In men who have negative social programming and fear of change, the resistance to style manifests itself in interesting ways. The most common manifestation of negative social programing I've seen in my trainings is the old "be myself" mantra.
I've heard quite a few men who have no style say
"I don't need to worry about having style. I'm cool with being myself. I'm just going to dress like myself."
The problem with that "yourself" thing is that you usually just end up in some old Sears clothes that don't tell anyone what kind of person you are. You don't really look like yourself. You look like every other clueless person who is in a fearful place.
"I'm just going to be myself" is an excuse that scared people use when they don't want to push themselves to do better. It's an easy out, because we've all been told for years and years to "just be yourself" if you want to succeed with women. At this point, who could possibly blame you for "being yourself?"
I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that if you're reading this book, chances are that "being yourself" is not getting you the results with women that you could be having.
So why do people recommend "being yourself?" It's not very specific. It doesn't really lead to taking any specific action.
The answer is fairly simple. Your friends and relatives who recommend this don't know any better. They can't help you succeed with women because they don't know anything about the topic. Most people would rather give a bad answer than admit they don't know, so "be yourself" is what ends up coming out. What does that even mean?
When it comes to advice from family and friends,"be yourself" can be translated as follows:"Please stay the same as you were before. I'm already comfortable with that, and I'd rather not risk being uncomfortable about you experimenting and changing."
As 21st century men, we carry around these fears and stigmas without even realizing it.
- Schoolyard fears
- Nice Guy Syndrome
- Anti-Gay programming
- Bad role models
- Using "be myself" as a fashion strategy
These fears and delusions hold us back from expanding our identity and expressing ourselves through our clothing.
To make matters worse, trying to find the right information to build your look correctly can land you in a confusing minefield of advertising and double-talk. In many ways the deck is stacked against you. Let's take a moment to discuss the challenges you will encounter along the journey to a great look and learn how to get through them quickly and easily.
Part 3: Obstacles on the Outside
Elitist Communication Style
Let's revisit the four most basic, primal qualities you're going to keep in mind when choosing a look.
- Access to resources
Take a second to focus on #3. Elite. As in "better than other people." Yes, that's what elite means.
When I was younger, I used to think that everyone should be considered equal and we should all just help each other and share everything. I still think it's important to share as much as you can with others and to give value to as many people as you can. But I've realized when it comes to dating and attracting women, all men are not created equal.
Women are unabashedly elitist when it comes to meeting guys and dating. Women are looking for guys who are clearly elite. They don't want average guys, they want the best man they can possibly get. They will unapologetically reject you if they think you're not up to their standards. How's that for equality?
Most people have a negative reaction to the "elitist" vibe. Why? Because statistically speaking, chances are that you're not in the elite, so hearing the elitist attitude from the media of from others is just a harsh reminder that you're not on the "A" list.
You've got to stop thinking like that.
Don't be bitter. Be Elite.
To succeed in fashion, it's important that you turn off that anti-elitist voice in your head. That's the one that says "These people are snobs" or "They're not so cool!" Just turn that voice off for now and open your mind to the valuable information that could be hiding behind that elitist vibe.
I know, I know... they are snobs, and they're not that cool... but in fashion, that's just the way people talk. You can learn a lot from the snobs if you stop shutting them out.
Let's give it a try. Here's a few snippets from a well known fashion writer.
"AT Gucci there was a serious Fifties theme going on for menswear spring/summer 2008. Frida Giannini took her signature silhouette one step further this season by introducing the check, from miniature to macro, with window-pane for day and houndstooth for evening." -Antonio Berardi, Vogue.co.uk
Ok maybe we should try that again.
"THE thing about Alexander McQueen is that you never know what to expect: This season we were taken to a fascist era swimming pool, complete with life-guards and the sounds of lapping water and waves. As we waited with bated breath (and the promise of Esther Williams-inspired synchronized swimming), we were literally dragged kicking and screaming back to the future, just when we least expected it. The roller-coaster ride had begun, and McQueen was on form. Sun-kissed boys with glittered quiffs and bobby socks were the order of the day, with spray on peddle-pushers in washed denim and zoot jackets in silk cotton that had been garment washed for comfort. Think healthy seasoned travelers with a boogie board neoprene bag-cum-suitbag-cum-rucksack, to hold a complete summer wardrobe and you get the gist." --Antonio Berardi, Vogue.co.uk
My first reaction is the same as yours probably is. Fascist era swimming pool? WTF?
Bag-cum-suitbag-cum-rucksack? OK, I'll have to run right out and get one of those.
If we can get beyond that first reaction and pay attention to the clothes, there's actually a lot to learn here. This clothing has visual impact. It has social impact. There are cultural implications to the outfits. It's also important to appreciate the writer's dedication to fashion and his love for writing about it.
When you hear words like "houndstooth" and "bag-cum-suitbag-cum-rucksack" don't immediately disregard the overall message. Instead, look for the cultural significance of the clothing being discussed. Perhaps it's something you would never wear, but you'd still be better off if you understood what the designer was going for.
