Style Q&A: Achieving Effortless Style

Style is created, not born.

What’s the key to having effortless style? Some guys I know just “have it” and always seem to pull together great looks with minimal effort, but I always feel contrived. It’s frustrating especially because it weighs on my mind for the rest of the day and puts me in a funk. - John

Contrary to popular opinion seemingly effortless style is not achieved without effort.  At a minimum the well-suited gentlemen you speak of have at least given thought to their personal hygiene, the overall effect their presence has on society, and they have decided to show at least the base amount of respect any good citizen should afford those around him.  All of this takes thought and effort.  Unfortunately, some men neglect one or more of these basic elements from time to time.  Those men who seem to practice them routinely and practice them well are the ones who gain notoriety for somehow always looking better than you at any given point.

The effort of which we speak is not something unattainable by the common man.  Instead, it is something that can be learned, practiced and improved upon over time with the proper instruction and guidance, of course.  Believe it or not most men aren’t born style setters.  Yes, a man may have predestined ability to mix colors well and may be more inclined toward the aesthetic dressing, but even still these abilities and God-given traits must be groomed and then acted upon at some point.  Otherwise they may very well fall to the wayside.  Do not cheat yourself into thinking that style is something that only some men are privileged to while the other peasants are doomed to a life of rags and sandals.

The key to having effortless style you ask?  There isn’t one.  In our opinion you’re asking the wrong question.  Instead of asking what is the key?  You should be asking yourself who you are and who you want to be and how to express your inner self to others through the use of clothing.  There are several factors that go into presenting yourself to the world in a respectable manner.  Some of which you have no control over.  Your age, your gender, your male pattern baldness etc.  Others you have complete authority over and you should exercise that authority on a regular basis. Where you shop, how often you shop, what you read, who you associate with, what you listen to etc, all shape your lifestyle and subsequently project your personal style on the rest of the world.

Putting effort into your dress is a conscious decision.  You decide to buy better clothes and not more clothes.  You choose to purchase products made domestically rather than foreign.  You opt for custom items built to your specifications and made to last.  These are conscious decisions made at a certain point in a man’s life when he has matured through one phase of living and has advanced well into another.

The physical act of picking which tie goes with a shirt is the least of your concerns.  Mixing and matching colors, fabrics, and textures is a trifle compared to actually finding and becoming comfortable with your personal style.  The real destination is not how good you can look on any given day.  Instead, it’s how comfortable, confident and conscious you are with yourself and your place in the world and where you’d like to be in the future.

Effortless?  Not at all.

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Grant Harris is Owner & Chief Style Consultant at Image Granted; a Washington, DC based Image Consulting Company dedicated to solving the complex image, style & fashion issues of today's professional man. He has a healthy obsession with socks. Follow him on Twitter & Facebook.

  • Wilson

    That was really well put. I wish people who think I’m all “dressed up” would understand that I’m just as comfortable as they are in their t-shirt and baggy shorts. I think this is definitely key to explaining that: “Instead, it’s how comfortable, confident and conscious you are with yourself and your place in the world and where you’d like to be in the future.”

  • Jon

    I couldn’t agree more. People always ask, “Where are you coming from?” and assume that I have to be coming back from some event to be dressed the way I am. Truth is I’m just way more confident and comfortable in what I wear.

  • David

    This is was a great article! I recently discovered this website and the information I’ve read so far has been GOLD!

    I’m 29 years old, I run a sales and marketing business, and I’ve recently decided that I need to take my style and image up a notch. I realized that people are buying into me just as much as they are buying into my business. I am a confident guy, and I want my style to compliment the confidence I have within…not a mask for the confidence I lack. I wouldn’t consider myself a bad dresser at all…just uninspired.

    I meet regularly with clients and I want to be professional, but not stuffy. I want to be fashion conscious without trying too hard. I want to get attention for how I look because I’m well put together and not because it looks like I’m seeking attention with outrageous “get ups”. I want to look like a MAN, not like a boy wearing skinny jeans ala Justin Beiber. Hopefully I didn’t offend anybody with that one!

    Anyways…I write all this just to say that I really appreciate this website and great articles like this! Thank you! Have a fantastic day!

