HSS at Three: The Lost Art of Blogging

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Raising a glass to my team and all our readers who have helped make HSS the success it has become.

5 / 5
A good a time as any for the last Hoyo de Monterey Epicure No. 2 in my humidor.

What the hell happened to men’s style blogs?

I let the site’s two-year anniversary slip by last year with absolutely zero fanfare. But I didn’t want its three-year anniversary – which actually is today – to get the same treatment because I have a lot to put out there.

And the truth is that I’ve been anticipating and thinking about this post and how to write it a lot over the past few weeks. I’ve jotted down several pages of notes, had multiple conversations about what exactly it is that I want to say and fretted exhaustively over what tone I should (or shouldn’t) take. So I’m just going to lay all my cards on the table and say what I really feel: what the fuck has happened to men’s style blogs?

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Heavy, right? And certainly a statement that deserves some explaining and context.

Everything I’m thinking about has to do with what I feel the terms ‘blog’ and ‘blogger’ represent and how that’s changed and evolved over the past three years. Literally one day after I published my first post on HSS, Leandra Medine offered a prescient and pointed critique of the blogging business.

In it, she blamed a changing fashion industry and bloggers’ questionable integrity for the bastardization of the term ‘blog’ and posited that the way forward would include Darwinism at its best. So here we are three years later. Has anything changed? I really don’t think so. In fact, I’d say we’re even worse off.

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| WEARING | Suitsupply blazer, Neiman Marcus shirt, Banana Republic pants, Rolex watch, Leather cigar case c/o Ghurka, Tod’s shoes | PHOTOGRAPHY | by Rob McIver Photo

When Leandra wrote that post, the old-guard was up in arms over this new class of self-styled and self-made fashion “experts.” Who the hell did these people think they were? They didn’t pay their dues. They didn’t start at the bottom as an intern at a major fashion publication and work their way up to relevance and importance. But they get to sit front row and we don’t anymore? Fuck these bitches. All they are is popular.

The establishment was getting turned on its head and had to come to grips with a major recalibration and reality check. So it followed, logically, that these people – these bloggers – became the subject of much derision and ire. Add to that a shameless (and sometimes mindless) approach of not disclosing gifted items and sponsored content – a complete lack of transparency – and the terms ‘blog’ and ‘blogger’ began to acquire a very dirty connotation.

But whether fashion’s traditionalists liked it or not, blogs fundamentally changed their industry and have challenged and shaken up traditional advertising and long-established ways of doing things. And that change – the democratization of fashion – has, in my opinion, been an overwhelmingly positive one. It has given more or less regular people, myself included, an opportunity to share a passion, to participate in a global conversation, to have a seat at the table (or runway show) and to have a voice.

Of all of these things, the latter is the most important and where I think men’s blogs are failing miserably.

mens-outfit-idea-cigar-lounge-brown-plaid-blazer-gingham-shirt-smoking

I launched HSS during a time of unprecedented promise and excitement in the online men’s space. It was our moment. It was our time! (And it would be all over the second we rode up Troy’s bucket… A small bit of levity brought to you by this Goonies quote.) And the success of HSS and a handful of other upstart men’s style sites rested squarely on the merits and quality of one thing alone – our blogs.

In the three years since we launched, the changes in that model have been palpable. Many, if not all, of the bloggers I “came up” with have all but abandoned their blogs, in favor of cultivating an extremely narcissistic and self-aggrandizing social media presence – a new class of D-list Insta-celeb – and only posting to their actual blogs when their scope of work dictates they must.

Why do I think this has happened? Simple: blogging is hard. And there’s quick money if you’re a “social star.” Blogging requires thought. It requires planning. It requires the ability to write. It requires a host of other skills and proficiencies beyond the scope of simply possessing the ability to edit photos in VSCO (which, I will concede, can be something of an art).

