Iconic Menswear

Browsing through the internet recently, I stumbled upon the above photo. While grinning at the monitor, a colleague came by. Oblivious to its context the guy pointed at Harvey Keitel and said „I bet that is their lawyer and he just got them out of prison, didn’t he?” Feeling a bit sorry for the guy, „Sort of…” was all I could say. But he did have a point. Looking at Harvey’s clothes what other conclusion could someone reach. Which made me wonder…

Have you heard about the Implicit Association Test /IAT/? Basically, it measures your uncontrolled /unconscious/ reactions towards stereotypes. What it reveals is that one can act without bias, and still below the surface his brain is constantly putting labels to its surroundings. „This guy earns a lot”, „That woman must be bossy”, „He must be blind. Why else wear that tie!?”. The simple truth is we are all prone to prejudice. Whether our stereotypes have their genetic roots, whether they are reinforced and preyed upon by aggressive advertisers or just help us filter the abundance of information we are presented each day, one thing is for certain – stereotypes are all around us and they are here to stay.

So even if you don’t like it, you are being snap judged each day. By your hair-style, by your posture or tone of voice and most certainly by your clothes. In fact studies show that some clothes provoke such strong associations in our minds that seeing them on someone could override a racial prejudice. Some clothes have long ago transcended their basic function of weather protection. They’ve become symbols. Symbols from which we can’t help but spring to conclusions on the character and personality of those who wear them.

And those familiar with the above make use of such iconic clothes. Because they know that every detail matters, right down to your socks.

The Dress Shirt

dress-shirtSmart, sensible, successful, high earner . All words used by a group of college students, when asked to describe a photo of a guy wearing a dress shirt. If you are looking to represent the „good guy” image this is the right place to start, and for a reason. For centuries the shirt has been in the wardrobe of official bodies and their representatives. Think of a policeman and you are probably picturing someone wearing a neatly pressed white or blue shirt. Think of a banker and below the silk suit you will see the perfectly fitting, long sleeve shirt with shiny cuff links. Our associations are so strong that they take over by seeing just parts of a dress shirt. A collar protruding over ones sweater would make us unconsciously inflate the wearer’s social status.

So the question isn’t really „Should I buy a shirt?”. Its more like „How many?”. Every guy should have a couple in their wardrobe for those situations when he wants to be perceived as neat, more confident and successful. Which type is entirely up to you. And if by any accident you’ve never wore a shirt here is a great guide on how to choose the right one. As for where to buy from, the new spring collection from Bonobos offers some outstanding models. With such a great choice of dress shirts you are bound to find those which will compliment your personal style.

Still not convinced you will wear it? Don’t buy it for you then. In a recent survey women were asked what was their favorite thing to borrow from their men. Guess what was number one on the list and by a big margin – „his button down shirt”.

The Leather Jacket

mens-leather-jacketWhat do Tom Cruise in Top Gun, Mel Gibson in Mad Max and Harrison Ford in Indiana Jones have in common, besides their deep inability to conform? You guessed it – they all wear leather jackets. And the list of blockbusters, where the leather jacket hits the spot light goes on and on: Terminator, Fight Club, The Matrix… In fact the leather jacket has become an integral part of the uniform of the rebel, the maverick, the true adrenaline junkie. And Hollywood’s love for the leather jacket is not an accident either.

To underline a certain trait of his character an actor often relies on symbols which are deeply rooted in our subconscious. These symbols can be anything from an animal to a certain object. Anthony Hopkin’s Dr. Lecter, for example, was still and never blinking like a cat. Or take the revolver of Roger Murtaugh in Lethal Weapon, which was used to emphasize him being conservative and old fashioned. So what is so special about the leather jacket to bring it to the movies?

In the early 1900’s leather jackets were worn by aviators and military men. While pilots praised it for the warmth it provided in high altitudes, in the eyes of common men the leather jacket became something more. During World War I the life expectancy of a war pilot was six weeks, the planes were infamously unreliable and on top of everything, no parachutes were given to the pilots. It was only natural that those who dared to fly became the living embodiment of  courage against all odds. And just like the knight’s armor became a symbol of honor, the leather jackets became associated with the bravery of those who wore them. No surprise then that to reinforce the image of a „larger than life” character actors and directors employed the leather jacket.

Even beyond Hollywood productions, the guy living on the edge and the leather jacket go hand in hand. So if that is the image you are looking for, look no further. The leather jacket is nothing less than an iconic symbol of the „bad boy”.

The Tie

”A well-tied tie is the first serious step in life.” – Oscar Wilde. Whether you subscribe to that sentiment or not, the fact is this – once you put on a tie people’s opinion of you immediately shifts. You are probably guessing by now that there is a good reason for that as well.

mens-tiesThe history of neck-wear can be traced as far back as the Roman empire where it was part of the soldiers’ uniform. Later, during the Thirty Year’s War /1618-1648/, knotted neckerchiefs were made famous by the Croatian mercenaries. During the same period, the French king Louis XIV started wearing a lace neck-wear /a cravat/ and was immediately followed by the French nobility. Ultimately neckties were meant to symbolize the belonging to a certain distinguished group. Wearing one, signaled that you are not part of the common folk. In broader terms it is much the same today, when wearing a tie immediately puts you somewhere on the business group ladder. The fancier the tie higher you are that ladder. Also, in our minds ties are intricately connected to suits, which in turn are a worldwide accepted symbol of class and style. Furthermore, ties are essentially purposeless. That makes them an accessory more than anything else. As such we perceive them as an expression of ones personality and are prone to paying more attention to their wearer. That is why choosing to wear a tie is a strong signal in itself. Choosing the right tie will drastically change how others see you.

I am well aware that for guys, staying on top of fashion trends is generally further down our priority list. Some of us even feel that paying too much attention to ones appearance is pure vanity and suggests a shallow personality /which is a popular stereotype, by the way/. For better or worse, though we are people above anything else. And as such 70% of our brains is dedicated to interpreting visual stimuli. Naturally clothes, colors, patterns are among the first signals we send to our observers. Making use of that knowledge could go a long way in your career, love life and not to mention your own mood.





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