I have no affinity to lists, and have earlier depicted my distaste towards dissecting a passion, a chore or a piece of advice into a rounded number of pieces. (Only of course to have inevitably fallen for the trap and churned out a list myself). Thus I grimaced when, in a circle of friends (blogless, hence no linkage here), one pulled up a list for ten habits of stylish guys, mainly to laugh over the lack of following amidst several of us. Sure, us boys know that they should use cologne on a date night or at a club, or that it is good to shave despite the stubble being thankfully in vogue (!) – two thumbs up for not shaving often, it is just too much of a bother when you’re yawning away in the AM. We know how to not show the world that we’re entirely too lazy, but some things are sometimes just an inch too much for convenience to make the effort. I agree with this notion, but what I saw took me by surprise.
I was slightly appalled by the otherwise trustworthy Ask Men Dot Com’s listing. Not that it was incorrect in its entirety, but rather I felt it was severely outdated. Most of the elements dealt with grooming, fashion, and the management of these, written in the dry, matter-of-factly tone that suits the average guy. Which is all fine, but the pointers stuck out like polka dots of the 70s in today’s time, yearning to be either long forgotten or tactfully updated to suit the Twitter-Facebook friendly mindset of millenials.
So, despite Ask Men Dot Com’s candid recommendations, I honestly disagree with the fundamentals of the suggestions on the list. On much insistence from my blogless buddies, I have decided to rewrite/rephrase/update the ten pointers, sadly succumbing to the top ten list once again. I will simply go step by step to counter-suggest or provide a more clarified view of their top ten points, without eluding too much to the fact that they have missed out on a few important elements themselves (men’s grooming products variety, the sharpness of accessories like cufflinks, belts and sunglasses, etc.). This time the list is for an upgraded cause, with absolutely no offense intended!
Decipher the Code: AM.C = Ask Men Dot Com , S^3 = yours Truly
AM.C – No.10 – Have a reliable barber and see them every four weeks
S^3 – No. 10 – Invest in styling products
For those with a nomadic lifestyle or one which swings like pendulum of unpredictability, having only one reliable barber and making it a point to visit them monthly is a difficult task, especially when you would rather the spend evenings and nights in happening hotspots, and weekend mornings in bed or on a miniature vacation. Instead, I would suggest investing in styling products . Product lines have a plethora of fascinating products for day/night/club/office/date/beach, and more importantly, for a variety of hair lengths from barely there to unfathomable tresses. Investing in products for different hair lengths prevents taking that trip to the barber to running a razor over the scalp. Plus you will be able to change your look effortlessly. And Philips has created many remarkable products that take all of 10 seconds to clip away flyaways and sideburns, if that’s what bothers you.
A quick breakdown tells you that gels are for shiny hold, varying from flimsy flexibility for wavy hair to a sheen and slicked back retro look to a super spiky control (the world’s most popular male style). Waxes and pomades are more mattifying and re-pliable all day long. They provide a wider range of deliverables ranging from articulated look to a subtle and refined one to a dishevled and messy attitude. And the introduction of mens hair spray makes sure things stay in place, without looking wispy and undone. There are gazillions of product textures and types in between these two extremes, so a curious online tour of your favorite brand or visit to a salon (with the goal that such visits languish over time) should entice your curiosity.
AM.C – No.9 – Take pride in storing clothes
S^3 – No. 9 – Take pride in (creative) storage space
While it would be ideal to store clothes in a structured fashion, it is unlikely to last as a long term plan. Inevitably so, since we are guys, and things will fall apart. The late party or work day will culminate with the tie peeking out of the trash can, a shirt lounging on the couch like a lazy cat, and the shoes walking in opposite directions as if recovering from a leather breakup. Instead of buying hangers, spacing clothes, etc., I’d simply suggest to have more space if you have more clothes. Fold the few sweaters, and lock them up during summer. Hang the daily wear shirts. And treat party clothes with party-friendly respect – the wrinkled look didn’t come in style without reason did it? And if something that is supposed to be more corporate looks a bit wrinkled, toss it in the dryer before showering and it will emerge dewrinkled thereafter. Or place it between two mattresses and sleep on it; f you aren’t a heavy duty wrestler in your sleep or are unlikely to participate in bedspring creak-inducing activities, it should work. Or better yet, by anti-wrinkle clothing, especially for work! Toss it, trash it, crumble it or walk on it, it will still be fine to wear! Just don’t dirty your clothes, and if you do, turn to Point No. 6.
With all that said, this is perhaps the a point that is still somewhat valid from Ask Men’s list, applicable to all guys but executed by the single digit percentage of those for whom systematism works.
