Here's a decent, good-looking fella. He's clean-cut and put-together. His clothes fit well. He seems like a nice guy, and there's generally nothing much to pick at. At the same time, he's just an Average Joe in a basic, ubiquitous uniform favored by millions of unimaginative American men: the always-flattering-but-totally-safe-and-utterly-boring light blue dress shirt, paired with it's southern counterpart — which, although not always flattering, is equally totally safe and utterly boring. Then cut the body in dead half with a black belt on an otherwise soft palette, and trouble brews. Clip on a cell phone holster to the waist? Pandemonium.
This leads me to a public service announcement regarding clipping your cell phone on your belt or carrying it inside your pant pocket: There is mounting scientific evidence that the electromagnetic radiation emitting from your cell phone, a low-power microwave (like the oven, but without walls) — in addition to all kinds of bioeffects, brain tumors and DNA damage — damage sperm. Over the years, I've been telling men that wearing cell phones clipped to the belt causes testicular cancer. Now I don't need to make it up. Science is finally backing up what fashion has known all along.
Now back to Mr. Average...
I want to show you that he doesn't need a radical wardrobe overhaul to go from looking alright to smashing. All a man needs to know is the proper balance of fit, proportion, color and texture. Let's go through this step by step:
He already seems to be good on understanding fit — tailored and lean without excess fabric bellowing in the breeze.
Next is proportion. His pant waist is too high up, resting on the natural, or traditional, waist. This does a few unflattering things: 1) This waistline, although appropriate in fashion movements of past, looks outdated and rather dad-like today. 2) The high waistline, especially cinched with the belt, emphasizes his hips, giving him a bit of a rounded, slightly feminine shape. 3) The high waist creates the appearance of a shorter torso compared to his overall body proportions – he would do well to elongate the area for a leaner body line.
On to color. Understanding the art of wearing proper colors that enhance your individual coloring is crucial to developing personal style. The right colors brighten and accentuate your face and bring out your character. This guy has rather strong features with good contrast between his eyes, hair and skin colors. However, the pale, washed out colors of his getup is fading him out instead of emphasizing his bold features. Although this color scheme will work wonderfully on men with softer, subtle colorings, this man would benefit from contrasting colors that complement his own contrasting coloring. This includes deep colors such as navy, purple or black, and bright colors such as bright white, lilac or ice blue. The shirt he's wearing is actually good, but he should pair it with other garments that help add more contrast instead of this pale chino.
I know that many men are afraid to wear color, but remember that "wearing color" isn't about wearing bright or loud colors, but rather, about wearing the correct colors — in any shade you're comfortable with — that make a real difference.
Texture keeps things interesting. It provides visual variety that breaks up the monotony of too many solid colors worn together. Texture can come in the form of surface interest, like an interesting weave on a cloth or from knits or sweaters, even if the garment is of a single color. Another type of texture comes from visual interest, in the form of colored prints and patterns as in checks, stripes and plaids.
Now let's bring this all together. In the image below, I morphed this guy's upper body with another image that I found, then painted over his solid shirt with the shirt pattern of the new image. Yeah, the forearms look a bit out of proportion — after all, it's not his — but all in all, I think this works well to drive the point. I then recolored the second image just to show you another color example, given the exact outfit.
Do you see the difference here? With just a few subtle changes, he looks like a new man. He didn't have to change his wardrobe preference in any way except to shift the proportions and add the right colors and textures. It's still the same exact button-front-shirt-and-chinos combo, but yet all the new components work together to make him look trimmer and well-proportioned. His facial features are more defined and there's strength to his coloring. He looks more youthful. Even his hair somehow looks better — this is a prime example of subtle shifts that make people ask curiously, "Hey, there's something different about you. Did you get a haircut or something?"
Add some stylish touches like nonchalantly rolled-up sleeves and a pair of cool shoes. If he wants to wear a belt, he should opt for a brown one that complements the shoes – this time the belt will sit at a lower waistline, so the horizontal line created by the belt will still keep his body in proportion instead of cutting him in half. Throw on a navy blazer or a corduroy or cotton sport jacket in navy or light brown, and with maybe even a slim tie, he's confidently ready to set forth. Onward and upward!
[Hover over each image for info.]