Looking back at the last 10 years, I’m amazed (and a little scared) at the quantity of time, money and overall energy I’ve spent developing my own style. Be it hopping from one hairdresser/barber to another, or testing my hand at various clothing/shoe brands; finding a style or brand that fits your body, suits your personality AND provides enough value for your money, takes a lot of effort. I’ve had countless conversations with expensive hairdressers/barbers, salespeople and tailors that looked like this:
Provider: So what do you want to do?
Me: What do you think I should do?
Provider: Well- it’s really totally up to you…
Me: Isn’t that what I’m paying you for?
Continue reading our origin story or, jump straight to the science of style
“Isn’t this what I’m paying you for?”- as a Canadian, it wasn’t in my nature to actually say this, but I was usually thinking it. My general theory was: if I go to a reputable style provider, they should be an expert in that field, they should be the ones who know how to help me through this process, be it buying a suit or trying out a new hairstyle. Sometimes I was pleasantly surprised, but usually this was the result of multiple failed previous attempts at finding whatever I was looking for, and a lot of wasted money and time. It’s no wonder that many guys just throw in the towel and decide that it’s not worth it to care about their style, leaving those decisions to a trusted style advisor (i.e. partner/spouse or best friend), or just not caring at all.
For some reason though, I didn’t throw in the towel. Looking back it was likely due to a combination of actually enjoying the hunt and caring a bit too much about my vanity, but either way, I kept going. And as I kept going, a common thread started to emerge between the quality style providers in my life- they could all tell me WHY I should make a certain decision or purchase. When I say WHY, I don’t mean a generic “because this looks really good on you” solely meant to land a sale, I mean a logical, well informed statement that linked something about my body, my life or my personality (ideally all three) to a decision.
The most memorable version of this “informed why” came from the first time I had a fully bespoke suit made. Until that point I had only purchased ready-to-wear (i.e. off the rack) suits that I had tailored afterward. I arrived the day of the appointment to a non-descript storefront in Toronto, carrying with me my current favourite suit. When I booked the appointment the tailor had asked me to bring it along with me, and after an intro and tour of their studio, he asked me to get dressed into the suit I brought and tell him what I did/didn’t like about it.
I was a bit perplexed as no one had ever asked me to do this before; literally breaking down the garment element by element. So I started- I told him that I liked the general slimmer cut of the suit with a tapered pant as I preferred a streamlined and more modern look, but that for some reason, every pair of dress pants I ever tried on did this weird puckering thing at the pockets. The tailor then told me that, for lack of a better term, I have a big butt. Most ready-to-wear dress pants have vertical pockets, combine that with what the staff at Lululemon call “Hockey butt syndrome” and you get pocket puckering. His solution: instead of using a vertical pocket, we would use a horizontal or low angled pocket for my suit pants, which would keep them lying flat across the front of my body. On top of that, we would also use a double vent in the jacket rather than a single vent, because it would prevent a big open slit at the back of my jacket. BRILLIANT, and yet, super simple!
The science of style
As I continued my journey to find clothing, shoes, accessories and grooming choices that “worked” for me, I realized that what “worked” was not some sort of mystical art, but rather, a pretty logical choice. Most of my decisions around style were broken down into four key categories:
1 | Your body & physical features
“If you’ve got it, flaunt it”
We all have flattering features, and we all have what are perceived as “flaws.” Humans are generally hard coded with an idea of what is considered pleasing to the eye; these are some pretty fundamental rules such as symmetry and proportion, as well as more socio-cultural “learned” behaviours:
EXAMPLE: strength is often perceived as an attractive quality in men. Representations of strength can take the form of features like having broad shoulders or a strong, square jawline. Choosing a lapel style for a suit jacket that creates the illusion of broad shoulders, or a beard style that makes your jaw look stronger is, for lack of a better term, more
attractive to others.
When you make a style decision that compliments a natural feature you have, or balances off a less flattering element, then you’re playing to your strengths. This is one of the key things that professional stylists understand and the reason that TV makeovers can result in a person looking completely different in only a matter of 24hrs.
2 | Your daily life and activities
This one is a biggie, and often completely misunderstood: our style choices are not solely an aesthetic decision, they’re a practical one as well. We live our lives in clothing, we groom our hair/beard every day, so it’s important to make sustainable style decisions that fit into your life, and enable you to feel enjoyment from them rather than annoyance.
EXAMPLE: People who commute to/from work via public transit often experience extreme temperature variation in both winter and summer. The result: sweaty back syndrome. Choosing a breathable technical fabric, with layers clothing pieces, enables you to be comfortable AND look good.
These lifestyle factors include things like how your body moves throughout the day, your posture, your commute, whether or not you travel for work…the list goes on. Understanding this piece will make all the difference between style choices that don’t just fit your body, but fit your life.
3- Your style profile
This is what most people think of when you talk about style, but if you asked them to explain their style and it’s requisite parts, there’s a good chance you’ll get a blank face in return. In the Fitted approach there are 3 sub-elements that we take into account with a person’s style profile:
- Style type: preppy, creative, adventurer…we tend to have one primary style type, and one to two complimentary style types that we borrow from.
- Trend level: from classic/timeless to edgy/avant garde, we naturally develop a tolerance toward how trendy our style choices are, and stick with it once we’re there. It’s important to note that classic/timeless does not have to mean irrelevant, but in fact, classy.
- Formality level: this element is the one that tends to flex up and down the most depending upon the situation we’re in. Different people have a different range that they have to traverse when it comes to formality: from track pants on the couch, to the full Bond, James Bond tuxedo. Depending on what you do for work, your social life etc. you will have a range that you live within on the formality scale.
4- The logistics
This is a slightly more boring element, but still important to ensure that YOU, the customer, have a great experience. We need to understand factors such as budget, timeframe, as well as the level of maintenance you’re comfortable with.
Cumulatively, these four elements (plus a bunch of detail the next 2-3 layers down) form the science of style that we use at Fitted to recommend everything from a haircut through to a dress shirt. It’s important to note that our goal is not to end up with a bunch of carbon copy Ken dolls, but rather to cut through the confusion men face in making style decisions by providing them the best recommendations that they can choose from themselves.