We would like to thank Tanner Guyzy of Masculine Style for this interview on the philosophy of men's style. Tanner Guzy has been writing passionately about the 'why' behind why we dress the way we do, for over 10 years. Please feel free to head over to Masculine Style and read his extensive blog on the philosophy behind men's style.
What a person chooses to wear directly affects every other aspect of their life.
You see this throughout history in several ways, the way that you present yourself categorizes you to a group – whether you like it or not. However, to dress better does not make you better, it only enhances the foundation that you have built for yourself.
You choose to wear what you do because you have been inspired, one way or another, by someone or something that you admire. You present yourself the way in which you would like to be perceived. Want to appear more threatening or strong? There’s a look for that. Even the most masculine names in history spent time putting together their perfect ensemble – they created their look, they owned it and you remember damn near every aspect. You admire it.
Do you consider yourself apathetic and an exception to the rule? Think again. The very act of “not caring” about your style and wearing “whatever is clean” is a look. There’s no avoiding it.
In ‘The Appearance of Power: How Masculinity is Expressed Through Aesthetics’, Tanner Guzy of Masculine Style illustrates exactly why this is so. Not only does he go into detail about why your clothing matters but he brings relatable examples to the table and makes a new sense of style seem attainable.
A: What was it that made you decide, “Okay, this book is necessary”?
T: After writing on the subject for almost ten years it started to become apparent that there were a lot of consistent trends and patterns to the material I was covering. Almost every single post or video was interconnected with so many others that it started to seem like there wasn’t an option not to make a book. Pair that with a couple of other variables like the fact that I take a more cerebral and philosophical approach to this stuff (a book is the ideal format), nobody else has written a book covering this topic in the same way, and that a book adds a certain level of gravitas we still don’t get from videos or website posts, and it was a fairly easy decision to write it after that.
A: “It’s all too easy to believe that dressing well, caring about style, or putting more than basic effort into grooming and appearance is effeminate” – this is a huge drawback for men today. They are terrified to take a step in a new direction. Do you think that the social stigmatism for dressing well is more pronounced in today’s society than throughout history?
T: I do. I’ve waffled between different theories about the Baby Boomer rebellion in the late 1960’s, a decrease in the rigidity of how masculinity and manhood are described, fears about being perceived as gay, and a more blue-collar resentment of metrosexuals and fashionistas in general. All of these have their place and contribute to this idea. Thankfully, it seems like we’re starting to pull out of it and more and more men are realizing that a concern for appearance and being masculine are not mutually exclusive. [There are many examples] of previous cultures wherein men clearly cared about the way they dressed and presented themselves, the book is full of them and I consistently post more on Twitter (@tannerguzy).
Throughout the course of his book Tanner lays out six strategies to help men reach their goals of being well-dressed, and like all of Guzy’s advice, each is tailored to their own personal lives and personalities. Guzy believes that by utilizing these six strategies achieving personal style is completely attainable.
Choosing a look that works well with the shape of your body. Just because you may not have the perfect body should not discourage you from trying to look your best. Build up the features that you do have, learn what works best for you.
Visual representations of attitudes and beliefs. A great way to think about this would be considering your level of conservatism.
Are you rugged, refined or rakish? Courtesy of www.masculine-style.com
Which group of people do you most want to fit in with? We all want to be associated with a group in some form or another. The clothing that you choose can relay mastery within certain subjects, this helps like minded people relate to you more during first impressions.
Dressing according to tribe can have a profound impact on your sense of style.
What you like, on a basic level. This is an answer that only you can give.
Where you live and what you are planning to do directly impacts the kind and style of clothing that you choose to wear. You would not wear a three-piece suit to play softball in Honolulu, right?
A Linen Suit will probably suit you best in a warmer climate such as Honolulu, HI! Courtesy of www.theknot.com
How much time and energy you feel that your appearance deserves.
The foundation and ideas that grow from finding the answers to these questions is enough to define a person, and isn’t that what you want? You want to be able to present yourself in a way that truly shows who you are and what you believe, but also look your best.
That is exactly what it means to dress well. There are no two people who share every single interest, shape, and aesthetic idea – so why should they dress the same? Yes, there are people out who there who can help you move in the correct direction and share with you what matches and what they think is the most aesthetically pleasing, but it is up to you to make sure that the look and style fits your life.
Colors and styles are great indicators of a personality and you can use these tools to help onlookers decide if you are approachable.
A: Out of the six strategies outlined in your book, which do you think is the biggest challenge for men today?
T: The third one - Tribe. This used to be a lot easier because our tribes were created by things like country, religion, race, social class, language, and a lot of other things that were not very fluid or easy to change. Now, none of that really seems to matter and our identities come more from things like if we’re Apple or Android fans, what kind of music we listen to, and what our favorite series on Netflix is - superficial stuff that really doesn’t create much of an identity once you are out of your early 20’s. Which is not to say there aren’t still distinctions. The tech world has a very different expectation of appearance than Wall Street, which is different from a motorcycle club, and that’s different from a bunch of artists living in Queens.
Each of these groups still have a uniform - however loose or rigid it may be - and those are often easier to navigate. Where things get tricky is for the men who don’t really feel like they belong to any sort of group at all. They don’t get their identity from their career, or their hobbies, or musical tastes, let alone more important things like those of times past. These men will feel like they have no rules on what they should or should not wear and, rather than this being liberating, it becomes overwhelming. When there are infinite options and no apparent way to decide which is better, it’s not freedom - it’s hell. So a lot of these guys will just dress the way they always have. As long as they don’t look ridiculous, they don’t think much more about it. But it means they’re ignoring a ton of opportunities on the table.
A: How often do you think that it is necessary to reevaluate your personal style?
T: This is a great question - one I haven’t gotten before. It’s easy to look at big life milestones like going to college, landing your first real job, or changing industries - and a lot of the time, those big changes almost require an upgrade. Think about the middle-aged guy who just got divorced and is getting back into the dating pool. Apathy about his appearance is now a liability because he has to compete for attention again.
But I’d say it’s even more important than just those major milestones. Hopefully we’re all growing and evolving year by year, rather than staying stagnant once we’ve crossed off things like gotten married, set in career, etc. The great thing about having a style that’s an external expression of an inward identity is that it becomes very easy and natural to have it evolve as you do. You start to recognize that there’s a disconnect between what you’re presenting and who you are. I’ve noticed this myself in the past two years and it’s been a lot of fun to expand my own style to match the other expansions in my life.
No one should look like he peaked in high school (or college, or any other period). Jerry Seinfeld talks about dads who dress like they did in the best year of their lives and that year should be this year. And next year it should be next year. That doesn’t mean you need to be following the latest trends, but it does mean you shouldn’t look like the rest of the world has passed you by and you are trying to hold onto the glory days.
When reevaluating your style, it is vital to consider this advice. Is who the person that you really are inside being reflected by what you adorn your body with on the outside? Style is not meant to be a cookie recipe for a gingerbread army of clones, we are all different and we should embrace that.
For more information on Tanner Guzy (and to grab his book), head over to appearanceofpower.com