The ‘C’ Word
Considering I have a blog which can be branded with the tag ‘lifestyle’, it was only a matter of time before I delved into the topic of fashion. I’ve been well aware that the primary motivation for most people following this blog is to hear my thoughts on fashion for a while now. You’re probably hoping I reveal some of my deepest darkest tips for dressing well. I’m sorry to disappoint, those secrets are being kept hushed, just like the mysterious Coca Cola recipe.
Fashion isn’t a topic I am well versed in. In fact, I would say it is a topic that I outwardly deplored for most of my life… ‘outwardly deplored’ being used to describe how bad my fashion sense was, and how it communicated to those who did have any fashion sense that I had none. I still don’t have a lot, but I am comfortable saying that I try to have some these days. Throughout this article, I am going to be using the word ‘fashion’ a lot, probably incorrectly to its actual definition. I’ve just Googled the word actually and got the following definition:
- A popular or the latest style of clothing, hair, decoration, or behaviour.
Reading this definition actually makes me feel quite uncomfortable because I absolutely don’t consider myself fashionable and I don’t really aim to be – especially if that means keeping up with any sort of trends. What I will say is that finding some sort of style that works for you and makes you feel good is important. It helps you to express yourself whilst giving you a better sense of self. I never used to take much of an interest in trying to find my own unique style as it just wasn’t something I saw as particularly important. The thing is that we all have to wear clothes because of stupid ‘society’, so we may as well take somewhat of an interest in doing it in a way that makes us feel confident and comfortable in ourselves. I’ve established a few techniques for finding new clothes and for dressing in a way that is more fashion-conscious, without trying very hard. I’ll try and throw in a few stories to make it interesting for people who have a fashion IQ far above mine, or just have no interest in the topic whatsoever.
For a lot of my late-teenage to early-adult life, my de facto ‘fashion’ (if that word can be applied here) choice was jeans and a band T-shirt. Now, I’m not trying to talk down on that look in any way, but I didn’t do it well. The band shirts were mainly small bands that no one had heard of which, again, isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I think the main issue was that it wasn’t about the shirt for me, I just wanted to support bands I liked and knew that merchandise was a good way to do this. So I didn’t really select the shirts for how they looked or fit, I did it for other reasons.
These days, I tend to donate money to bands I like through the Spotify ‘Make a Donation’ functionality. I should do it more really as I’m sure smaller bands really suffered from the Spotify revolution, and I certainly overindulge in Spotify. Through the use of playlists, related artists and song radios, I probably listen to at least 2 new albums every day, if not more. If Spotify didn’t exist, that would be impossible to sustain. Anyway, I digress. Stay focused Dan, you’re talking fashion, not music.
When I started working full time, I was forced to think about my fashion sense a little more. Luckily there’s a playbook for interchangeable office worker #174749292748392173 – shirt, trousers, shoes. It was easy. Occasionally I’d even wear a suit. “You look nice today,” someone might comment in the office. I’d smile and say “Thanks. I have a meeting today,” trying to explain why I was dressed up more than usual, feeling uncomfortable that they had noticed. It’s interesting stuff, I know. That bought me a few more years of not trying to improve my fashion sense whatsoever. For work I wear my work clothes, at home I wear my home clothes. Easy. The two worlds never to meet, separated into different closets at home.
Eventually, this started to annoy me a little bit. I also run a lot, so I would find myself buying clothes for working out, clothes for work and clothes that I wear outside of work. As someone who didn’t have a lot of interest in buying clothes, this was quite an undertaking. Running/cycling clothes are actually really expensive too, especially if you favour clothes made out of recycled materials. For example, Rockay are an amazing brand for exercise gear and they make all of their clothes out of recycled plastic from the ocean, but they’re quite expensive. I don’t mind spending a good amount on running clothes because I use them a lot, and I’ve used Rockay for a while now so I know that they last well. It doesn’t mean that everyone wants to spend £100 on running shorts, though. Throw in a few cycling jersey, the endless amount of shoes you need to run, and the energy gels (which cost a fortune), and you realise that you’re choosing between these things or buying a house before the age of 50.
