Friday, December 16, 2011

The Idea of a Personal Uniform

The more I learn, the more I want to forget...
As I've become exposed to more and more brands, and built a great diverse closet, the more now I'm looking towards the simpler [clothing] life.

The idea has taken shape over the last few months with thoughts of all the excess, trends, fads, whatever you want to call it.  It's not that I don't love learning anymore, discovering new brands and the story of their evolution, it's more of the fact that I'm tiring of the idea of men looking at style as the acquisition of a singular item, brand, and or even a "look".

I think it's awesome that guys are starting to care more and more about how they look, the clothes they buy, and the style they want to achieve. For me however, I'm really starting to adopt an idea and think of my style in more of the terms of a presence, maybe even a sort of uniform, and actually adopting a more stringent regimen. 

Case Study: Think of the past icons, and trust me I know its overused, but look at McQueen, Brando, Newman... most of the time you saw them in casual staples, denim, tees, crewneck sweatshirts, boots, etc.  Yes they wore suits, but they were also famous and that was part of the gig. Then look at when they were photographed anywhere but the red carpet, it was always in staples.  Those standout garments/pieces, or "grail status" shit that everyone now seems to be trying to attain, (Persols, that badass trench coat, those Rolex's) those things were always used and worn sparingly and appropriately.

This sort of thinking has made me wonder what a regimen might entail for myself:

  • Denim - a nice pair of dry straight cut 5 pocket denim, wear until destroyed, buy another
  • Shirting - blue/white OCBD's, slim fit shirts that are long enough to tuck and I'm ready to roll
  • Socks - if needed,
  • Belt - I basically only wear the same natural leather one so I'm set
  • Watch - buy a great automatic, put on and forget
  • Navy Blazer - probably would have a few styles and patterns, but sticking to navy would be easy and always appropriate, might live life on the edge and mix in a charcoal every once in awhile
Here's what I think I would switch up daily:
  • Ties
  • Footwear
  • Outerwear
Like I said, I've been thinking about it, I haven't adopted it, and don't know if I will... but I'm thinking about it.

With my own style I've always had a simple goal...
"I never really want to be noticed when walking into a room, but always remembered after I've left."  

I think dressing in a way that's not always brand, label, or trend driven, but more focused on fit, matching your personality, and ultimately helping you feel truly comfortable in your clothing is the path to real style.  I just hope more men can figure that part out.


David D Hall said...

It always seems like a great idea.
A great pair of jeans, two pair of trousers, two sportcoats, two other jackets, four (blue,white,some check and a vertical stripe) shirts, two sweaters, a great pair of boots and a couple pair of shoes.
--But I think for a lot of guys there is this constant desire to upgrade... kindof like a cell phone. You only really keep one, but you end up with a pile in a drawer somewhere... you keep upgrading the same things over and over.
I would like to get to a point where I am happy with the VERSIONS of those staples I have. I think for me that's the trick.

kappy said...

I like it and I like where you're coming from. A lot of the "men's style sites" started with a message similar to the one you just posted but have somehow morphed into these unintentional guerilla marketing brand whores. At one time preaching the value of and explaining the basics, now telling you that you for sure need a pair of "slimmmed down cargo pants" (, I don't. Please stop trying to tell me cargo pants are legit. They are not legit.).

I'm thinking a big key to guys being able to do what you're describing is to not let themselves be so susceptible to the marketing. God bless sites like Valet, because I think they do an awesome job, but everyday they show some new "staple" that "every guy needs." (fair isle sweaters are cool, but they are not necessary). Well, if they're doing that 260 days a year, that ends up being sort of misleading.

Brett said...

Kappy, I think the answer is that most sites feel the pressure to produce content and that's why they overload you with constant garbage. It's not going to help your page views if you keep saying, "It's fall again. That classic parka you had last year will work."

