Fashion Statements – The average millionaire is only the average dishwasher dressed in a new suit

the average millionaire is only the average dishwasher dressed in a new suit

“The mass of the rich and the poor are differentiated by their incomes and nothing else, and the average millionaire is only the average dishwasher dressed in a new suit.”

George Orwell  Down and Out in Paris and London (1933)

I have been rereading Down and Out in Paris and London as I am, if not down and out, currently unemployed in Paris.  This quote caught my eye as it gets to the heart of much of what today’s menswear is about.  Of course, the difference between the average millionaire and the average dishwasher is in more than just their suits, birth and opportunity play a far bigger part in it, but fundamentally a naked man is a naked man.  It is a truism that we are all the same under the skin; that as we enter this world naked so shall we leave it.  How we cover ourselves in between those two events is a more interesting question.

We must recognise the unpleasant fact that we are all judgemental.  Though we may deny it, even to ourselves, we all make judgements based on appearance.  Very often these judgements are subconscious, sometimes less so.  Either way, we judge and, of course, are also judged.

The question then is how can we leverage our appearance for our own ends?  If we know that people will judge us by our appearance, can we nudge them into making a different judgement by subtly altering our outfits?

Of course, the badly dressed millionaire is still a millionaire and best dressed dishwasher is still a dishwasher.  And rich or poor they are both still men.  But their choice of dress will change how you perceive them.

Remember all clothes are statement pieces, therefore you must control the statement.  To paraphrase another of Orwell’s writings, by controlling what is said one can control what is thought.

 

If you do one thing this year … dress green

 

As you may know, the official Pantone colour of 2017 is green.  Specifically, it is Greenery Green or, as I like to call it, Leprechaun Green.  It strikes me as an odd choice, at least from the menswear point of view.  It is too strong and too bright to be incorporated into the ordinary man’s wardrobe other than as an accent colour in his accessories.  So dress green is not about colour as much as about mindset.

When I say men should dress green this year, I mean they should adopt a green approach to dressing.  In other words, don’t just make a visual impact with your appearance; make a practical impact on the world around you.  By dressing green I mean to dress ethically.  Dress environmentally friendly.  Dress organic.  Dress fair trade.  Dress fair labour. In short, dress consciously.Why should a man dress consciously?

Because a gentleman, a real man, has a duty to society and to the wider world around him to live the best life that he can.  We live in an unequal world, a world on the brink of environmental disaster.  And you can do something about it.  Every choice you make impacts on the wider world and by choosing to dress green you will change the world.

That may sound ambitious.  One individual may think that they alone cannot make a difference but the planet is occupied by approximately 7 billion people, all of whom are individuals.  If each and every individual consciously make ethical choices in their lifestyle, it will have a dramatic effect on the world around them.  At the very least, leading by example may cause your friends and family to make more ethical choices.  Change starts small and it starts with you.

And how does a man incorporate conscious consumerism into a green style?  The old environmentalist slogan of Reduce, Reuse, Recycle is a good starting point.

Ecofriendly mens style

Reduce

It is a truism of men’s style guides that it is better to own less but better clothes.  A small wardrobe of quality clothes will last longer and look better than a large collection of fast fashion.  But it is not enough to reduce the amount of stuff that you own.  The ethical gentlemen will try to reduce the impact of his wardrobe on the environment.

That means considering how you can reduce the environmental damage in producing clothes.  Are the materials sustainable or organic?  It also means reducing the human cost of production.  Are your clothes made by fairly treated workers and fairly traded?  And it can mean trying to reduce the air miles or carbon footprint and consequent environmental damage of transporting products half way round the globe.  There is always going to be a degree of trade off in these choices as it is difficult to find items that satisfy all criteria, but that is what we mean when talking about a conscious consumer, the gentleman who considers all the impacts of what he wears.

Reuse

Before rushing out to buy new stuff, consider how you may reuse what you already have.  The current culture of disposable fashion is to wear and discard but well made clothes should last a long time.

