Magazines like GQ and Esquire are meant to improve the lifestyle and look of their readers; this is more or less their stated goal. But for all the intelligent comments they have to make about the curvature of famous women’s bodies and which whiskey is absolutely worth $5000 more than you’re willing to spend, they also tend to subscribe to a rather maximalist philosophy on menswear, with their models often looking both fantastic and completely overdressed for almost any occasion short of a Lapel Width Seminar or Bared Ankles Potluck.
Even with the progressive acceptance of man’s inherent fanciness that has caught on heavily in the past 10 years or so, the idea of making an “outfit” rather than merely getting dressed remains intrinsically feminine. A man who looks good is feted, but a man who primps and preens is hardly considered a man at all. If you want to be stylish, but don’t want to look like an up-and-coming British DJ, the key is to limit your affectations.
An affectation, of course, is anything that you have absolutely no reason to be wearing. In small doses, they’re the stuff of intangible cool – a glinting tie bar, an opened cuff peeking out of your sleeve, you get the idea. Often there’s no reason to have these things, but they represent a conscious effort to persuade people to look your way.
Man’s natural inclination with good things is to pile them on top of each other. Hot dogs with bacon wrapping, kiddie pools full of jello with beautiful women having amiably non-competitive “fights” inside them, The Crunchwrap Supreme…you get the idea. Using this tactic with affectations, however, quickly leads to disaster.
The more you demand to be seen, the less people will see you. A tie bar is great, but if that tie bar is on top of a knit tie with a contrast tip that is in turn on top of a gingham shirt that is covered by shawl-collar jacket that you’ve decided to “set off” with a pocket square (which I’m sure you’ve matched to that gingham shirt), you may end up looking suave, but you’re more likely to end up looking like a vaguely man-sized aggregation of fabric swatches. A man should have style without swimming in it; an affectation or bold color is only noticeable if it’s standing out amongst an otherwise subtle, classic look. The man who forgets this runs the serious risk of walking around with a look so loud it’s practically screaming “FASHION!!!” at anyone who casts an instantly confused look their way.
So when the good folks at Esquire and GQ see fit to reveal 2013’s hot new styles, save up your $230000 and by all means buy them, but handle them like extremely powerful drugs. Take one and you’ll be walking on air. More than that and you’re probably in over your head. And whether you have taken too many drugs or too many sartorial indulgences, people can tell.