Effortless Style Versus Indifference

We all dress a certain way for a reason.

How many times have you heard something along the lines of, “I’m secure enough in my masculinity to not care what I look like,” “He spends so much time getting ready in the morning he must be batting for the other team,” or “I’m way too busy to worry about ______ (insert style rule here). Besides, it’s such a trivial detail that I don’t want to be around people who would judge me for not doing it correctly.”?

I can guarantee that every guy who’s older than 12 and young enough that he hasn’t fought in a major world war is familiar with the prevailing attitude about a man’s concern with his appearance. It’s why it has become so easy to look around and see a man who most likely either looks like a Best Buy employee or someone who forgot to change after Super Bowl Sunday.

The humor in all of this is that even these men are concerned with their image. If they weren’t, their closet would be full of Snuggies. A sleeved blanket is as comfortable as it gets and it can provide the requisite warmth and protection most men need from their clothing.

So if you ever see a man wearing anything other than his favorite blanket or items that he either inherited or found for free, he has some understanding that his clothing has an impact on how the world sees and treats him.

We can counter the Snuggie-wearing extreme with its antithesis – the dandy. These are the men who can’t walk past a car without checking themselves out in the window. They are the guys who won’t pass around a football because they don’t want to walk in the grass with the shoes they’re wearing. They’re the men who sacrifice character, work, intelligence, and every other virtue at the altar of appearance.

Most of us rightly avoid becoming either one of these extremes. However, our generation has a much more vocal antipathy for the metrosexual than we do for the slob. We’ve had it shoved in our heads for the last 50 years that caring too much is worse than not caring at all.

However, there’s nothing masculine about defaulting to one extreme for fear of falling too far towards the other. A major aspect of being a man is having the self-mastery to avoid inappropriate extremes in any aspect of our lives.

So how does a man dress well without becoming the overly obsessed metrosexual who hinders his ability to live a reasonable life? By learning when, where, and how to make an effort and when, where, and how to avoid making an effort.

The best approach to dressing well is to invest time and energy when finding clothing and while prepping during the morning routine. After that, nonchalance is accomplished when a man forgets everything about his appearance for the rest of the day. He doesn’t need to constantly primp, adjust, discuss, or fret about the way he looks.

The real difference between nonchalance and apathy is the preparation that goes on behind the scenes. A man who’s purchased the correct kind of vehicle, kept up its maintenance, made an effort to learn proper driving technique, and paid attention to the forecast can drive in the heaviest blizzard almost as if it were a calm summer day. His preparation grants him peace. The same man would put himself and others in danger if he tried to have the same at-ease attitude while driving in a poor vehicle, in even poorer condition, with no understanding of how to drive in the snow, and no idea that a flurry is about to blow in.

Here at Primer we take the time to write detailed articles about things like how to properly mix a drink, how to make your apartment feel more inviting, and even seemingly trivial details like how long your shirt sleeves should be. We do this, not because we want to awe our readership with our expertise and have them ultimately be paralyzed by all of the rules about how to live well, but because we want to give our readers a full tool belt.

We’ve all heard the phrase “When all you have is a hammer, every problem begins to look like a nail.” Well the same applies to a man’s wardrobe. When all he has is jeans and a T-shirt well… check this out.

Dressing appropriately opens doors. Being well-dressed opens up even more. The trick is to put in the effort at the appropriate time.

When a man is at the gym he should talk about his routine for staying in shape, when a man is at work, he should talk about his job, when a man is with his tailor he should discuss and learn everything he can about the best ways to improve his wardrobe. But when a man is outside of his bubble, when he’s in public and presenting himself to the rest of the world, all thought, talk, and evidence of his labors behind the scenes should be forgotten. Those who aren’t directly involved in a man’s improvement should never have an inkling of the blood, sweat, and tears invested in who he is and what he does.

