Finding Your Personal Style (Without Following Fashion)

finding personal style, personal style, jazz, thelonious monk, monk, bebop

by theslowman

Why should the Slow Man concern himself with finding your personal style?

The answer is in something I will repeat frequently as I work my way through this slow chamber of secrets: beware of the fast, cheap, and easy — it rarely ends up being any of the three. That goes for style as well.

Style is hard. Achieving a sense of style, finding and maintaing a balance within it – none of it is easy. Trying to do it cheaply cheapens yourself. Any fast attempt at it will lead you down shortcuts that will deprive you of the joy of learning about yourself. Finding your personal style isn’t easy, but it’s worth it.

And when I talk about finding your personal style, that means more than clothes. All of this counts for communication, making music, writing, doing business, any place in our lives where your personal style sets you apart and helps define who you are.

Do I have all the answers? No. If I did I wouldn’t be typing my thoughts away on this brisk November night in pursuit of figuring it out myself. I’d be swinging in a hammock on the beach in Turks & Caicos because I’d be comfortably rich off this knowledge.

Still, I have been spending a few years thinking about this concept from a few different directions. I haven’t cracked the perfect code for finding your personal style, but I definitely have some advice to share. Want to hear it? Here it goes:

Don’t Follow Fashion

fashion fail


In my opinion, fashion is antithetical to style. Too often the two are intermingled and identified as cohorts. When it comes to the art of putting clothes on yourself, this guilt by association has kept people away, people who could benefit from finding and reflecting their personal style. Why shouldn’t everyone look good? Why should it be only the “fashionable.”

Style is a reflection of the individual. Fashion is a reflection of a multi-billion dollar industry that cannot exist if you don’t feel agitated, unsure of your standing, or eager to keep up with everyone else. Fashion fades. Style is everlasting.

Know Thyself

When it comes to the clothing side of style one of the biggest lessons I learned is you must know yourself first. One of the easiest, but often overlooked ways to do that is to take your measurements. I’m talking everything: from hat size all the way down to your shoes.
Once I decided to get my proper measurements, a lot of barriers fell away.

After measuring up, from there you understand why you need to get your pants and your sleeves hemmed (especially for a short guy like me). You know that coats don’t have to drape down your shoulders and make you look like a little kid in a big man’s security guard blazer. Things just start to fall into a fitting place.

The simplest way to look better in clothes is to make sure they fit.

Talk About It

This idea, in particular, goes out to the guys. We have a harder time with this stuff because we don’t talk about it. Women do and they share advice and help each other out. Style is a more fluid process for women, if I may be so bold as to make such a sweeping statement.

For men out there, there’s a lot to gain by talking about your desire to find a style – your friend is probably secretly thinking about it too. Dudes need to help each other out. It’s time to take the shame out of wanting to not look like a schlub.

Embrace the Challenge

In the pursuit of style, there should be a balance between comfort and challenge. Too often people make excuses for how they dress, communicate, and comport themselves by a measure of what makes them feel comfortable. Just think about how often we sit in the comfort zone and how few opportunities to grow we have by staying there.

Small example: I used to think to dress “well” you had to wear black. I think I also believed it made matching clothes a lot easier. Still somewhere down the line I decided to invite more earth tones in my life and I haven’t looked back. Now, I’m getting into the challenge of matching browns and blacks. The challenge make it interesting.

Finding Your Own Style

So what can you do, today, to take a step further in achieving your personal style? Here’s a few tips:

  1. Look around you, find the visible themes that you believe reflect who you are. Are there textures you like more than others? Colors? Do you like metal and woods better than soft and plush? Write all of this down, take pictures, make some kind of record of your preferred aesthetic and think about how it plays into your clothes, your communication style, your writing even. If none of your favorite things are coming out in the way you express yourself, you probably have some work to do.
  2. Go out and get measured. If you don’t feel like going to a tailor ask someone you know to help you out. There’s a ton of info online about taking measurements, especially on the many bespoke services that have popped up online in the last few years.
  3. Find a partner in your pursuit for style. In the clothing arena there are a lot of great resources and forums online. I like to avoid the fashion-forward ones myself and veer towards people talking about practical and affordable ways to improve your style. (look in the blogroll to the right for a few of my favorites) There’s no reason for anyone to be thinking about a $5,000 suit when you don’t know the basics about the fabrics they’re made of.
  4. Face your fears. Afraid of looking like you’re trying to hard? (That’s a good fear to have, by the way.) Think you can’t wear certain colors? Make a list of these things and consider it your challenge list. I used to avoid bright colors like the plague but am now starting to get into finding small ways to add them into my wardrobe. I would never wear a yellow blazer, but a pair of yellow socks is a nice way to add a little something-something without going overboard.

I want to underline that I don’t believe in style for style’s sake alone. I look at it as a way to put my stamp on everything I do. In the course of a day, I communicate messages to others around me in thousands of ways – from the way I shake your hand to the shoes I wear. Being aware of all this is just another way to slow down and be present in the process of being me.

What are you doing to find your personal style?

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }


Wow. Going where few men have dared to go!



proof that fashion is expensive, but style is priceless.


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