The concept for these outfits is fairly simple actually. They are retro looks intended to remind you of another era. They are using the our romanticized ideas about the past to communicate an elitism and make an artistic statement.
The Changing Fashion Signal
Why is fashion writing intentionally cryptic?
Remember, fashion is a biological signal that you're sending to everyone around you all the time.
High fashion signal indicates "I am of high status and have access to social information and social resources. Choose me for reproduction."
The "high fashion" signal changes over time in order to keep it costly to outsiders who would try to mimic it. It is meant to be elite and exclusive by it's nature. The high fashion signal communicates that you are an insider, that you are part of an elite social group.
In order to maintain that the signal is "honest," those with influence and power, the highstatus insiders, constantly change the signal. If the signal did not change, it would be too easy for people of lower status to copy the signal. If the signal could be easily copied, the high status group would not be able to differentiate themselves from people of lower status.
But simply changing the signal rapidly is not enough to protect the elite. In the age of the Internet, preventing the spread of information is more difficult than ever. Those who set the "high fashion" trends prevent the masses from accessing fashion information by using a communication style specifically geared towards women and gays. Most "average Joe" straight guys are intimidated and turned off by this language. This is how the "high fashion signal" is preserved in the information age.
How turned off are you by that language? You're absolutely hating it, right? You'd have to be a total asshole to write something like that...or maybe you'd have to be trying to speak to a very specific audience while simultaneously intimidating and confusing the masses.
Want to learn more about how people attempt to copy the high fashion signal? Read "Confessions from the Velvet Rope" by Glenn Belverio and Thomas Onorato. This book is about the life of New York City's most famous doorman. He's the guy that will look at your outfit at the door of a high end club and turn you away if he doesn't like it. In this book, there's discussion of a store called H&M. The concept of this store is to quickly and cheaply mass produce clothing that mimics the high fashion signal. Then, after a few weeks, the trends have changed and H&M will completely change their inventory. H&M exploded on the scene a few years ago in New York as club kids with small budgets attempted to mimic the high fashion signal.
A second store in New York, Century 21, has succeeded with a similar concept: sell clothing from high end brands (Armani, Prada, etc.) after it has lost it's cutting edge newness and has become "surplus" to it's producer.
If you shop at these stores, you can approximate the high fashion signal without paying through the nose for it. But you will need the right information. You can get access to this information in many ways:
- being friends with fashionable and influential people.
- attending events where high-fashion people attend (like clubs and parties).
- living in a neighborhood where the fashion is high.
- getting an opinion or makeover from a fashion expert.
Then there is the issue of money. Not everyone has the resources to attain high fashion items. However, there are many people who are able to create a very attractive look without actually spending much money. These are the people who have the best information.
Conversely, there are those who have tremendous financial resources, but due to a lack of information, they are unable to translate this into and attractive look.
In the information age, having the right information is more important than having financial resources.
When you think of "high fashion," you might be picturing upscale, expensive, perfect looking clothes. Sometimes this is the case. However, there are many times when the "high fashion signal" emulates ideas from the poor, working class, or the nerds of yesteryear.
Hip hop fashion, for example, began in the streets of New York City, but after a few years, it began influencing the high fashion signal. Nowadays, the hip-hop look can be considered very high fashion if done right. Check out the grille, chain, and the all-around zipper hoodie on Yung Berg.
Do you think this outfit is nerdy? The folks at Diesel would disagree. This is a $700 outfit and it's actually one of the hipper looks out there. Me and my old assistant coach Disco used to call this look "Geek Chic."
It's a tongue-in-cheek effect. No one would dress this nerdy and expect people to take it seriously. If you do the "Geek Chic" look, you show that you have a playful attitude towards fashion and you're not afraid to take chances.
On the right, we have another "Geek Chic" look, comedian Jordan Carlos. In this case, his hair is a dead giveaway that he's not that serious about the geeky outfit.
Magazines and Mixed Messages
There are some magazines that will give you great ideas. Then there are those that pander to the fear-based preferences that most men have. It makes sense to do that because the fearful men are going to spend money and support the advertisers.
You'll often see male models in dramatic poses with hot women. They are in risqué, dangerous settings. Exciting! Sexy! But the fashion they are selling you might actually be boring and safe.
In the same magazine, you'll get a variety of ideas, some which are directed toward a fear-based audience and other things that are innovative and interesting.
There's some great info out there, just be sure you're taking it in with a grain of salt. Not everything you see in a magazine is worth wearing. There's a lot of trick photography and photoshop editing used to make those clothes look good.
Review: Obstacles on the Outside
Elitist communication style- Stop hating the elite. Accept the elite. Become part of the elite. Learn to look past the elitist vibe and understand the cultural significance of the clothing. Ask yourself, "Who would wear this? What would they be going for? What kinds of women would be attracted to a man in this outfit?"
Magazines and their mixed messages- Be the skeptic. Don't assume everything you see in a magazine is a great idea. Some of it is good, some of it is bad. Develop a discerning taste.
Review: Obstacles on the Inside
Schoolyard fears- You're not in the fourth grade anymore. No one is going to beat you up for wearing a pink shirt.
