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.
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?
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.