Since winning ‘Britain’s Best Dressed Real Man’ a lot of people have asked me the same question; what’s it like to be the most stylish man in Britain? Being the humble chap that I am with both feet firmly on the ground, I often blush, followed by an ‘erm……?’
How do I even answer that question? Who’s to say whether I’m the most or even least stylish man? After all isn’t style just a matter of taste? Luckily for me Esquire were on my wavelength, they seemed to like the way I take classics and wear them in a slightly skewiff way. But judging by other things I’ve read on the internet, my personal attire is certainly not liked by all.
I started to think about this in more depth recently when I was offered a post as a guest lecturer, teaching a module on fashion styling at a top University. Law of averages dictates that in a class of thirty, there’ll be some kids whose style will be god-awful and others that will stand out as complete naturals, born to work in fashion. But I can’t teach them how to be successful stylists, I can teach them how to produce a shoot, tricks of the trade, how to always be on the ball and to think quickly, but when it comes to natural style; you either got it or you don’t!
I believe natural style can’t be taught, yes there are tried and tested formulas of dressing, and we’re dutifully told which trends are ‘in’ and ‘out’ each season. But should we even be paying attention to that anyway?
And being rich won’t save you. Money can buy a wardrobe bursting with fine designer clothes and enable you to look like a million dollars (coz that’s how much it probably cost), but if you have about as much natural style as Graham Norton, then unfortunately no amount of cash you throw around in Selfridges will ever make you look good.
Since winning my ‘best dressed’ accolade I’ve discovered the internet is swarming with websites and forums with hundreds of fashion fanatic men bitching at one another because they wore the wrong pocket square or the wrong colour socks. Recently I even stumbled upon an online debate on the length of my turn-ups and how dare I wear a suit without a shirt. Isn’t dressing-by-numbers to such an obsessive degree just the dullest thing?
Style, if you have it, is innate. It’s about ignoring what celebrities wear and paying no attention to seasonal trends. It’s about trusting your own judgement and creating your own look. Often this comes with age and a lifetime of experiences and experimenting to get to know what suits you and what doesn’t (I definitely learnt from my time at college wearing a knitted trouser suit with Jesus sandals and a sheepskin sarong). The truly stylish might not win praise for their wardrobe, they might even be the subject of piss taking, but they’re comfortable in their own skin, they stand by their convictions, they buy and wear whatever feels right and they just know when something looks good without needing validation from others.