And David, what I've learned (from Ryan better than anyone) is that there are 2 kinds of menswear: The kind that get worse with age and the kind that get better with age. If you buy the right stuff, the upgrading happens automatically as your wear it. No one will stop to ask you where you got those Seven jeans or those Cole Haan Nike Air Loafers, but people will ALWAYS ask about your Rogue Territory Stantons or your Alden Wingtips. Also, why spend $80 for a garbage shirt at Banana Republic that every guy in a cubicle (and sadly many in corner offices) wear, when you can get much better stuff for that price or just a bit more?

The cost of some of these things can be an issue, and that's where eBay and patience comes into play. Also, there are a few bloggers like Ryan and Brad that focus on value.

James said...

I did something similar with my wardrobe very recently-- I started caring about my clothes about a year ago, and, being somewhat suggestible, things quickly spiraled out of control.

Now, having sort of gotten my feet wet for a year I pared down to essentials. My list looks not unlike your list.

I also pared down the blogs I read, and largely eliminated the ones whose chief function is to sell you stuff every couple of days. Often you look at your blogroll and find that 90 percent of the posts are glorified product endorsements. You're one of the ones that stayed, so... yeah. Stay classy.

Jason A.S. Hsu said...


You've always done a good job of candidly expressing your opinion. Your seemingly frank, terse, and slightly coarse mien complements the words. With regard to this subject, I wish I did a better job of articulating my thoughts.

I agree with everything you've said here. In the past year, summer excluded, I pretty much dialed things down to a pair of raw, four blue and four white OCBD's. Outside of switching belts, shoes, watchbands, and outerwear, for the most part, I wear the same thing every day. I think it's representative of an adherence to principle, consistency, and attention to detail. Yeah, there's a ton of cool shit out there, but that's just what it is- cool shit. A look. A trend. Etc. This isn't to say that my uniform is finished, it's not, but I have a good idea of the finished result when the time is right.

While in line for coffee today, one of the best dressed females in the school, a 2L, complimented my scarf, and then extended it to the way I'm "always dressed." I was flattered more by her diction than her thought and I believe it's a sign that I've begun to establish that familiarity; a distinct presence.

"We convince by our presence." (Whitman)

It's long been my favorite quote and something I've sought to live by. Adapting the way I dress, through a uniform, is just one more thing I've done to try and fulfill that idea.

trip said...

I did this a few years ago mostly because I hated seeing old pictures of myself and thinking "What was I wearing?" For me, it's basically khakis or jeans (khaki shorts in the summer) and an OCBD. I mix up the shoes, belts (though I usually wear my monogrammed engine-turned belt), and outerwear. In the summer I incorporate more madras/seersucker shirts, and in the winter it's more plaid and wool shirts, but OCBD is the go-to (I think I have 7 or 8 blue oxford cloth shirts). It's a very versatile formula and very easy to make it dressier, preppier, more rugged, etc.

Mike said...

Good post Ryan! I think it's easy to get wrapped up in menswear trends and styles. If you follow menswear trends at all, it is constantly revolving and changing. In my opinion 80% of it is way too "out there" for my liking. If I read this right it seems like you are talking about getting back to the basics. A few great button downs, plain t's, trousers, raw denim, (and in your case) a shit load of quality shoes/boots, then you will have a wardrobe that will outlast any trend. I think it's easier to be more comfortable with yourself if you're comfortable with what you're wearing.

A pic on your Travelwell site that stands out in my mind is of the screen printer (northerngrade) with the ink on his denim. Here is a guy that is truly wearing his work, white t and worn denim. Guaranteed he is in his comfort zone and his clothes tell a story about him. Not brand new, but roughly polished.

I really enjoy following your blog and have gained a great deal of knowledge through all your posts and reviews. Keep it up and, I for one, am looking forward to where this simpler style "reboot" is going to take you and us, your readers.

Great things are near, good luck.

Ryan E. Plett said...

thanks guys for the comments, you guys all have great points. -RP

samuel ross said...

i've always called this idea "dressing like a cartoon character." how many cartoon characters do you know of that switch up their style on the daily? i can't think of any. stick with what, "what works" is what we're all trying to figure out. right?