First ask if you can mend stuff.  Simple repairs should not be beyond the green gentleman and for more complicated repairs you can develop relationships with specialist craftsmen.  A good pair of shoes can always be resoled and tailors can mend or adjust most clothing.  Nor do you need to stop there.  You can reuse what others recycle.  The Silver Blade is a great believer in quality used clothes.  Thrift shops, vintages stores, and sites like eBay are a treasure trove of quality used garments just waiting to be rescued and given a new life.  And when you have exhausted reusing consider repurposing what you can or seek out repurposed items.  Etsy can be a great source of cunningly repurposed items, particularly in the area of accessories.

Recycle

Although it may seem that there is some overlap between recycling and reusing, fundamentally, recycling is about turning your used products back into raw materials.  Most of what we wear can be recycled so make the effort, when you can no longer use or reuse something, to find an appropriate recycling facility.

Ethical style for the older man

In summary, dressing green means making conscious decision about your wardrobe and your lifestyle.  In addition to reducing, reusing and recycling your fashion, you should consider items that are locally produced; use organic or sustainable materials; and that are fairly traded.

My aim in 2017 is to dress green by adopting a more consciously ethical wardrobe and lifestyle.  I hope to spend this year investigating alternative style choices for men and, in particular, for older men on a budget.

So, what do you think?  Is it possible to dress well and dress environmentally friendly?  Can you recommend any particular brands or styles?  I would love to hear your comments or suggestions.

And stay tuned to see how my #greenin2017 project is going.

Seven steps to selecting a personal style for the older man

To develop a personal style you must change the way you think about yourself

Desmond Morris famously described mankind as a naked ape. After millenia of evolution, the first thing most of us do every day is cover our nakedness. Clothes are more than just a fig-leaf, however. Naked ape or not, humans are a social animal. How we dress and how we present ourselves are an integral part of how we interact with and are perceived by wider society.

I am taking it as a given that if you are reading this then you are interested in changing or developing your own style. Style is a deeply personal thing and no-one else can tell you what the best look for you is. However, the following seven steps should help any man who is genuinely interested in their appearance to take their appearance to a higher level.

Men being men, the best approach is to treat it as a project that can be conducted in a reasonable and logical manner. Like any worthwhile project, it will take time and commitment; there are no silver bullets on the Silver Blade.

men at work developing a personal style for the older man

Image by Sean MacEntee via www.flickr.com

1. Why do you want to develop your personal style?

The first thing to consider is your motivation. What do you mean by a personal style? Why do you want to change it? Do you want to develop the style you already have or are you looking to change it completely and reinvent yourself? Are you doing this for self-development, to improve your career prospects, or to attract a prospective partner?
If you are going to commit to this project you need to know why you are doing it. Your motivation does not really matter, it is personal, but without a motivation you cannot expect to maintain your commitment to this or any project. The first step should be to write down what you want to do and, most importantly, why you want to do it.
Whatever your motivations and your goals, the following steps will apply in developing a new style for yourself.

personal style for the older man

Nighthawks at the Diner, Edward Hopper [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Think about the style you want, go to a late night diner, wear a hat.

2. Think about your lifestyle

Style does not exist in isolation. It is not just a suit of clothes that you put on or take off at will. Your lifestyle is an integral part of your overall style. Your outward appearance must be integrated with the life you have. Or, if you are changing your appearance with a view to changing your life, with the lifestyle you aspire to. Before you can ask how you can successfully present yourself you must ask what or who you are presenting.
Questions to consider here should include; what do you do, where do you work, where are you going, even the hackneyed where do you see yourself in five years time? One other very important question to ask yourself at this stage is what can you afford. Your personal style will be tied to your income.

3. Research

This is where the project becomes fun!

Use the internet. You have access to a whole wide world of fashion at your fingertips. Look at other men’s style. Use social media to follow guys whose style you like. Flick through the work of famous designers and high street retailers. Investigate small producers. Study men’s style forums. Read up on the history and theory of menswear. Find out about the technical details of clothing manufacture. Learn as much as you can about where clothes come from, how they work, and how to put them together.

The more information you have, the easier it is to make informed choices.

Never stop researching. This is an ongoing project. Even the most comfortably self-possessed stylish men spend time researching. Think of your personal style as a lifelong research project. You will never reach an end point or a final, correct answer.