So maybe Leandra was right. Maybe Darwinism has prevailed and those of us still grinding in the blogosphere – those of us who are still writing content because we have something to say, because we start conversations and listen to our readers, because we want to provide something useful and of value to the world, because our currency is brand loyalty and not the dollar, because we’d prefer to say “listen to me” rather than “look at me!” – have survived while the weak have been weaned off and are trying to find and reinvent themselves as something else. But whatever that something else is, let’s not confuse it with being a blogger.

And that’s really it. ‘Blog’ may have become a “dirty word” three years ago, but I, for one, would like to take back the term because what real bloggers do deserves some respect.

Thanks for reading.

Stylishly Yours,

Brian Sacawa
He Spoke Style

Chime In

  • http://www.thekentuckygent.com The Kentucky Gent

    Hit the nail on the head with this one. I’ve had similar conversations countless times with friends who also blog because they have something to say, not just because they’re looking to be the next Instafamous influencer.

    Everyone has a “blog” these days, but “bloggers” are fewer and further between.

    Josh | The Kentucky Gent
    http://thekentuckygent.com

    • http://hespokestyle.com/ Brian Sacawa

      Thanks, as always, Josh. Fighting the good fight.

  • tomas

    Great blog and great article,Keep up the great work.
    greetings from a Fashionable and Stylish Portugal!

    • http://hespokestyle.com/ Brian Sacawa

      Many thanks for the support, Tomas. Cheers.

  • http://www.tailormade-style.com DJ

    It can also be frustrating to appreciate the true art of blogging when it seems like the people who are ‘admired’ are the ones with huge social media followings but don’t actually BLOG. I started out looking up to you, Josh (who commented below) and Sabir M Peele from Men’s style pro and went about my blogging career from there because I knew you guys did it right.

    Being in the age group of the generation of instapopularity makes it even more frustrating. I appreciate this post and I’d love to chat with you through email to continue the conversation.

    DJ | Menswear & Personal Development

    http://www.tailormade-style.com

    • http://hespokestyle.com/ Brian Sacawa

      It’s like I said – are you saying “listen to me” or screaming “look at me”? Big difference. One approach creates something lasting and permanent, while the other is disposable. Keep your head down, do what you feel is right and play the long game. It will be rewarded.

      Appreciate the continued support, DJ. Thanks for reading and for your loyalty. Hard to find these days. Cheers.

  • Fabio Attanasio

    I totally agree with you Brian. Making money from posting photos on Instagram is way easier than having to actually say something to your readers. I wonder what these folks will do when Instagram will stop being the most popular social media platform. We’ll see.

    • http://hespokestyle.com/ Brian Sacawa

      It’s a question I’ve pondered as well. In the end, the only thing you own is your blog content. Not having a blog is like sitting on a three-legged chair. It’s going to get knocked over at some point. Cheers, Fabio. Keep up the great work.

  • Tom B

    Happy Anniversary, Brian! I’ve been following your blog ever since you decided to wear navy gingham for a year and you just keep getting better and better. Why? Because you have a dialogue – “something to say”, as you put it. Down-to-earth and elegant at the same time. And let’s not forget the “visual dialogue” – thanks to Rob and your other photographers. You’ve navigated each of the steps to your growth – sponsored content, guest contributors, the site reformat – honestly, adroitly, and with an ear to your readers.

    Keep up the good work, I’m looking forward to many more years (and more cocktail blog entries!).

    Tom

    • http://hespokestyle.com/ Brian Sacawa

      Tom! Thanks so much for the constant support, feedback and awesome comments. Are you subtly hinting that you think it’s high time we start getting more cocktails out into the world?

  • https://www.igeeokafor.com Igee Okafor

    Brian, congratulations on another powerful post. It thrills me to read a piece that clarifies one’s motivation, and how it translates to what they do. I appreciate that you are socially, and professionally aware, and it pleases me that you are able to give such opportunity for serious conversations such as this one.

