Style > Fashion. // photo by  Ian Bell

Style > Fashion. // photo by Ian Bell

Individuals will often say something like "I want to be more fashionable/stylish" -- and they use these words interchangeably. Style and Fashion are two very different things. Fashion is an industry that only survives if it can convince you that what you already have isn't good enough. Style is a manner of particular form and expression. Fashion and style can overlap, but they don't have to! So when someone speaks of elevating their style/fashion game, what they are really saying is, "I would like what I wear, and how I wear it, to say something more/different than it currently does." I frame it as such because the non-verbal impressions we make communicate as much as the words that come out of us. If someone looks put-together, we automatically frame our mental posture towards them in like manner. So with that said, here are three quick tips on cultivating a personal style.


I know that seems incredibly existential, but honestly -- if you aren't settled internally, your external expression will probably follow suit. Know who you are. Know what you actually like, and why you like it. This will help you decide on what to wear based on YOU and not based on what an industry tells you to wear. This will also help you feel confident to try things that seem outside of norms. Example: when I first decided to wear a wide-brimmed fedora, I was teased and called "Smokey the Bear" and Pharrell all the time. But I didn't really care because I loved the hat. Had I been insecure, those little jabs might have prevented me from wearing what is now a staple of my attire!


This exercise might seem odd, but just chill out and DO IT. Take a moment and list out as many adjectives as you can think of that you'd like to be associated with a description of "you" ... is it edgy? urban? refined? easy-going? sporty? dark? ... make a list, then narrow that list into a small few specific words. Now as you put on that garment or accessory, compare the way it looks against those words you came up with! If it's a mismatch, either re-think the way you approach wearing it (i.e. change the vibe of your button-up), or rethink wearing it altogether.


Often in an effort to attain a certain "look", we'll settle for something that is close but not quite right. Here's a personal example: I love hats. (Have I mentioned that enough yet??) There was a time when I would try and snag a cheap brim that is "close" to the look I was going for, but not quite right. The problem with this is that if it's not quite right, no matter how close -- it's still wrong! Don't settle for something just because you're impatient and want it "now", because it's a cheaper option, or for any other similar reason. Take a moment and review that garment or accessory and say, "Is this exactly what I'm going for, or is it just "close" and I'm settling?" If it's only close, be picky. Be patient. Wait till you find the actual right piece. You'll be amazed at the difference it makes when you decide to not settle.

Whether you're shooting to be fashionable, stylish, or all of it -- these three considerations are key starting points! Cheers, dear ones.





There are a number of videos and articles out there that talk about how to achieve the perfect fit for a suit. Men's style and men's fashion articles by the big boys like GQ. If you don't believe me, just google it and you'll see! So candidly, I'll spend less energy on how to find the right fit of suit. Instead, what I find there is far less of is not just the fit of the suit, but what to pair it with and how to make it work overall. Fellas tend to fall into one of two extremes: either far too boring of an overall ensemble or way too much. Striking that balance is what will take your suit game from good to great. From "He cleaned up nicely" to "Holy smokes look at that put-together man over there."

It matters because we all make judgments about those with whom we interact. From the moment we meet someone, impressions are made and decisions are formed. Decisions about the kind of person we think they are, the weight we place to the things they say, and so on. Our appearance is the absolute first impression. If your suit game is boring and uninspired, the initial vibe you communicate is boring and uninspired. Conversely if your suit game is complicated and over-the-top, the initial vibe also follows suit. (Pun very intended.)

Here are two thoughts on how to strike the balance:


Please, for the love. Don't be boring... but do not wear a tie bar, patterned shirt, patterned tie, pocket square, suspenders, lapel pin, patterned socks, complicated shoes, fancy watch, rings on three fingers, bracelet, cuff links, etc... all in the same outfit. I know that sounds absurd, but there are so many times that in an effort to look stylish, people go too far. Our eyes can only take in so much at once. The reason rules of composition exist in photography are so that the person viewing that picture can actually focus in on what matters. So if you have too many focal points, then you actually have no focal point at all. It goes from being interesting to being confusing. From good to gaudy. (Don't get me wrong, gaudy can be done intentionally and done well... but even then there are focal points!) So instead of throwing the whole kitchen sink in there -- decide what you want to stand out. Sure, go for a patterned shirt AND tie, but leave it at that and avoid any accouterments on the jacket like a pin or pocket square. Let those mixed patterns do the talking instead. Clean shirt and tie? Okay, feel free to add some flare with extras. After you complete your ensemble, step back and see if your eye naturally falls anywhere... if there are MOMENTS, or if your eyes continuously want to roam across the outfit in search of a visual home. If you have a hard time deciding where to focus, try stripping something back!


Textures are a sneaky component to a good outfit. Here's why: textures interact with light in different ways. A texture like a wool sock-tie will absorb light versus reflect it. So if you choose a suit with more shine to it like merino, a tie that doesn't equally reflect light will look inconsistent and prevent your ensemble from looking complete. Choose textures with more sheen for evening affairs and more formal moments, and more natural looking textures for daytime and outdoor events. 

There is more that could be said, but for now we'll keep it focused. Do you agree? Disagree? Let me know!





Of any the topics that I'm asked about, none happens more frequently than about my style. It's rather ironic to me because, candidly, while I know I have a specific and curated aesthetic, I don't see it as revolutionary. But after some careful consideration, and a glass or two of whiskey, I have a few words that might provide clarity as we're all on our journey of expression through our steeze. (Is steeze still a word the kids are using? Did I even spell it correctly?! Oh well.) I'm a firm believer that having style is far more important than being fashionable. With that in mind, here are three considerations when identifying your style:


Knowing who we are and where we come from plays a big part in how we express ourselves, including what we wear. It's in our bones. We can't escape it. And sometimes rather than fight it, embracing it as part of ourselves is a key to finding the little diamonds of style that are hidden inside the cultures and places that we've come from. Example: where I'm from in Oregon, all the ranchers wear Justin Roper boots. Justin Ropers are the realest cowboy boot you'll find anywhere. Pointed toe and smooth leather bottoms are designed to slip in and out of the stirrup on a horse saddle easily. One day I found an old pair of them in a thrift store... the soles shredded from farm work, and the leather in need of some TLC. I decided those were the boot for me because they spoke to my roots. I bought them, gave them new life, and now Ropers are nearly all I wear and it's become a bit of an icon in terms of my identifiable style. 


The problem with the fashion industry is that it's an industry. That means it can't move forward without being industrious -- that is, without convincing you that what you have isn't as good as what they're about to show you. But frankly, that's a lie. I'm NOT saying that each season there aren't a few worthwhile considerations out there in your favorite designer's newest release... but your social mettle and inner being really aren't connected to new and shiny. Stop and ask yourself this question: will I look back at this photo in 30 years and think I look ridiculous or dated? If the answer is yes, perhaps re-evaluate the decision.


You can purchase the most expensive pieces from the most exclusive boutiques and if it doesn't fit right, you're still just gonna look janky. That's right -- JANKY. So whether that garment cost you $500 or $5, take it to someplace (if you live in Baltimore, I highly recommend Bushelers of Baltimore) and make it fit properly. Does it cost a few extra dollars? Of course. But it's money well spent. So skip a few latte purchsaes, get the right fit, and then the next time you go back for that latte maybe you'll get the attention of that person you always run in to in the coffee line.

Next time around we'll get into specifics of how to cultivate your wardrobe... but without these considerations, we wouldn't have a roadmap for doing so.