They are often what separate average guys from truly interesting men. Whether big or small, exuberant or subtle, details drive the messages we use to define ourselves to others.
Not too long ago, my fellow MensFlair contributor, Winston Chesterfield, posted an excellent essay on the core of personal style. His argument that style is akin to art, that an artist must paint or that a sculptor must liberate the form inside a block of granite, is particularly insightful. This is the kind of drive and attention to detail that marks a truly stylish man.
The execution of personal style, not surprisingly, varies from person to person and involves more than just clothes. You can manage this message if you want; building up a personal presence that reflects who you are, what you want and what you’re all about.
There are many examples of people who consciously developed their style around specific details. Tom Wolfe is one; with his trademark white suit, the writer is instantly recognizable. Whether you like or loath his persona, Wolfe is a very smart man who understands the benefit of being unique and standing out in a crowded field.
Of course he backs up the stylish eccentricity with darn good writing. Details won’t get you too far if there is no substance behind the flash. There is one guy though, a big guy with a lot of substance who has fascinated me for quite a while.
California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is a virtual tactician when it comes to designing and executing his own personal marketing plan. From the custom suits which both highlight his well known bulk – and by extension make his polished executive appearance all the more pronounced – to the custom cowboy boots emblazoned with his adopted home state’s seal. Schwarzenegger has always been meticulous about packaging himself for the task at hand.
By capitalizing on his early niche “Pumping Iron” fame, he launched himself into action hero celebrity and then made an even more remarkable transition to political powerhouse. Schwarzenegger always takes the time to manage his public persona and adjust his presentation when needed. Running through it though has been a consistent core image: a cigar smoking, Hummer driving, independent thinking, business minded big man with a toothy smile.
His sense of style alternates between refined outdoor rugged and polished corner office political leader. Mud smeared, machine gun toting on-screen persona aside, Schwarzenegger is in fact a connoisseur with excellent taste in design, clothes, watches and of course hand rolled cigars. Most people don’t know that he was a successful businessman and real estate investor long before his first, less than stellar, on-screen appearance.
He is well read and a virtual policy wonk when it comes to such complex issues as climate change and trade – both key issues in California. Although legally barred from running for president (for now at least), he still oversees 12% of the American population. Esquire recently featured him on the magazine’s cover touting that very fact. Not bad for a kid from a little town in Austria.
Using Arnold Schwarzenegger as example of how to manage your image through attention to detail and focus may seem a little outsized, but the governator is a brand and he knows it. You and I are no different. What is your brand? Who is your audience? What is your plan? What are the details that define you?