    I recently was asked to answer questions on a fashion panel, and every time someone asked me for my advice as it pertains to blogging, I tell them to make sure that they have something meaningful, and tangible to say, or teach. That’s what will set them apart. Most people looking in from the outside think that all we do is take photos, and pose about how great we are. They don’t really know the amount of pressure that comes with keeping up a blog. I agree with you about all the attributes of blogging. It really is a full time job, and it takes the most passionate, and motivated people to excel.

    I think the key word here is, integrity. Thank you for sharing! You inspire me.

    Igee Okafor
    Style Enthusiast/Blogger
    http://www.igeeokafor.com

    • http://hespokestyle.com/ Brian Sacawa

      Thanks, as always, Igee. It may be something of a fault – or my inner hipster – but I have never been one to go along to get along or to seek the path of least resistance. It’s always been about building something lasting and building a brand that aligns with my personal values.

      Having been in this space for three years now, I can’t sit idly by and not open a dialogue about issues that I, and many others, face. If it makes some people angry, good. If it invites reflection and spurs positive action, even better. There is a massive disservice being done.

  • Yinka Jermaine

    WOW, this just sums up everything that makes you my favourite blogger. Keep it up Brian! Lovely post

    • http://hespokestyle.com/ Brian Sacawa

      That means a lot, Yinka. Thanks so much for the comment and for reading!

  • Daniel Linares

    Wow, That’s a powerfull and honest statement!
    It reflects how bloggers going for a bad way, looking for make some money and selling it, leaving your integrity.
    Amazing Post !
    Keep it up Brian!
    http://www.menfiesto-homme.com

    • http://hespokestyle.com/ Brian Sacawa

      Thanks for the support, Daniel. Cheers.

  • Jared Morgan

    I think you nailed it Brian, and this dialogue can be carried across to other industries. Quality vs. quantity. Why don’t more people do it? Because it’s hard. Precisely correct.

    • http://hespokestyle.com/ Brian Sacawa

      Thanks, Jared. I think it’s possible to do quality on a micro-level, but sustaining that and thinking big picture slash long-term is hard to do. Especially when you’re young!

  • http://mensstylepro.com/ Sabir M. Peele

    What’s Up Brian!

    As we both know, only the strong & dedicated survive in the “blogging game”. When creating that internal business model the new wave of blogger only looks at the “how can I make a quick buck” end, instead of a sustainable product.

    Your progression is a great model of how to build a blog & properly collaborate with major brands in your own voice. What bloggers need to learn to do is to stand up for themselves in regard to creative direction, instead of being dictated to by their “brand partners”.

    Anyway, Congrats Dude! I’ll swing down your way soon and grab a few drinks with you!

    Best,

    Sabir

    • http://hespokestyle.com/ Brian Sacawa

      Here, here, Sabir! Patience, dedication, respect, integrity and thoughtfulness is what it takes and they are true commodities nowadays. Maybe it’s a generational thing. Maybe we’re old school. There are lots of short attention spans out there so you’ve got to focus on what will last.

      And, yes, hit me up if/when you’re down in my neck of the woods. I’ve got the first round.

      Cheers.

  • http://www.michael84.co.uk Michael

    Hi Brian,

    First of all great post! It’s something which I have been thinking about for quite some time, and you hit the nail on the head with some of the points.
    I have my own thoughts on social media and the blogosphere, which I don’t think people really look at.
    The majority of the time I see them as if they’re 2 separate entities. Sure, you can have both, but what do you categorise yourself as? I see “social media influencers” with huge social followings who happen to have a blog (which has significantly less numbers) they blog once a month or even less; I don’t see these as bloggers, They’re social media influencers. The same goes for a YouTube vlogger who happens to have a blog; I see these as Vloggers who happen to have a blog. I am definitely a blogger with social media, rather than the other way around.
    Why do we have this? I think it’s partly because a great deal of people who have a blog had social media first, then decided they wanted to blog on the back of that. There’s also the point you made that it’s less work intensive, running a good blog is usually far more time consuming than social media; However I wouldn’t want to bash social media too hard, as that is also a skill, and does take time, just in different ways.
    The bloggers, the good bloggers, the ones who want to create great content will prevail, the web is nothing without great content, but social media…Who knows where we’ll be in 5 years time with that ;)

