Saturday, 8 May 2010

In discussion: Tell us about the most stylish man you've ever known

The desire to develop a dialogue around men's style and fashion has always been one of our key motivations to blog. Of course it is quite easy to get distracted by all the new shiny product releases and latest collections along the way but we are frequently left wanting. The topic is of course much greater than pure consumerism. With this in mind we have devised a new feature for the blog in which we can all explore a different side of the industry. Each month we will be inviting a cross section of thoughts on and around a given subject. We have approached a mixed bag of knowledgeable folk to air their thoughts and responses will come from designers, store owners, PRs, journalists and a few fellow bloggers alike. We will feature a number of responses a week throughout the month while inviting you to share your thoughts in the comments section below. To launch the new series we have one of our favourite designers in Tim Soar and a blogger we read incessantly in Dapper Kid describing the most stylish men they have ever known.


Tell us about the most stylish man you've ever known....


Tim Soar, Menswear Designer.

If you are talking sartorial style rather than conversational, intellectual or artistic style then here is the list - sorry, there is not one but a few.

1. Glen Howell, Ipswich 1977. Glen was my mate just as I was leaving school. Ipswich, my home town, was a little behind the times, and a biker/hippy hybrid was the style du jour. Glen was the very embodiment of this style. He could wear hippy girly style clothing and still be effortlessly masculine. He had the requisite lush, long flowing hair and beard - my sorry, soggy semi-afro did not really cut it in the same way - and had a green Afghan waistcoat that I was very envious of.

2. Keir Fraser, Camden Town 1978/79. I left Ipswich for a squat in Camden town. The scales where immediately pulled from my hippy eyes as I saw the burgeoning North London post punk scene close up. Keir was effortlessly cool with a long orange/blond tendril like fringe and the ability to mix completely random items of second hand and army surplus clothing to starling and original effect.

3. Lance Martins, London mid-1990s. Lance is the very talented director of visual display at Paul Smith. Lance has a great sense of style, but most importantly, can pretty much wear anything and look great. Just a man being very comfortable in his own skin.

4. Now. I work in menswear, so I come across many very stylish men. It would be unreasonable, unfair and unwise to single out a lone star.

5. Historic. David Bowie 1975-1976. How a man falling apart as a result of a near fatal cocaine addiction can look, act and sound so cool is beyond my comprehension. Bowie has been 'with' me for all my adult life and yet I am still endlessly surprised by things I had not noticed before. By a million miles the coolest, smartest, best dressed pop musician of the 70s.


Dapper Kid, Blogger.

This probably seems like a very cut-and-dry answer, but the most stylish man I have ever known would have to be my father. Although we may not talk about fashion, we do often talk about presentation. One thing he has always taught me, that I really do take to heart, is the importance of taking pride in your appearance. If you are sloppily put together or under-dressed for an occasion, it is not only a disservice to yourself, but actually somewhat rude to others. As much as dress is an intimate and personal activity, it is also by virtue of its position as an outward signifier, or to use Alfred Gell's phrase, a way of our 'selfhood becoming objectified', how we choose to present ourselves to the world. As such it is important to keep in mind your presentation, and that does not necessarily mean that you have to be particularly fashionable or dressed in expensive clothing, but rather that you are thoughtful and take care.

My father always tells me that I should try to do my best in everything I do, and part of that is making sure that I am presented at my best. The example he tends to give is that of being a bin man. He says that were I to be a bin man, I ought to be the best bin man I could be, and with that my uniform should look the best. Therein lies that rather tired phrase: it is not what you wear, but how you wear it. I think that is what I admire about him, in that he has a casual elegance about him and a confident sense of self, which shows in whatever he wears. It may just be something that comes with age - knowing yourself better, but that confidence translates into what he wears. That is not to say that he dresses badly but does so with confidence, but rather that style is not simply about clothing.

Then again, he has never worn a pair of jeans in his entire life, and even when doing building work he will wear an oxford shirt, pleated trousers and loafers. This is a man who I have never seen wearing a t-shirt, because it is always a collared shirt and blazer. He rarely if ever buys clothing, and I think that is perhaps part of his secret. Many of his clothes he has had for at least a decade. Clothing which ages gracefully forms a rather close relationship with the wearer. They are comfortable in that clothing because it has adjusted to their body. It becomes soft where the body is harsh, such as the elbows and knees. Through repeated wear, wash and age it becomes a signifier of the person even in that person's absence. He looks comfortable and smart in his clothing, because he literally is comfortable.

He taught me to always take pride in my appearance, no matter what it is that I wear. One piece of advice which I think he takes on is that it is not what we have to do that defines us, it is what we choose to do that defines us. In a situation where you 'have' to wear a suit, simply wearing a suit does not make you well dressed. It is by choosing to take care in how you wear and put together that suit that matters, and it is that care he always takes regardless of whether he is going to an event or simply painting the fence.
There was actually a photograph I wanted to scan in and share, but unfortunately was not able to. The photograph is of my father and my elder brother when he was a little boy. My father is crouched in front of my brother, adjusting my brother's collar on his school uniform. My father is wearing a crisp white shirt, slightly unbuttoned, with a navy blue v-neck sweater, grey pleated trousers and a grey driving cap. It is perhaps a bland outfit by description, however the fit and ease with which he wears it is spectacular. It was taken before I was born, and yet looking at that photograph reminds me of what I have to live up to and how style truly is timeless.


We will share many more responses (including our own) with you throughout the month and we would love for you to join in the discussion below. Tell us about the most stylish man you've ever known....

1 comment:

Make Do Style said...

Great new series - love that Glen Howell from Ipswich 1977 reference!


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