banana Republic, Kenneth Cole, and Pacific Place in downtown Seattle; and all the stores I frequented in Bellevue Square, Redmond Town Center, and Auburn Super Mall led me to meet many people behind the cash wraps who have helped me build networks upon networks that I possibly would never have imagined.  These networks provided me with a wealth of information and connections that opened my eyes to the retail world and how that world functions in the consumer industry.  To give you an example, if I didn’t check on the frequency of sales and updates on clothing in Banana or Kenneth Cole, I wouldn’t have met the store managers and district managers who helped me understand the business and clothing, specifically:

  1. The types and quality of clothing that typically goes on sale
  2. The types and quality of clothing that are being marketed heavily
  3. The types and quality of clothing that are not being marketed heavily
  4. Upcoming fashion trends, cuts, styles, and price guidelines
  5. What types, cuts, and quality of clothing that either stays in store or are shipped to Racks and Outlet Malls
  6. Featured events, sales, and markdowns, and where to find them
  7. Other general information, which includes basic information about their particular brand of clothing versus other products and brands, tailoring, etc.

Building upon these listed items, you have essentially a great handle on where to shop, when to shop, how much to pay for it (given the actual value of the clothing based on tailoring, cut, cloth, etc), and most of all, someone to give you a personal helping hand along the way.

More importantly, the relationships being established becomes more than knowledge of where to go shopping.  They serve as one of the foundations to which you can build upon as a source of knowledge, and is available to be an external resource on keeping up with trends, price values, and other factors that you think are valuable to you.

And what is more valuable than people giving you a plethora of informative advice?

Crocs: What a load of…

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Okay folks, I’m going to get down to the dirty dirty here.  One of the most recent fashion faux pas that I have continually seen is the amount of people wearing (and selling) Crocs.  One look at that thing and one would think that Crocs are, well, a load of crock.  Seriously.  I was at a local upscale mall this past week and stopped by RESTORATION HARDWARE and POTTERY BARN to check out the sales.  I noticed that a couple of sales associates who had cool outfits wore Crocs that “matched” their outfit.  I didn’t want to be rude, but in my mind I was crying in tears out of laughter as I walked by them.  I can understand that if you’re late for work, you’ll just take whatever shoe you find that is remotely in the same color of your outfit.  Fine.  We’ve all been there before, so it’s not a big deal.  But honestly, are Crocs THAT good enough to wear with anything?  Is it a shoe-for-all-outfit type?  Is it THAT comfortable than say, Hush Puppies?  Is it THAT sophisticated enough to wear for a “classier” retail establishment?  Hmmm….

So I did my own research a couple of months ago and, sad to say, tried out a few Crocs in a Hallmark store (yes they sell them at Hallmark!!) at an outlet mall in town to see what the fuss was all about.  Of course, they came out with any and every color and shade of the rainbow, including the almighty camo.  While I could see how one would think it was OK to get, it wasn’t at all attractive in any outfit (especially mine) nor comfortable after walking for a “long period” of time.  (My long period of time was walking in and out of the card aisles for a few minutes).  After my trial period ended, I found myself people watching in the mall, and to my surprise (OK, I wasn’t THAT surprised), I saw more guys wearing them, and guess what is the predominant color for them?  You got it.  Camo.

Now granted, budgets can also be a part of the reason why people buy this crap.  I would refute that argument and say that there are better choices for every budget that would actually make you LOOK better in the long term, and make you feel a bit more sophisticated than wearing Crocs.  For example, I bought a pair of black leather sandals from BANANA REPUBLIC Outlet for $15, and I love it.  It’s casual enough in look to wear with jeans and tee, button down shirt, or any combination, and “casual-formal” enough to wear a nice pair of herringbone slacks with a freshly pressed button down shirt.

And in the end, I don’t look like a load of crock wearing it.