Tanner Guzy runs a style blog and consulting business called Masculine Style. He believes in a uniquely masculine aesthetic and wants to help men learn to use their clothes to accomplish their goals. He lives in Salt Lake City with his wife and daughter.

  • Steve Kearney

    This article hits the nail on the head (no pun intended). Ill agree that from being a college student (graduate in 1 week!) guys in their early twenties in my small city school in central PA, believe men are only to watch football, get dirty, drink beer and wear flannel. Never mind we can be creatures of mixed personas. Awesome article!

  • Nick P.

    Nice article, I used to be one of those, I’ll wear jeans and a T-Shirt when I was in college, though I did like to get dressed up on occasion, just for the heck of it. When I graduated and went into the working world (Tech industry), the wardrobe became Jeans and a Polo. After a few months of this, I looked around at myself and the people in the office and though, “I’m a grown a** man, why am I still dressing like a high-schooler/college kid?” About this time, out of coincidence perhaps, my dad linked me to Art of Manliness, and from there I found Primer (as well as several other blogs). It has been almost 2 years now, and I believe I have reached a nearly effortless wardrobe. I could almost go into my closet with a blindfold and pick a shirt, pants, jacket/sweater (if needed) and come out with a put together look needing only to decide which shoes/watch/belt to add to the combo. I must say, despite not having it perfectly effortless, it is nice to reach the level of ease that jeans and a t-shirt/polo used to provide and yet step out of the house and have people ask me where my interview is or what is the occasion. I even get hassled on Casual Friday every once in a while.

    • T.B.

      Please share some of the other blogs you are currently into. Always looking for inspiration.

      • Nick P.

        I hope that I don’t get in trouble for doing so, but most or all are in the Dispatch tab

        Art of Manliness
        Dappered
        TSBMen (The Style Blogger)
        Style Girlfriend
        Gentleman’s Gazette
        Real Men Real Style
        the Sharpologist

        These are the ones I follow most, though there may few a few others on my RSS feed that I can’t think of right now. Also, if you like reddit (it’s been a while since I have gone here):
        reddit.com/r/malefashionadvice
        reddit.com/r/frugalmalefashion

  • Michael

    I have been reading Primer, Art of Manliness and Dappered.com for almost a year now. I used to be a “t-shirt and jeans” guy because I hated ties and collars. Then I graduated college, went to med school and became a professional. The t-shirt and jeans look is adolescent and makes a man look lost in perpetual immaturity (unless the occasion is appropriate for the look). I changed how I approach dressing myself and recently one of my friends laughed when she saw my t-shirts and said “Why do you have so many t-shirts? you aren’t a t-shirt and jeans kind of guy!” I just had to laugh because, in my mind, I was still a t-shirt and jeans kid playing dress up in an adult world. But, I am glad I have grown up and made it out of adolescence…

    • Nick P.

      Sounds like this is probably going to be a familiar theme. As for my T-shirts, which I hardly ever wear, I can’t quite bring myself to part with them.

  • diversification

    In light of this article, let’s put our cards on the table: there’s always a bunch of circle-jerking about “dress for yourself, not for others” – it’s a bunch of BS (especially for those of us reading and participating in style forums/blogs/etc). This is perfectly fine! As noted in the article, the way we dress affects the way we’re perceived – the way we dress helps us be perceived the way we want! This is a good thing!

    I’m not suggesting that we explicitly consider exactly what people will think of our outfits each time we get dressed, but the idea that people should (or does) only dress for themselves is a load of crap, IMO, and the online style community really needs to spout off about this supposed tenant of “how to dress”.

    As Tanner notes, if we truly didn’t care and only dressed for ourselves, we’d our closets would be full of garments with maximum functionality and absolutely no form consideration (ie. Snuggies).

    TL;DR – We all dress for others AND for ourselves. It’s ok! It’s a good thing! Now let’s all stop spouting off about “you should dress for yourself, not others”.

    • Nick P.

