When thinking about style evolution you always focus on the evolution of trends, scenes and tendencies.
The purpose of this article is somewhat different. It aims at men’s individual style, its phases and personal evolution. I’m pretty sure this analysis would apply to a 19th Century Londoner as well as to the hip kid round the corner from Corso Como.
The truth is it has a certain autobiographical feel to it.
Phase 1: Curiosity
When men start getting curious about clothes they tend to feel a little bit lost. So much offering, so many things to take into account. Even with the boom of the online menswear world, it’s only natural that someone starting out feels just a tad insecure.
That’s why we see the guys initiating themselves in style with the basics, the wardrobe essentials, and always with a fairly safe approach. Most of the times money isn’t pouring so it’s important to buy the most versatile items with a decent price/quality ratio.
A navy blazer, grey trousers, a blue suit, a grey suit, black cap toes, white shirt, pale blue shirt, navy silk tie and so on.
It’s a good place to start, no doubt. In fact, it’s the natural place to start: the beginning.
Phase 2: Experimentation
Then you start to feel more comfortable and that’s when you begin to think out of the box. You experiment. A white linen pocket square, some colored socks, brown shoes, mixmatch blazers and trousers, bold patterns, new materials.
Money is not so much of a problem in this phase, so you embrace massive consumption habits. You buy a lot trying to emulate what you see in magazines and online. Different styles, different looks. You start to feel and look a bit cocky, a little peacock, thinking sprezzatura is your middle name.
In the final stages of this phase it’s not uncommon to witness some over-the-top looks.
Phase 3: Maturity
The “experimentation” phase can last longer or be very short depending on how fast you reach enlightenment.
You reach the maturity level when you realize that sometimes less is good, when you understand that an understated look can go a long way.
This is when you begin buying quality over quantity and you sort of go back to the basics, but with refinement, a completely different approach. By this stage you have already discovered what looks go on you, who you are “style wise”, so you stick to that. Your looks become a little more monochromatic because you know what colors accentuate you skin, you pay attention to texture and how to work it and, especially, you focus on proportions and fit. And, very importantly, you tame your sprezz.
You’ve reached style heaven and want to look comfortable while looking astonishing.
You, like Socrates, will always have space for learning and will continue experimenting, just in a different, more evolved, style mindset.
If you already reached phase 3, congratulations, you reached the top of the style chain.