Stylish Simplicity

In the often details-obsessed world of menswear, it can be too easy to fall into the trap of equating stylishness with being clever. In my opinion, it’s something we should constantly be aware of and guard against at all costs. I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen “clever” manifest itself as an attempt to be subtle that ends up simply drawing an unnecessary amount of attention to a particular detail. Subtly is a virtue, a practiced art. And, yes, it is possible to be obviously subtle—especially when subtlety becomes obvious.

Simple Style - He Spoke Style

For one reason or another, this is something that has been on my mind recently. And I felt as though it would a great topic to start a conversation about—it’s been a while since I’ve editorialized like this on the blog. Two things at the root of what I’m currently thinking about: when a style affectation becomes a trend and remembering that there can be stylishness in simplicity. Let’s start with the former.

Concrete example: contrast stitching on a blazer or overcoat’s lapel (or sleeve) buttonhole. Looks great on Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock, but it’s current ubiquity has transformed it from a quirky personal (albeit fictional) affectation to a trend. I’ve even seen respectable made to measure operations starting to offer ready to wear options featuring this detail. Obviously, trends are unavoidable and there are ways to adopt elements of them into your own personal dress even if you don’t consider yourself someone who follows trends. But what happens when a subtlety becomes a trend? And what does that project?

Stylish Simplicity Simple Style - He Spoke Style

Stylish Simplicity Simple Style - He Spoke Style

Second, a focus on details—in particular, attempting to be clever through subtlety—can often create a scenario where we can’t see the forest through the trees. In other words, instead of considering an entire look as a whole, a certain kind of details arms race begins to ensue that is less concerned with the overall effect than with the “wow factor” of a particular detail. I feel it is incredibly important to remember that simple can be stylish. And that confidence (and possibly a smile) can do more for personal style than any detail.

Stylish Simplicity Simple Style - He Spoke Style

Stylish Simplicity Simple Style - He Spoke Style

This Look: Blazer c/o Reiss – Shirt by J.Crew – Jeans by J.Crew – Pocket square by Brooks Brothers – Watch by Timex – Leather folio by Reiss (also love this one and this one) – Wingtip dress boots c/o Allen Edmonds (Dalton)

Let’s talk about this. Details, trends, and stylish simplicity. I’m really interested to get your take on these topics.

Thanks for reading.

Stylishly Yours,

He Spoke Style

Photography by Rob McIver Photo.
Location: Lamill Coffee at the Four Seasons.


Chime In

  • Tim

    Well said

    • Brian Sacawa

      Thanks for reading, Tim.

  • Joshua

    Interesting texture on the jacket–what’s that called?

    • Brian Sacawa

      Not sure exactly, Joshua. It’s reminiscent of a birds eye, though a bit more hatched and sort of a diamond shape on this blazer. Reiss definitely know texture. Thanks for reading.

      • Allan

        That blazer is one of my best purchases ever. A foundation piece. It has a very subtle two-tone color, and the texture is great – and shows up very well in the photos.

        • Brian Sacawa

          Awesome! Assuming you mean the one from Reiss in this post?

          • Allan

            Yes. That is the one I bought (on sale too!)

          • Brian Sacawa


  • Mihir Shah

    Great post. Yeah, it’s tough to know how to balance individuality with subtly. On the one hand, I love the classic menswear staples. On the other hand, I like those wilder outfits we see on The Satorialist.

    If you’re like me, there’s a dialogue in your head about wearing the classics with something a bit more statement making.

    For example, I just purchased these Grenson green wingtips for a killer deal.
    And I’m a little nervous about them. Is it subtle? Nope. But my thinking is if I can pair it with a monochomatic, slightly boring outfit, maybe they can be cool without being “showy.” I dunno. Sometimes I’ll be a bit too “peacock”and then get looks and start to lose confidence. And I can tell you loosing confidence in your outfit when you’re out and about in public sucks.

    As far as trends go, some are good and here to stay like slim fitting outfits and some need to die now,like the whole camo craze. No one but Nick Wooster looks cool in camo.

    Love these editorial think-pieces, Brian.

    • Brian Sacawa

      Great comment, Mihir. I think you really hit the nail on the head when you say that once you become self-conscious about an item you’re wearing that’s when it won’t work. It’s all about confidence.

      And yes, there are definitely ways to incorporate trends that you like into your personal style without appearing like your chasing the trends.

      Thanks, as always, for reading.

