The way we form our sartorial style depends on individuality, inspiration and intuition
Fashion: For many, the ‘f’ word summons reactions of reproach and disassociation. It is often thought of as a superficial industry built upon commercialised vanity and materialistic marketing. It brings to mind elitist luxury logos and fast fashions, promising prestige through instant gratification and rapid reinvention on trend.
So we quietly exempt ourselves from such trivial pursuits, safe in the security of an anti- establishment mentality, positioned in the neutral trim between satisfaction and compromise. Such nonchalant acceptance typically results in a subdued utilitarian wardrobe, optimised for comfort, commodity and coincidence, rather than success, where less than 10 per cent is actually utilised, and the remaining majority archived under the infamous misadventure of chance – also referred to as shopping.
But perhaps we are not to blame. Being born after the rebellious 60s, we are presented with a ready-to-wear world, already subscribed to the casual sartorial solution with no understanding of its defining opposite or how it arrived there. This is amplified by an absence of decisive intellectual property protection in the fashion industry, and the availability of low cost, low ethics production. Combined with a modern unfounded entitlement to instant success, we are left with pop-up trends now measured in weeks rather than seasons.
In seemingly cyclic and paradoxical fashion, the world of casual and disposable clothing has become an ugly new establishment, reflected by an ever growing appreciation of heritage brands and their perceived intrinsic integrity. With such shifting benchmarks, it is of little wonder that the fundamentals of dress, which carry far beyond simple presentation and dignity, are often merely assigned as an after thought.
Regardless of how well or ill received it is, ‘fashion’ as a form of creative change – will always be a necessary faux evil to facilitate the universal inclination towards differentiation and originality. However, such personal innovation and self assurance can only be derived from self awareness and learned knowledge. In the sartorial sense, this is primarily defined by the term ‘style’ in all its depth and meaning.
Sartorial style can be defined by three main components; architecture, articulation, and actualisation. These closely weaved attributes ultimately stem from expressions of individuality, intellect and dignity, respectively.
Style architecture being the most immediate and visual component, refers to the objective recognition of shape, colour, proportion and fit. It is a finely distilled balance, tailored to an individual’s body profile and determined by aspects such as length, width and cut. A common miscalculation of over-sizing can lead to shapeless tent torsos, slouching shoulders and boxy silhouettes that convey a pitiful adolescent carelessness. Successful colour combinations often combine base neutrals paired sparingly with analogous or complementary points on the Newton Colour Wheel. Mastering this process of preference evolves over time and accounts for the attributes of an item, but not its type.
Style articulation refers to the familiarisation of key categories and pieces. Such recognition dramatically simplifies the overwhelming abundance of clothing vocabulary, thereby lending a system for comparison and purchase. By focusing on menswear alone, such matters are resolved to comparative simplicity owing to a finite core of timeless staples from which most modern offerings are based upon. Fashion-forward novelty may attempt to compound nonsensical embellishments such as obsolete pockets, straps and buckles, while contorting cut to fit trend, but the base item essentially remains the same. Disregarding trends may lend wisdom and timeless appeal to a wardrobe, but no garment is truly exempt from time itself.
Style actualisation refers to purchase and upkeep. A purchase constitutes a balance of quality versus quantity with the dignity to live within one’s means. At one extreme, luxury brands allege to offer fine quality while openly inflating prices to establish and maintain exclusivity. At the opposite end, fast fashion brands offer greater consumer affordability coupled with unethical practices and quality measured in wash cycles. The decision of whether to invest in quality over quantity, or to subscribe to repetitive short-term unsustainability, is beyond a simple lifestyle choice. Regardless of this decision, garments like all other items, posses a finite service life, may require spare parts, and will certainly require upkeep. Affording the time to read a laundering label, deploy an iron, or place shoe trees, delivers readiness and self sustainability.
Ultimately, true sartorial eloquence is rooted in a personal understanding of individual style rather than the replication of pretentious rules or ephemeral trends. At its core, style is about inspiration, and is but another medium to communicate and reinforce identity through principles, values and beliefs. This may take the form of associative brand loyalty, or an interpretation of the unique social memory fashion holds by directly documenting history and tradition. For some, however, presentation can simply serve a humble intention to offer a higher standard of respect for others.
Image from: www.brooksbrothers.com
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