  • http://modernmagnate.com Daman

    Well written. I strongly agree with the point on buying fewer items of a higher quality, including certain bespoke or tailored items.

  • Markus

    This is a very well-written article. However, I strongly disagree with the following:

    “You choose to purchase products made domestically rather than foreign”

    that’s just plain (economic) nationalism and has nothing to do with style. Textiles are one of the oldest traded goods in the history of the planet, and foor good reason. Ever wondered why one of the longest trading routes there ever was was called the “Silk Road”?
    And please explain what’s wrong with British shoes or Italian Suits?

    If you choose not to buy that 5$ H&M Shirt, you should do so because of it’s poor quality, not because it isn’t made in the US.

  • maccoinnich

    Just want to second what Markus, because that sentence also leapt out at me in an otherwise strong article.

  • Grant

    @Markus @maccoinnich

    Thank you both for reading and commenting. I appreciate it. That being said there are several points to cover.

    1. I have been writing for Primer and several other menswear related websites aside from my own blog for several years now. I do not claim to be an expert. However, I do claim to know what I know. I write for an international audience and have many readers around the world. I do not say this to boast. Instead, I say this to show that this article and the majority that I write for Primer are written with the global man in mind. Whether he be American or foreign. Therefore my comment about buying domestically versus foreign applies to any man in any country in the world. The article does not specifically state “America” or the “United States” for a reason. Buying domestically can and should occur in any nation and has much to do with supporting the designers, tailors, and retailers of economic communities worldwide including some you’ve probably patronized yourself.

    You are correct in your observation of economic nationalism. This is the goal of buying locally. It improves the local economy and national well being of any country, not just the US. It just so happens that the majority of Primer readers are based in the States, and by your comments I can only assume that you are as well since you hastened to believe I was only referring to America.

    Unfortunately, it seems that you have chosen to focus on small piece of the argument as opposed to the more important realization that effortless style takes a high level of predetermination and thought and that no man just grows into his style overnight.

    2. You are correct about textiles being one of the oldest and most traded goods on the planet. Yes, the Silk Road has historical significance. The Silk Road is a prime example of being a global trade route as it spanned the Afro-Eurasian landmass including Asia, the Middle East, Africa and parts of Europe. I wonder if we’d be having the same argument if it were based in America. The Silk Road has little to do with the point of this article which is that no matter where you live or what you buy that becoming stylish requires effort.

    3. This article does not mention nor have anything to do with British shoes and/or Italian suits which if you read any of my other writings I fully endorse on the merits of their quality and style. In fact I spend much of my time dealing directly with British and Italian business owners, tailors, artisans and retailers to introduce their products and services to the US market.

    4. Agreed on the H&M shirt but yet again, this article is not about “made in” or “bought in” America. It is about the overall realization that effortless style is in fact not effortless at all.

    Thanks again for your comments and I hope you continue reading in the future.

  • Markus

    Grant,

    thank you very much for your explanation. I do admit that I was quick to make the (wrong) assumption that “domestic” meant US-made and I therefore jumped to wrong conclusions. I apologize.
    Maybe it had something to do with the ever louder calls to “buy American” and especially the anti-china sentiment that often accompanies it (I’m thinking of the row over olympic uniforms, e.g.)

    As I said, I agree with you on all other points of the article, especially the main point that “no matter where you live or what you buy that becoming stylish requires effort”. It’s taking me some effort right now :)

    And sure, there’s a point to be made in favor of buying locally – just as much as there is for buying quality products from other (far away) places, hence my example of British shoes, etc.

    I live in Germany and I gladly support national producers and retailers in areas where we (luckily) have expertise. In many ares we clearly don’t, however, and I think there a a lot of places where it is harder to obtain quality when “buying locally” then here.

    All I was trying to say was that we shouldn’t negate the benefits of international trade, not only but also when it comes to clothing. This was also the sole reason I brought up the Silk Road (and because I’m a history nerd…). I apologize if it sounded off-topic and schoolmasterly.

    All the best!

  • Grant

    @Markus Understood and appreciated on all counts. Germany? Are you familiar with Franz Baron? http://www.franzbaron.com/

  • Markus

    @Grant

    Heard or read about him before, but haven’t ever bought anything. Right now the shoes are way out of my price range. But they look great, I’ll keep it in mind ;)