Nice Guy Syndrome- Don't try to be a nice guy all the time. It's not attractive. Develop a multidimensional personality. As you develop this, your clothing should reflect the fact that you are not trying to please everyone all the time. In fact, you have far more important things to worry about than having every single person accept your clothing choices.
Anti-Gay programming- Being interested in style does not make you gay.
Following bad role models- If you've been emulating friends and family members who do not dress attractively, stop it right now. There's nothing wrong with copying other people, but choose someone with an attractive look.
Using "be myself" as a fashion strategy- This is not a fashion strategy. Of course it's great to be unique and to appear effortless, but the "be myself" strategy rarely results in having a unique, attractive, effortless look. It usually results in a trip to JC Penny's and a new pair of khakis. You're not fooling anyone with the "be myself" thing.
Ok, psychology class is now over, it's time to move on to some specific fashion strategies you can use right away to make drastic improvements to your look.
Part 4: The 3 Frameworks for Creating Your Look
There are 3 main frameworks you should consider using to create your look. When you're new at this, it's not easy to know where to begin, especially when you're still getting over your bad social programming. Using one of these frameworks gives you a starting point and gets you on the road to success fast.
1. Normal and well dressed.
2. Sexy Stereotyping.
3. Pushing the Limits.
Framework #1: Normal, Well Dressed
This one is easy. Just get some designer jeans, black leather shoes, and an interesting button down shirt. Be well groomed. Make sure everything fits well. Done.
If you're just starting out and you're really worried about changing, do the normal well-dressed look. You'll get better results, and you'll feel encouraged.
Anyone can do this look. It's not going to take you too far out of comfort zone. This is a normal but polished look.
Make sure everything fits. Pay attention to little details. Be well shaved. Don't have lint or dirt on your clothes. Make sure your shoes are clean and new looking.
See this guy I found on the street corner in NYC? He's got a fairly high end version of this look going on. He's got all the little details right: neat haircut, untucked and unbuttoned, slightly faded wash on the jeans, and he's seen here with a reasonably attractive woman who also has good style.
Remember to do the "well dressed" part. You should be dressed just as normal as everyone else around you, but a bit more dresses up, a bit more "well dressed." Remember when I said you should be trying to look better than other people? In this case, all that means is
that you're slightly overdressed and you've got better grooming. Voila! You are normal-well-dressed guy.
"iHH - y'f Have a look at this guy I found waiting on line
. ^fl with his friends at a club in NYC. His look is fairly f well done. His details aren't quite as good as the y-"' ' 4 first guy, but still very good. He should uncuff the jeans and ditch the facial hair.
In the end this look isn't going to hurt his chances with women very often. If he meets a woman who likes his personality or his body type, she's not going to have any problem m presenting this guy to her friends and feeling good about getting to know him.
There are a few other variations you can do besides the designer jeans and button down shirt.
Blazer/t shirt guy- If you wear a t shirt with a blazer over it, that can be a good look also. Same jeans, same shoes, just add the blazer.
If you're gonna do the preppy look, be sure to go all the way. If it's not strongly defined, you'll look like a nice guy.
The Layered Look- This is when you layer a few different colors. You might have a blazer over a hooded sweatshirt, and a t shirt under that. The layered look is about adding another layer when you really don't need one. Polo+sweatshirt or t-shirt+sweatshirt+blazer. Here's an example of a man with good layers. Notice the balance of colors: one drab color (gray for supporting piece) and one bright color (blue for showpiece).
Here's a few guys who ALMOST have it down:
The man on the left: This outfit would probably be pretty good for daytime. All the pieces are really cool. The jeans are his showpiece. This shirt is the exact kind of shirt you should wear with the blazer/T shirt look. In this case, he was out at night. He wasn't dressed well enough to stand out with this outfit.
The man on the right: This guy did a good job with his jeans, shoes, hair, and accessories, but the t shirt isn't working. It's a good shirt, but it's only gonna work if he wears a blazer with it. His shoes are so much dressier than his t shirt, and that doesn't make sense.
As a general rule, t shirts are not a good idea with the "normal well dressed" look unless you wear them with a blazer or some other layers. T shirts are good for certain sexy stereotypes and certain types of social impact. Other than that, they're pointless.
You should also stay clear of button down shirts that have short sleeves. It seems a bit immature.
One way to enrich the normal well dressed look a bit is to model the look after some male characters from movies. Many popular movies use a normal, mainstream style of clothing for their main character. These styles are created by professional stylists, so they are very well done. It would be hard to come up with a look that's as balanced and detailed as what a professional stylist can create, so copy one of these looks closely to save yourself some time.
If you look closely at these pictures you'll notice the following:
- They look effortless. Professional stylists slaved over these outfits for hours and hours. Professional photographers used elaborate lighting and editing on these pictures, but the end result seems effortless. No matter how much time you spend on your look, it shouldn't look too perfect. There's always a little something that looks messy. That's what makes things appear to be effortless.
- Grooming. If you're not sure what to do about about facial hair, eyebrow thickness, hair styling products, etc. look at pictures of movie stars. The grooming is purposeful, professional, and meticulous.
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