Julie Rath: Your Personal Iconic Look

Men's Personal Shopper: Steve Jobs turtleneck

A lot of guys have a “uniform” – something they wear throughout the year, no matter what the weather is. I know one guy (not a Rath & Co. client) who wears the same logo’d windbreaker everyday to work over his dress shirt and keeps it on all day. On really cold days, he wears another jacket over it. Oh, and did I mention he even wore it to a holiday party I attended at his home — with shorts and flip-flops? He’s evidently missing the chip that handles distinctions for situational dressing.

To say the least, the “uniform” of the guy described above has room for improvement. However, in some cases, having a set look serves a positive purpose and is even desirable, but only if  it’s well thought-out and well-executed. I get requests for this quite often from prospective clients – they want their own personal, iconic look, à la Steve Jobs. I get the appeal of this. First of all, it streamlines their getting-dressed routine. Also significant is that it can help cement one’s identity and give a solid sense of self both internally and outwardly with others. My only caveat here is that this needs to done in a way where a) it’s not boring (perhaps there are slight variations within what you wear each day – black v-neck sweater vs. black turtleneck sweater), and b) even though you’re sticking with the same theme each day, it shouldn’t look sloppy or as though you don’t care about your appearance (think Mark Zuckerberg’s hoody).

Men's Image Consulting: Matthew McConaugheyMatthew McConaughey in his signature fitted Dolce & Gabbana suit (he appears in their fragrance ads).

How to develop that look? Well, that’s easier said than done and, I’ll be honest, you may need help from a professional. But I’ve outlined four steps below on how to move toward creating your own.

1) Make a list of words that describe the look you’re going for and how you want to be received by others. Then narrow that list down to three or four. If you’re not a wordsmith, spend quality time on Google looking at images of other guys who embody what you’re going for. Then describe that look verbally. You may also want to consult the thesaurus for ideas once you come up with an initial word or two.

2) If you haven’t already found visual examples of others who give off the same vibe you’re looking for, do that now. Then ask yourself, what are the identifying characteristics in those outfits that create that sensibility? It may only be parts of different looks (the shirt fabric, or the way patterns are combined, as two examples) that resonate with you. Make a list of those items. This is the source list that you’ll be pulling from when you test things out.

3) Using the list above, test each of these things out one at a time. If your financial resources are limited, you can do this in a dressing room without purchasing items. Ask friends whose opinions you trust and who you know will be honest whether the look works for you or not. (Generally, this is not going to be a store salesperson.) Doing this will allow you to narrow down your source list to your final choice(s). A word of caution: if the elements you’re trying out make a really bold statement, like brightly colored bracelets or socks with a standout pattern, limit yourself to a max of 3-4 items along these lines per outfit.

4) Whatever you go with, have CONVICTION about it. This is important because if you don’t feel confident about your appearance, most likely others won’t either. And remember, everyone looks at himself more critically than other people do (honing in on specific perceived flaws like a thick midsection or short legs – which others might not notice as acutely as you do), so try to take a more macro approach as I mentioned in this article on defining your personal style.

I know this can sound like a big undertaking, but if you follow these steps above and get advice from a professional or people you trust, you can absolutely achieve it. If defining your style is something you’re working on, let me know how it goes for you. I’d love to hear about your hits and your misses.

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