    Happy Anniversary HSS :)

    Michael
    http://www.michael84.co.uk

    • http://hespokestyle.com/ Brian Sacawa

      Hey, Michael. I definitely agree with some of what you say, but I think nowadays, building a website/web presence, you’ve got to have the complete package. And social is part of that. However, I believe social media should be used to amplify content and also to create a bigger picture of the entire brand/lifestyle/POV or what have you.

      Can someone be a compelling presence on just one platform? Absolutely! And can that translate across other platforms? Yes. But it takes work. For example, when we pivoted on the content we were making for Instagram, it almost became like having another blog. I love Instagram, but for me, it’s not a platform that allows me to tell the whole story that I want to tell.

  • http://sirbyronlaurent.com/ Lawrence Spivey

    Hello Brian,

    Great post by the way. I have followed you for a while and I have always been very impressed by your content. As a blogger as well, I think the best thing to do is hang in for the long haul and just let those so called bloggers who are in for the fame and “free stuff” to push themselves out by their own selfishness. Keep up the good work!

    Lawrence B Spivey
    http://www.SirByronLaurent.com

    • http://hespokestyle.com/ Brian Sacawa

      Yup, playing the long game. Thanks for chiming in, Lawrence and have a great weekend!

  • lowekeysole

    Hello Brian,

    I recently discovered this site while looking for a genuine menswear blogsite that posts more often than usually those who post when their scope of work dictates they must. This is the first article I’ve read from this site, & the fact that you’ve noticed the fact that Men’s style blogs are somewhat of a lost art is great to me. It means that you care about this blogsite & care to help novice men trying to enhance their style on a daily basis along with starting conversations based on your writing content. I truly appreciate that. I’ve wanted to actually blog my own journey of enhancing my style. With this article, I am aware that the upkeep of a blogsite is a job in itself but the rewards from teaching those who want to learn more if far more worth it. Thank you sir. Keep it up.

    Josh Lowe

    • http://hespokestyle.com/ Brian Sacawa

      So glad we could connect via this post, Josh. And I truly appreciate the comment and kind words. Good luck on your style journey and keep in touch!

  • KOBI KOACHMAN

    Great Post HSS! Blogging isn’t for everyone. I love this part – Blogging is hard. And there’s quick money if you’re a “social star.” Blogging requires thought. It requires planning. It requires the ability to write. The latter is highly essential though it can be learnt, but most importantly, a blogger has to be passionate about blogging else he/she can’t last long.

    • http://hespokestyle.com/ Brian Sacawa

      Thanks for chiming in, KOBI. Appreciate the support.

  • Dion Evans

    Hey there HSS… I have been following your blog for a while for those very reasons. Blogs should always be about content! You have that. I have an idea I have been mulling around for a Men’s Fashion blog that you have been inspiring for some time now and because of your post here I think it has pushed me into officially making it happen. Thank you for not only great fashion, but even better content.

    • http://hespokestyle.com/ Brian Sacawa

      Good for you, Dion. I wish you luck!

  • BillG

    Hello Brian,
    Fantastic piece, love what you are doing and what you believe in. It really does raise the bar of lifestyle standards. I do think though, that you can raise the bar even higher by dropping the F-bombs or in this case, not dropping the F-bombs. This is something I wish society as whole would reign in. Raise the bar in all facets so we don’t pass on any low standards to anyone we may influence.
    Bill Gros

    • http://hespokestyle.com/ Brian Sacawa

      Bill, it’s great to hear from you. And glad to see you’re still posting up some killer results. It makes me happy to see that little team we bootstrapped years ago still going strong. I still think about hopping back on the bike from time to time.