The internet is the perfect place for the older man to research his personal style


It’s not just cat videos! The internet is the perfect place for the older man to research his personal style. Image by Geralt via Pixabay

4. Decide on the style that suits you

And this is probably going to be the hardest part!

There are a myriad of possible men’s styles out there but, ultimately, you will need to assess all that you have learnt in step three above and then decide on a style that you like, that you feel suits you, and that you feel you can live comfortably with. Remember, this is about you. It is about how you are going to live. The secret of real style is comfort. You need to be comfortable in your skin, both physically and metaphorically. Over time, you will find yourself drawn to a particular style and at that stage you can start working on developing your own take on it. This is when you start developing your own personal style. All that you have to do is take the broad outline of a particular style and make it your own.

What will be your personal style?

How will you stand out from the crowd? What will be your personal style?
Image by mwewering via Pixabay

5. Make a list

Now we go back to the very male approach. Make a list. Make lots of lists. Once you have an idea of where you want to go, you need to know exactly what you will need to adopt and adapt your chosen style.

Start by making a list of what you have that will work with your chosen style. Your style journey will be easier if you know what you already have. Be sure to keep this list updated as you add to your wardrobe.

Now make another list of what you would like to include in your wardrobe. Then subdivide this into lists of what you need urgently, what is less urgent, and what might be considered optional indulgences. You will need to start with the list of urgent requirements and actively seek out these items.

Once you have a list or lists, you can begin to look for particular items. Remember the list of what you most need? Try and prioritise your purchases. Always keep an eye on what you have. Decide what is most important to you and concentrate on acquiring that. The advantage of keeping lists is that you will always know what you have and what you need so that if you do come across a particular bargain, a one-off item, or a limited time opportunity you will be able to seize it.

Make a list for your personal style

Make a list of what you need to achieve your chosen personal style.
Image via www.pexels.com

6. Have patience

Pace yourself. Style does not arrive fully formed, it is an ongoing project. It will grow and develop with you. It’s not just that it takes time to assemble an ensemble. It takes time to grow into a style. As with any journey, a new style is a series of stages.

All of the above stages take time. Even when you have decided on a style you aspire to, it will take time to build up your new wardrobe. Be willing to take the time to find the right clothes for yourself. Be prepared for your choices to change as you experiment. Know that your experience of individual items of clothing will change with time. Some clothes become more comfortable over time, others less so. Finally, if you are relying on internet shopping for some or all of your wardrobe you will need to learn to wait during the interval between ordering and receiving products.

older man waiting for the perfect personal style

Have patience, finding the perfect personal style takes time.
Photo by Geralt via Pixabay

7. Make the most of what you have.

The corollary of patience; while you grow your new look, make the most of what you have. As I said above in step five, decide what you already have that works with your new style. This is the beginning of your new wardrobe, the foundation upon which your personal style will be built. Fashion has become a multi-billion dollar industry on the back of the constant pursuit of the latest, newest trends. Style, on the other hand, is about a sustainable approach. Your new style is not just about what you own; it is about the way you live. So start living. And enjoy the journey.

Have I missed anything? Do you have any other tips for the man trying to develop his style? I would love to hear from you in the comments.

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Sharp dressed man – Leonard Cohen

It was with great sadness that I learnt of the death of Leonard Cohen.  His music and his poetry have been part of my life for over four decades but it was only in recent years that I came to appreciate his sartorial style.  For any older man looking for a sharp dressed role model you could not do better.For those worried about being an older man, remember that at 82 he spent more of his life over 40 than under it.

 

Leonard Cohen 2115

 

There is a great “Leonard Cohen Concert Clothes Cliche Compendium” to be read at CohenCentric.com

My personal favourite quote from the selection:

The first standing ovation was for strolling on stage and looking so good in a dark suit and fedora … (Cohen Cooler Than Ever By James Reaney. London Free Press, May 25, 2009)

 

Image from www.cohencentric.com

 

RIP Mr Cohen

Ní bheidh a leithéid ann arís. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a h’anam.