Photo Courtesy: The Satorialist
AM.C – No.8 – Splurge on investment pieces (i.e. fabrics)
S^3 – No. 8 – Focus on timing before splurging
Most expensive clothing items are simply attaching 90% of the value to the brand. And moreover, the style will not last forever. Wool coats or camel trenches may physically last forever, but if the new look is skinny, you won’t be stylish floating in something baggy. Or if your body type changes due to your derriere-on-the-chair career, you’ll douse more fat-inducing snacks in regret of purchasing an evergreen blazer that you cannot button up. So, it is simply no point to splurge on investment pieces like fabrics. Instead, stop ignoring the fact that you are not aware of fantastic deals in the post-Christmas and New Years time period, or during beginning of summer. These are the best times to shop; you will score a deal, and nobody should frown if you hit a good sale. Plus, you will look sharp and smart at any point in time, on any occasion; unlike the guy who has been wearing the same grand-worth suede jacket to an event for fourteen months straight…
AM.C – No.7 – Buy multiples
S^3 – No. 7 – Buy variety, not multiples
Two of the same jeans and pants? Only if you live in the middle of nowhere with only one store around you. With a thousand options everywhere, and given that men’s fits are pretty standard with variations on skinny and lose (which are clearly identified), simply do not buy multiples. Jeans can look good worn, can’t they? So why have two pairs? That’s twice the wear time required to break into them.
The multiples suggestion may not be economical either; if you buy half the amount of pants for instance, you may need to make sure you are not doing the same with shirts, perhaps even buying more to compensate, else you will have coworkers or dates sniffing you for the showerless scent when you are inevitably caught wearing the same outfit multiple occasions. As for black pants, they are not noticed often enough anyway, so you may as well buy in varieties depending on your mood, the price, the fit, the store, the location, your significant other’s suggestion, etc. There are way too many stores and varieties for you to purchase multiples; high waist vs. low rise, pleated vs. flat-front, flare leg vs. fitted, midnight black vs. charcoal black… the combinations are endless, so why restrict yourself? Go for variety, not multiples.
AM.C – No.6 – Have a reliable tailor and dry cleaner
S^3 – No. 6 – Be flexible, not picky; and learn laundry
Having one is great, but for nomadic lifestyles, not practical. Dry cleaners have popped up in every city, whether its a metropolitan or a suburb, and frankly the technology for dry-cleaning is not too different or difficult, hence making it a popular business for startups. So why find a unique one? They are all reliable, and can be equivalently sued for mistakes that they are unlikely to make anyway. Cleaning is essential, no doubts about that. So, instead of dry cleaning, which is also harmful to the health, learn how to read your laundry labels.
As for tailors, go on recommendation, and have a different tailor for a different type of clothing, if you must stick to one. Know where to draw the line; a quarter inch hem for instance will not affect your style content much. And if something requires so much alteration that you are becoming the designer, its probably best to either find a personal designer, or abandon the item. Flexibility is the key here, since pickiness will simply lead to inconvenience, without a strong return on the investment!
Photo Courtesy: The Satorialist
AM.C – No.5 – Shop often but buy seldom
S^3 – No. 5 – Equate shopping and buying frequency
Gasp-evoking statement aside, you cannot shop often and not buy, for then that would be: not a guy. If you are that curious about trends, you will be surprised how often these things come up in conversation. Simply peel your eyes as your are strolling the streets, or take the 20 seconds to flick through the catalogs that flood your mailbox, or better yet, scroll through a brand’s twitter page, a point elaborated in Point No. 2. The goal is to equate the act of shopping and buying frequency. Whether that means shopping way less or buying way more depends on your preference (I think the former may be best suited for several of us).
AM.C – No.4 – Treat trends as calculated risks
S^3 – No. 4 – Treat trends as your friends
If you are not with a trend, you cannot be stylish. This is Ask Men Dot Com’s stylish guys habits list, after all. A fad should be differentiated from a lovemark. For example, if scarves suit you, wear them – always. If funky cuff links garner compliments, make them your habit.
Men’s trends generally do not tend to be outrageous anyway, so why shy away from them? Off late they have ranged from large aviators to smart shiny shoes, from skinny ties to pocket squares, from waistcoats to distressed jeans, from colorful Pumas to white belts, from cardigans to Russian winter hats… None are the types that willmake you look like a buffoon in public; rather they are enhancers that can depict you as one who is with the world, not behind it. And it is easy to simply carry things off effortlessly so that the embrace with the trend is subtle, not flamboyant. So put on a cardigan on a casual date or to run an errand in the chilly weather, tuck in the pocket square on a black tie event, wear a white belt to a club (if you are happy to draw attention to your toned waistline, of course), and put on those aviators to fight the sun (and stare at what catches your fancy, without incriminating yourself, or worse, being given a slap in the face). Your goal epitomizes the Innovation mindset; instead of swaying between attraction and intelligence, gather them both and stride forward. The challenge is not in frightfully backing away from a trend, but by embracing it with guts and taming it to suit your style. That’s the mark of a smart guy!