Jack said...

Ballsy post, especially for a fashion 'insider' like yourself.

Your comment about "men looking at style as the acquisition of a singular item, brand, and or even a 'look'" is spot on.

Unfortunately, embracing the "uniform" position taken here might be difficult to do as a menswear blogger, etc.

Chris said...

This idea reminds me of going to see my grandfather when I was a kid. It seemed he wore the same thing everyday...jeans or overalls, blue OCBD and old brogans. Your "regimen" looks spot and changing up ties, footwear and outerwear will allow you to express your own personal style.

Good thoughts and a good post.

Samir Benouar said...

There's something about Versace, there's something about YSL, but there's something more to say about how you use them and why you use them. It's not minimalist to throw it all away, its minimalist to use it all in a way that seems like you're using nothing at all. That's where you're understated brilliance comes from, effortless, because, in essence, it was effortless.

Fashion is the outward expression of one's innards. Brando dressed like Brando, because he was, in fact, Marlon Brando. Guys like Brando exude cool in simply being alive.

Being a writer has taught me that intense observation of others leads you to want to be the observed. This creates a need to be accepted and hailed as something, which automatically takes you outside of self. Self is fashion, it's a hundred naked people walking a runway, because our skin is our true fashion and the only way to create that image with clothing is to make it that second skin that keeps you naked, like your idea of a 'uniform' but it makes you say, is what you described your uniform? Yes, well then good, mine is any hoody, button down, v-neck, graphic T, various assorted jeans, SB's, one of my 5 watches, cuz that's who I am. I've got a good sized closet full, but each piece answers to the pursuit of my image, the one i'm compelled to portray, the one I see myself at my best in and am most comfortable in too. In all honesty there's like 4 'uniforms' in my closet and I can create each a hundred ways interchanging and melding. I think that's what you're really talking about. Being so smart with your cloths buying decisions that you always look the way you want no matter the brand or all the commercially created images trying to get you to be their kind of guy.

MarcoBerlin said...

For a while now, I am thinking of changing my buying and clothing behaviour as well.

With every purchase now I think "Is the a trend that you are following now, or can you wear this in 10 years still, is it timeless?" If it is timeless, I go for it.

I did not think as radical as you. I just thought of downgrading all the shit in my closet. Also, my student budget is limited, but I am close to buy my first pair of REALLY good shoes, that hopefully last me 10 years.

I really enjoyed this post and read it with a smile on my face, I thought, Hey with my 23 years of age, I started this kind of thinking kinda early, good I think.

Keep up the authentic work. I will follow your progress of finding your personal uniform!

Isle of View said...

Question: could you do a post like this for girls? There is a shortage of good style blogs for women who like simple, practical (not overtly sexy, but attractive) menswear-inspired clothing.....have any suggestions? Just like men like a women who can say what looks good on them, girls like the same in a guy!

vespajg said...

Funny...that's the perspective I thought you started from and why I was initially drawn to your blog: good, well made (often American made) brands that make up a great set of staples for a man's wardrobe. Sure, there might be a time and place for fancy stuff but the staples are what make for a truly achievable and wearable wardrobe IMO. There has been a great renaissance in the classics and you've documented, and I've found thru your blog, several new brands that I otherwise would not have discovered, the best for me being Rogue Territory denim. Your posts have strayed somewhat it seems and gotten a bit too consumerism-ish, need to have the best, newest fashionista-ist thing, or the newest "collab" Aldens or what have you. Glad to see you make a self-correction of sorts as you certainly have the audience and ability to make a statement. Or maybe I had your initial idea way off track...I mean you have to offer something "new" in order to be relevant in the fashion world, right? Or wrong?

Marion said...

These is very interesting post. Glad I found this site. Love your ideas. Maybe you can add men's dress shirts in your list.