  • Mihir Shah

    Yeah, and the thing about confidence is that some of it is based off of the reception you get. In New York, having a wild outfit might be embraced as stylish, but in suburban Kansas you might be labled weird. So some of it is in context to who’s around you.

    • Brian Sacawa

      Definitely truth to geography playing a role in how certain things are received.

  • TerenceWright

    Brian, I think that you are Mihir have both hit the nail on the head there perfectly.

    For instance I am a current serving member of the British Army. They fashion stereotypes that are seen as the ‘Norm’ amongst the peer group I here, are the likes of ‘cuff’ jeans that hang so far off of the buttocks I’m surprised they even stay up, and hideous patten t-shirts.

    They all talk about the way I dress, and tell me that I am trying to be something that I am not… When the fact is, I am just being me – A person I am very proud to be! I am proud to be considered different, as everybody should be, really. So what if I am more comfortable wearing a shirt with a navy blazer than I am in joggers and a t-shirt?

    At the end of the day, simplicity is definitely in the eyes of the beholder, take Lady GaGa for instance, she wears whatever she feels comfortable in and what makes her happy!

    Another great editorial Brian, keep them coming.

    P.S. Sorry for the length of comment, turned into a bit of a rant.

    • Brian Sacawa

      Thanks, as always, for the great comment Terence. Being you is all you can do! Embrace it.

  • Matthew Pike

    truely the best shirt i own and i picked it up for $30 too. would buy again for sure, works with so many occasions.

    Mat @ Buckets & Spades

    • Brian Sacawa

      Thanks for reading, Matthew.

  • Owais

    I agree.. to most of the stuff.. if u carry off basics with confidence, u’ll look good … one does not need to pile things up (guilty of the crime though), but true that if you are too self-conscious of what you wear its gonna show.. there is nothing wrong in wearing what you are comfortable in as long as u do it well.. and change up within that

    • Brian Sacawa

      Right on, Owais. Thanks so much for reading.

  • Carlos Reyes

    Great website! I particularly like your three part article on the cotton khaki suit. I will be taking a trip to the west coast of the US and will also be going on an Alaskan cruise in the same trip. I have a wool blue blazer with gold buttons, (have you written about blue blazers with gold buttons?) 3 button blue jacket from a suit, 3 button blazer with blue buttons and a khaki jacket from my cotton khaki suit. Which one of these jackets should I bring on my trip ? I only want to bring one coz I need all the luggage space for my wife’s shopping. Thanks for reading my comment.

    • Brian Sacawa

      I’d go with the navy blazer, Carlos. Possibly one of the most versatile garments a man can have. Check out this post for some affordable options. Thanks for reading.

  • Daniel

    Brian, I was recently thinking about a variant of this post: what I call the “trying-so-hard to appear degagé-that they come off as quite engagé”…I was reading about several well-known Italian fashion icon gentlemen and how they embody the concept of sprezzatura. Yet as I was looking at photos of them in their element, I couldn’t help but think how every detail, from their non-posing poses to the way the obligatory cigarette was puffed on with squinty eyes, was almost staged and anything BUT non-chalant. Made me chuckle and vow to keep up my own efforts to incorporate the essence of their approach without the self-consciousness.

  • Matthew Hall

    I think one thing is for me, my body is a statement piece. Im 6’3″ and built like a nfl defensive linemen, so wild and flashy outfits tend to look redicilous on me. Given I attract enough stares fir being large, I really go for a understated look to play off my body

    • Brian Sacawa

      Always good to understand and dress your body type. Thanks for reading, Matthew.

  • Todd

    I see simplicity coming in a couple means to an individual. One, its about the amount of pattern in one’s dress (or lack thereof). A simple look in the items he wears can present a simplified look. You rocked this in your navy blazer, chambray shirt and solid jeans. All simple solid items that creates a simple solid look. Classic and simple.

    Others simple looks come with pattern but its about how those are put together in a simple way….maybe fewer items.

    I find that one’s on personal physical makeup can dictate how that simple look comes off. After years, I’ve realized that as much as I love pattern, I simply look better in solids. Others look good in pattern. You have to know yourself, as bottom line it’s about how the clothes make the man appear. Know yourself and what makes you look good in order to create the simple structured look.

    Thanks for the posts. I’m enjoying what you’re putting in here.

  • LAStyleGuy

    Absolutely correct re your simplicity point. Da Vinci said, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”

  • Walter

    Me gustó. Las fotografías ilustran todo el texto de una manera muy elegante.

    • Brian Sacawa

      Appreciate that, Walter. Have a great week.