AM.C – No.3 – Have a signature scent
S^3 – No. 3 – Have a scent for every mood; or be a signature changer
Signature scents are an absolute no-no to today’s generation. This may sound ironic, with reference to to Point No. 4, where I have just suggested to have a trend for yourself, like a scarves and bright pocket squares that are making a comeback. But scents are tricky, especially when trying to entrance women. Do not roll your eyes here, since to a certain degree, we are always trying to do this – at the gym, at work, at a bar, in a club, in a patisserie… Some scents can be an instant turnoff – think heavy musk or oversweet vanilla. And if you happen to pick up one that is a bestseller, then you will end up smelling like the other guys around you, or worse yet, like your new date’s ex-boyfriend whom she is trying to forget.
A signature scent spells boredom. Things go in and out, citrus for summer, exotic for abroad, etc. Have a few that you like, and switch between them appropriately. Wear a heavy dark one for the night, and a fresher one for work, and a sporty one for the gym (yes, it does matter). If you are under a budget, a quick look at fragrance houses shows that the likes of Armani and Davidoff pack decent sized combinations of their favorites into a single package, aptly targeted to the multi-tasking active dude. So, head out there to explore, finding the balance between emotional intelligence and emotional attraction; more on the latter, to evoke a Passionate Mindset. Be creative, spontaneous, and varietous.
AM.C – No.2 – Bookmark three fashion sites and visit them weekly
S^3 – No. 3 – Follow fashion forward twitter pages, reading what appeals in 140 characters
This is the epitome of recommending a dinosaur tactic. In today’s Twitter and Digg friendly environment, the internet is as extinct as bell bottoms. Indeed, the internet is quickly languishing in terms of its usage, a surprise for many, but an inevitable consequence due to our ability to synchronize our webspace life via other mediums. Think about it; checking your mails on your Android, seeing your Twitter and Facebook feeds on your Iphone, browsing the news on your Ipad, all whilst being connected, but not using the internet.
It is good to stay “in”, but with Facebook and Twitter, it is more efficient and easier to simply get quicker and up-to-date updates in your busy and bustling life. For example, if a 140-character line of something in your twitter feed entices you, read on, but if a line like ‘the Wingtip shoe makes a comeback’ means nothing to you, ignore it. At least it has registered in your mind without you taking the time to acknowledge the trend via website browsings via a list of endless bookmarks. You will stay up to date, cut the redundancy and time wastage, and the efficiency factor will inevitably make you seem sharper and more stylish!
AM.C – No.1 – Pick outfits the night before they’re worn
S^3 – No. 1 – Sway between spontaneity and coordinated organization
It is certainly not a bad idea to pick outfits the night before they are worn, as we all did when were were twelve. But the execution is not always implementable, despite the terrific suggestion (two thumbs up, AM.C). It works if you return home the night before the next day (i.e. if you are home before midnight) and live a life where there is a ritual to follow that goes something like this: come home, stack the shoes, change the clothes, place them in the laundry basket, fold the clothes, brush your teeth, floss between your teeth, plug your phone charger, make an incessant call … you get the point, we do not live a predictable life anymore. With too much going on and more Foursquare locations to hit up on a daily basis, who has the energy to eventually pick outfits the night before?
We are all gifted with spontaneity. It works for some, it does not for others. If you know you are the whimsical spontaneous type who can concoct something trendy in seconds, keep it that way. If you may need some more help, there is no point spending the extra minutes standing vertical in front of a messy closet when all you want is to be horizontal.The key is to interweave this point with Point No. 9. to suit your lifestyle. An easy solution is to simply organize outfits by match; white shirts and pinstripe pants, for instance – if you have 3 sets, keep them as sets (instead of trousers on one side, shirts on the other). That way, when you are strolling out of bed an hour after your snooze button has woken up your neighbor and are cursing at the shower for its existence, you know that at least there is a quick and easy clothing set waiting for you to squirm into and get moving.
Photo Courtesy: The Sartorialist
Hopefully the S^3 update brings a bit more relevance and zing into the otherwise vanilla AM.C list.
With that said, I am still not a follower of such lists. I feel that millennial men are distinct from their counterparts of Generation X and the kids who grew up in the 70s and 80s (for those readers who this refers to, I understand that you are now shocked, but such is the tragic nature of life, and the speedboat that time has now boarded. It will happen to all of us soon; think about it, the first decade of the 2000s is already over; to think the kids born in 2000 (babies!?!) will be entering adolescence soon… if it has not shocked you enough already, then recall that these kids were born when Shrek 1 just hit the screens).
Back to millenials, we are not slobs, stupid, single minded or non-global. A urban mix of traits has infiltrated millennial men, which is significantly better than yesteryears when we felt jeans were only laborious working wear; although I very much doubt that are qualities are as far fetched as some personal care brands are making it seem – wake up to Jean Paul Gautier’s men’s make-up line complete with eyeliner and brow-gel! Not too many guys I know are ready for this, but we shall see what happens by 2020. For now, here is a peak at what is being marketed to us.
Message: Style suggestions are preferred if they are relevant to a time period. No offense, Ask Men Dot Com!
Lesson: Do what you want, but believe in evolution, and upgrade accordingly.
After all, there is a reason that the world Revolution has the word Evolution in it.