      When I made the change to my wardrobe, I did it mostly for me. If I did it for others, I’d have stuck with the jeans and polo look. I was, at the time, a software programmer in a small company where everyone else was in jeans and t-shirt/polo and sneakers. I had to endure about 2 months of “So, where is the interview?,” before people finally realized that there weren’t any. At times, it was demoralizing, and I could have easily gone back to conforming with how they wanted me to dress.

      Also, by ‘dressing up’, I felt more confident in myself, I carried myself higher, I started paying better attention to my hygiene. The funny thing that happened as a result, As I wore slacks and better fitting shirts, the jeans in the workroom starting becoming chinos and the sneakers became loafers or those horrible casual work sneaker hybrid things (but still better than the sneaks they were wearing). Sure, I care about how I am perceived, and I no longer purely do it for the way it makes me feel, but when I started out, it was very much a selfish change without caring about what those around me thought.

      • diversification

        You’re simply ignoring the new audience that you’ve begun considering while dressing, to wit, the online style community and those outside of your work: you’ve simply changed who you dress for, not forgone dressing for others. Again, I’m not suggesting that you don’t feel better or that you didn’t want to dress differently for other personal reasons, but you freely admit that you started dressing differently once you found style blogs. You’ve thus admitted that you changed the way you’re dressing based on human-provided stimulus (which happens to be style advice).

        • Nick P.

          The style blogs were more a kick in the pants and helped me learn how things should fit, which is one of the problems I always had about trying to make the change a few times prior. Being 5’10” and only 140lbs in a world were it seems clothes are made for the guy who weighs in at 185-300, makes it difficult to make the change on your own. I will say, they did help me to embrace the fact that I am firmly a size small in most brands, where I used to buy Large.

          • Jano

            Nick, I was the same way. And oddly enough the same size/frame as you. I never learned how things should truly fit until I decided I wanted to change my style and visited sites like this.

          • diversification

            Oh yeah, I’m definitely in this boat too, though I didn’t realize how bad my fits and clothing choices were till I really started paying attention. It was like I was blind and suddenly my eyes were opened: weird.

            Circling back to my original point, when I started realizing that my clothes were far from optimal I had two choices: stay with that look or change. Frankly, my old baggy clothes were pretty comfortable, so that’s not what made me choose change – it was embarrassment and a desire to look better. But what does look better mean? It’s a subjective term; obviously those of us who have started applying what we learn on style blogs or forums have decided that these people know what ‘looks better’. We’re thus, choosing a look that we know that others find appealing. The fact that we’re dressing for others is practically built in. We don’t have to explicitly identify our audience or objectives for this to still be true.

  • Matt

    Trunkclub.com
    A little pricey, but real cool idea. And it’s easy.
    I don’t work for them, so this isn’t a planted plug, just a fashion conscious guy that can relate to fearing both extremes.

  • Travis Cantrell

    You should break down the style on the first picture, looks awesome!

  • charlie

    What khaki pants are you wearing in the photo with the grey blazer?

    • http://www.primermagazine.com/ Andrew

      They’re the vintage straight fit from Gap.

  • Andres Herrera

    One word: Awesome

  • M.

    I should have paid closer attention to the author at top, Tanner – reading this early, I was about to post links to your site and that video. Nice job, as always

  • PoWPoWWhosThere

    lol @ the vid

  • steve

    Hey can anyone tell me what pants and cardigan the model is wearing? Really digging that look with a henley on instead of a t shirt

    • http://www.primermagazine.com/ Andrew

      The pants are straight fit corduroys from Gap, and the cardigan is from Lands’ End Canvas. Both aren’t available currently, but you should be able to find alternatives pretty easily.

  • hmmmm

    This article was pretty on point, but I take issue with the negative definition of dandy. I see a true dandy as someone impeccably dressed for any occasion even for a quick toss of the football. Many even see the James Bond character as a dandy and yet no one would question his character.