(Note – This is the OTC’s first post, from October 27, 2006)
As you may or may not know, Washington, D.C. has long held the unenviable reputation of being a boring, ill-fitting and shoddy kind of town when it comes to men’s fashion, however, some great changes have been taking place over the past few years. Style giant Ralph Lauren has made a major investment in the D.C. market with a new 16,000 square foot flagship store in Chevy Chase, a refurbished Georgetown store and a Purple Label boutique in Tyson’s Galleria. Stores with a strong focus on men’s fashion have opened throughout the area, from the über-preppy Sherman Pickey in Georgetown, to the decidedly cosmopolitan Saks Fifth Avenue Men’s Store in Chevy Chase. There is a lot going on here and it’s for the better.
Having a strong sense of personal style is a good thing. I’ve long been called upon to dispense sartorial guidance to family and friends and am always happy to oblige. That being said, some negligible advice given in a recent issue of the Express newspaper really set me off. An “expert” advised a young guy trying for the first time to put together some good, professional outfits for work, against pairing brown shoes with grey pants. He was essentially told that it was a bad combination and too difficult to pull off. I was stunned; cities like Boston and London are virtually built on this versatile and classy mix. This poor guy was relegated to clothing purgatory when all he wanted was to develop some style.
It irritated me because there are a lot of men out there looking for a source of good information on dressing well; to develop a personal sense of style, and this ridiculous opinion did them a huge disservice. And in case you are wondering, of course brown shoes and grey pants work well together, in fact they look great. From that sense of frustration this column was born.
There is no shame in being aware of style and fashion; it’s simply taking ownership of the image you project to everyone else. In fact, most guys I know are actually very interested in how they look but are either intimidated by the whole thing or too embarrassed to admit they care about their clothes. Now, I don’t wear a suit to walk the dog and I don’t iron my jeans. As my wife can attest, I have torn-up old sweatshirts in the closet just like the next guy. However, when I go out in public I try to show some respect to the people around me by making an effort to look good. It’s not about wearing a tie everywhere, but it’s also not wearing flip-flops to the office. I am not saying you should look like George Clooney every time you step out of the house, but at the same time there’s no harm in trying.