Your Reference Library
Building up a pool of style resources is an important and personal endeavor. Luckily for men, more than ever before information and resources are available on dressing well and finding your own style.
Create your own reference library. It can be as compact as a spare bookcase or as grand as a dedicated home office. This should be a place where you can store all the things that inspire you and that make up your personal style guide. Your reference library can include books, favorite pieces of clothing, magazine ads, cigar boxes or anything else that catches your attention. I turned a spare room into my study. It’s filled with all the things that I find inspirational: lots of books, family pictures and art; boxes of magazine clippings, and old pens and watches. Everything in the room represents a part of who I am and what I find interesting in life.
Here are some classic men’s clothing and lifestyle books that you can use to start your own reference library. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but this selection is chock full of good information, advice and suggestions. Have your own favorites that you want to share? Let me know:
Elegance, by G. Bruce Boyer
Dressing the Man, by Alan Flusser
(Author of several excellent guides, he is a leading authority on classic men’s style)
Gentleman’s Guide to Grooming and Style, by Bernhard Roetzel
(This encyclopedic behemoth covers every category you could ever imagine)
The Preppy Handbook, by Lisa Birnbach
(Humorous satire? You bet; but there is also a lot of fun and truthful information in there.)
A Well-Dressed Gentleman’s Pocket Guide, by Oscar Lenius
Off the Cuff, by Carson Kressley
(Yes, he’s a little over the top, but Kressley worked for Ralph Lauren and could probably teach a class on individual style.)
Maximum Style, by Perry Garfinkel, Brian Chichester
(A good all-around started guidebook)
As for magazines, a particular favorite of mine is Men’s Vogue. Menswear, a larger format bi-annual magazine is a great publication and also gives industry insight. Fantastic Man is an avant-garde option that will keep you up to date on European trends. For really classic style, take a look at Classic Style magazine. GQ and Esquire are two industry standard bearers.
Last year, Esquire came out with “The Big Black Book” – sort of a cross between a book and a magazine. It has an excellent style guide and highlights all sorts of classics every guy should have in his closet. I recently reviewed the 2007 edition that hit the stands last month. In a nutshell, it’s even better. Here is a link to my review.
Building Blocks of Personal Style
Figuring out who you really want to be and finding sources of inspiration to help you get there are important steps in creating your own true style. From my viewpoint, men’s style follows an architectural pattern. Imagine that personal style is like designing a building.
First, you have the foundation – good shoes. Then there is the support structure – pants. The main façade – jackets, sweaters and shirts; and the decorative elements – ties, cufflinks, gloves, hats, glasses. Finally there is the streetscape, those elements that put you into a context. They are things like bearing, attitude, etiquette, and an overall sense of who you are.
By breaking this all into smaller pieces, the whole process of self-evaluation feels less overwhelming. It captures your layers of style and the different elements that come together to tell everyone who you are. That way, when you see a shirt, understand why you like it and how it fits into your personal style, you’re actually seeing the whole building.