DAVENPORT: Rescuing men’s fashion

In our culture, men’s fashion sounds almost oxymoronic. To the majority of men at Yale, fashion means wearing a different pair of sweatpants than the day prior, or fulfilling the cookie-cutter “look” of homogeneity that is dictated by mainstream culture. It may be about blending in, or simply a manifestation of laziness. Not to say that there aren’t plenty of young men who dress extremely well, but our generation as a whole shuns gentlemen’s fashion — preferring the blasé approach to the one form of personal expression that is always on display for the world.

Fashion is so much more than spending extravagantly to display a gaudy designer logo of epic proportions. It requires neither wealth, nor talent per se, but rather a mere pinch of effort that carries transformative properties. What goes on your body is a reflection of your personality and lifestyle. You are not what you wear; you wear what you are. Dressing well allows you to go forth with confidence, striding with a smile, because your colors are coordinated, your look is defined and your persona is complete.

Of course, nothing worthwhile comes without sacrifice. You will have to set your alarm five minutes earlier. You may have to turn on your brain before the beginning of your third class so you can determine if an outfit will clash and burn. It may even require the discipline to plan ahead, laying out the essentials on the eve of your big day, but sleeping soundly with the knowledge that tomorrow GQ could be waiting for you. The rewards of a life well dressed are great in number, and you may very well find the satisfaction of a day spent looking smart to be addictive in nature. Escaping the black hole of the Seattle grunge derelict campaign will bring personal satisfaction, and the ladies will hardly take offense.

For me, fashion is simple. In the evening, I take no more than a few minutes to prepare for the next day. I consider the vibe and the style that I want, the formality of events that the next day holds and of course the weather. I examine the colors and layers at my disposal, the potential for accessorizing and the shortcomings of every potential combination. Economically put, it is a cost-benefit analysis — one that covers you from head to toe.

A certain thrill ensues when the right outfit comes together: the complementary belt and shoe relationship, the pants that fit well and command attention and the sweater that feels as good as it looks. Some days it is vibrant colors and vitality; others the shades may match the season. Sunglasses, scarves, hats, watches and other accoutrements become the finishing touches for the casual day attire. Not unlike the frenzied formality that is the last five pieces of a 5000-piece jigsaw puzzle, the peripheral accessories seem to come together all at once, quickly turning a standard top and bottom getup into an intricate web of subtle color complements. These small details are the very things that, in the end, set the outfit apart from those of menial effort and uninspired dressing.

Laying it all out, appreciating the subtleties of the look and seeing the harmony that comes from a seamless ensemble: that is my style and that’s what fashion does for me.

I won’t tell you how to go about finding your own style and looking your fashionable best. That is a personal journey. It is not for everyone to wear plaid trousers, top hats and purple scarves, but perhaps that is the beauty of it. Fashion and style are for each of us to interpret in our own way. It is not so dissimilar from art, you see, except that every day it changes and you can create something new and exciting, which comes to life when we put it in motion. Yesterday it was aviators and wingtips. Today it is tie bars and wayfarers. Tomorrow it could be cuff links and high tops, or perhaps pinstripes and pocket squares.

So I challenge you to look past the fads and the fleeting trends that dip in and out of fashion grace by generation or decade. Develop your own style. Give it a flare that can only be attributed to your name. Have some fun with it. Most importantly, dress to impress and dress to express.

Will Davenport is a junior in Silliman College. Contact him at william.davenport@yale.edu .

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