      You picked the wrong post to read based on your comment! I almost never swear, but I felt it was necessary in this instance to communicate the exact point and feeling I was trying to make. Point definitely taken, however. Cheers!

  • Lyle Eero

    Greetings Brian,

    Hope this comment finds you doing well and enjoying life (and the weekend as it were).

    As for your position on the status of the general menswear blogging world, I completely concur. It seems as though most are unwilling to put in the required effort to provide content that extends beyond the lazy and effortless “look what I’m wearing today + buy it here now” domain; something more studied, concise, practical, and ultimately insightful + helpful to those looking for an inspiration source that goes beyond a well edited photograph posted by a glorified Instagram star (which I’m beginning to think many of these so-called bloggers are).

    But I digress, because I do feel there is indeed room for these type of content posts/features – a time, place, and certainly an audience…but it should not be the only thing one posts and “blogs” about.

    Having said that, as a stylist, blogger, and style columnist myself, I do attempt to provide content that can truly help my readers (and clients) along their journeys of sartorial self-discovery, posts that say “listen to me” rather then “look at me” as you so frankly noted. Alas, I do find it difficult to capture and incite the attentions and imaginations of the average man/reader these days (many of which seemingly appear to be part of the ever growing instant gratification induced world, no?)

    Nevertheless, I am certainly in it for the long haul (something we share) and will continue to attempt to be a dependable source that provides content that reaches far beyond what can be said to have become the customary modern industry standard: the “Instagram photo transferred onto a blog” post. In saying that, it may often take me upwards of a week to research, craft, and style my posts/features for my blog, but I feel it’s worth every moment; that the personal gratification that accompanies the work outweighs any mere monetary gains or narcissistic jolts to ones pride (which I feel that no amount of “likes” can truly bestow upon a gent).

    Keep up the great work Brian!

    Cheers and kind regards,

    Lyle Eero

    http://www.monkandeero.com

    PS. I came upon your blog in the “Men of Thift” weekly newsletter (which, if I may add, I am also commonly featured within) and you can count me as a supporter from here on out Brian.

  • http://www.bucketsandspadesblog.com/ Matthew Pike

    For myself, who has been blogging around the subject of style (amongst other things) since 2008, I can see things have changed a heck of a lot. But, as you mentioned, it the past 3 years things have taken a shift from the traditional blogger, to social media superstars, and just know for one channel. I think there’s goods and bads within the argument of that, but think have evolved, and the old school guys out there are trying to adapt, but maybe at the same time adpoting some of these new “bad habits” – which can lead to throw-away projects, and ill-advise content. I’m not sure if there’s an answer, but I love your senitment of taking it back. Let’s do this.

    Buckets & Spades

  • http://thefashionformen.com/ centimo123

    Hi Brian,

    Yeah true…Blogging is very hard, not for everyone.
    For common people, it never be a quick money. But, with hardworking and consistent writing, you can achieve that

    Regards
    The Fashion For Men

  • http://www.unkeptgentleman.com Unkeptgentleman

    Brian! Big fan,

    I must admit. I began my blog 1 year ago, with the intent on running a “shop the look” site. Why not, right? It was the cool thing to do. It’s what was being flaunted when I entered the community. They were the “D-list insta-fame” guys as you described, but for a newcomer like myself, it looked legit.

    In that year, I learned a ton about actually providing valuable content, as opposed to the “look what I am wearing” mantra that currently floods the menswear community. (mainly instagram – myself included).

    The game changer for me was when I started working for Antonio over at Real Men Real Style.Talk about “paying my dues” when it comes to learning how to provide valuable content.

    I will still keep the “shop the look” section for the people who want quick links (because honestly there’s a huge audience for that, which is why you see the rise of the insta-fame menswear blogger) but I have added a whole new section about teaching that gives me a voice.

    Anyways, sorry for the long winded post. I appreciate your stance on the matter as I am walking a line that straddles both sides of this dilemma. Hope to see you at StyleCon if you can make it out!

    -Travis
    Unkept Gentleman