This embodies the issue with buying clothes – you have to make decisions around how much effort and money you are willing to sacrifice in pursuit of your style, whilst also filtering those decisions through your ‘moral’ compass too. For me, I don’t want to buy loads of new, cheap clothes that aren’t made to last very long and will get ruined easily. I also don’t want to spend loads of money on something just because it has a certain brand attached to it, although I don’t mind spending more on brands I know fit me well and are good quality. I want my clothes to be functional, fit well and sometimes be a little different. I’m willing to spend more on them if they meet these objectives. Some of the functional brands I think are worth spending more money on are Fjallraven and Patagonia. Columbia are also good and are more affordable than those brands. It is a huge bonus if a brand are sustainable in some way too. There seem to be more brands using sustainable and organic cotton these days, such as Pact. I haven’t bought anything from them yet but my mum seems to be very positive about them.
Anyway, I felt less willing to spend a lot of money on work shirts. I used to do the classic Charles Tyrwhitt shop where you get 4 shirts for £100 and would resent every one of them. They weren’t that bad, I just didn’t feel like I was buying something because I wanted it, it was because I had to have it. That’s a bit of a shame when you’re spending your money on them and wearing those clothes more than the rest of your wardrobe. It works, though, and I know this is how a lot of people who have an office job dress.
I started trying to buy more clothes which I could wear both casually and to work. This meant that I had more money available to spend, as I wasn’t splitting up my budget into “work” and “casual” so much. Some brands, such as Reiss, Percival and Cos do a good job of making clothes which can be worn in either contexts and are really comfortable. I always disliked wearing the standard work shirts because they feel very rigid and uncomfortable. I’ve spoken before on the blog about my strange reaction to being too hot. It effects me far more than it should. If I am too warm, I sit there and focus on how uncomfortable I am. Lucky for me, I have mostly worked in air-conditoned offices and it hasn’t been too much of a problem. When I was working in Philadelphia, there was a day where the temperature got near to 40 degrees. We were eating lunch outside on some benches and my phone was on the table in front of me. An alert popped up on the screen telling me that my phone was overheating. It turned off. I felt jealous of it, managing to switch off and get away from the heat. I ended up running back into the air conditioned office and splashing water on myself in the bathroom, before sitting with one-too-many buttons open on my shirt. We were based in our client’s office at the time so I was playing a risque game dressing that provocatively.
There are also tools around that can be useful in improving your style too. I downloaded an app on my phone called Thread. When you first signup, you answer a load of questions about your sizing, brands that you like, what you primarily buy clothes etc, then it recommends clothes to you. It’s useful because it recommends things to me that I may not have found otherwise, and forces me to consider different styles of clothing which I wouldn’t otherwise consider. I have to admit, I seldom buy the item from Thread though. Usually, I’ll find something I like on there and then look elsewhere to see where it is cheapest. It seems that Thread have to request the clothes to be sent to them, then they box them up and send them to you; a process which seems totally pointless if you can just go directly to the retailer. The argument to not do this is that you aren’t giving Thread the financial support they need to keep providing the service… another thing for me to feel guilty about in life, I guess.
Once you find a few brands you particularly like, you can also use sites like Ebay to find new clothes. I like doing this as it is more sustainable, as well as being cheaper than buying things new. The downside is that sellers rarely accept returns, so you have to be confident that you understand the sizing if you’re going to be buying them through these sites. There’s a lot of good stuff on there, though, especially if the brands you like to buy are well established ones. If you find smaller brands you like, there are usually limited options on sites like these that match you sizing. I seem to be the quintessential size in most brands so it is quite fruitful for me, but I appreciate that it isn’t the case for everyone. I’m also cautious of the seller’s rating when buying clothes, or when buying anything really. When Anna and I were buying furniture for our apartment we were scammed by a seller on Ebay. Luckily we got the money back, but I’ve paid close attention to the ratings ever since.
My best friend Luke used to find random clothes on Ebay constantly. I’ve seen him wearing a Frosty Jacks cider hat, a Budweiser hat and a retro international football shirt…for Ghana. To make it even more random, the Ghana shirt was the goalkeeper jersey, not even the standard player one. So Ebay really does have something for everyone.
That is pretty much everything I have to say on fashion, you’ll be glad to know. Hopefully this will propel me to new heights in my pursuit of being the number 1 lifestyle blog on planet earth. Soon I’ll have my own show rivalling Sex and the City. Perhaps I’ll call it Cancer and the Countryside if I’m still living at my parents house when it airs… c’mon, I had to mention cancer once.