5 Tips for Dressing Better: Know Your Audience
After a much needed break, “Studied Nonchalance” is back and continuing its discussion of some of the key elements of being a well dressed man.
While there are countless aspects of sartorial style, here are five suggestions that, in my opinion, are great places to start:
And today’s tip:
#3: Know your audience
In one of the best scenes in Dumb and Dumber, Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels gallivant into the Aspen Preservation Society’s “Snow Owl Benefit” dinner. Carrey and Daniels, dressed in tuxedos of fire orange and powder blue (with top hats, of course), use their matching canes to fence past other arriving guests. The two offer what is perhaps the best demonstration of how not to dress.
One of the most important aspects of style is knowing your audience. Simply put: the best outfit is worse than worthless if worn out of context.
Clothing plays a key role in signaling important information to others. Wearing a suit to a business meeting, for example, signifies that you take the occasion seriously and demand respect. (Challenging norms can be fun and advisable, but I wouldn’t recommend doing it for most job interviews, for instance.) Imagine President Obama giving the State of the Union Address in basketball shorts and a pair of Nikes and then try to tell me that the interplay of clothing and context is unimportant.
“Clothing is a way we represent ourselves to others. This self-representation couldn’t be more significant. When you dress, you are making a statement; not a fashion statement, but a statement of identity…If someone looks at you and interprets how you dress, they are not being superficial. They are reading the message that you wrote. If that message says, ‘I am to be respected,’ then they will respect you.”
Like it or not, the bottom line is that clothing matters to people. It isn’t all that matters, nor should it be. But dressing well is a way to communicate your understanding of the occasion and its importance to you.
Does this mean that one should strive to fit in? In a word: no. In any situation, a stylish man looks to include elements of his personal style in his outfit. Wedding attire does not have to be formulaic, but upstaging the groom is not part of being a stylish man. Being a distraction is rarely a good thing.
Understanding how to “dress for the occasion” means learning to differentiate oneself from others without standing out too noticeably. One should strive to look good in a way that is pleasing to the eye and flattering to one’s figure and personality, yet not ostentatious. Most people should walk past you and think that you look sharp without knowing why. Look good, but look like you’re supposed to be there.