Feathers and Fur: Navigating the Coyote Fur Debate of Canada Goose Jackets

AVE221-Canada+Goose+2013121Canada Goose has been manufacturing their famous down-filled parkas for over 50 years, but the now iconic brand was relatively unknown until GQ magazine ran a feature in their October 2008 issue that endorsed the company’s signature Expedition parka.

Canada Goose in GQ

Canada Goose in GQ

The company’s revenue has increased from $3 million in 2001 to over $200 million as of 2014, and the exponential growth spiked after the GQ feature. Like anything popular, Canada Goose has faced its fair share of criticism, from the gaudy signature patch applied to all of their products to their counterfeiting issues, but the largest issue facing Canada Goose is the controversy surrounding their use of coyote fur on some of their products.

Animal rights groups such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and the Association for the Protection of Fur-Bearing Animals have launched media campaigns against Canada Goose to criticize their use of coyote fur. These campaigns are full of disturbing images of trapped coyotes, reports that trapped coyotes remain trapped for days, and even describe coyotes biting their own leg off in order to return to their young. Despite numerous criticisms for PETA’s extreme views on promoting animal welfare, such as one campaign that discouraged milk consumption by linking it to autism, the subject of fur use in the fashion industry remains a heavily debated topic due to humanity’s widespread affection for animals, particularly furry ones.

A typical PETA anti-fur ad

A typical PETA anti-fur ad

Anti-fur ads are very effective; they tug at the heartstrings of viewers and cause a moral dilemma – who would ever want to hurt a cute, fluffy animal? There are indeed problems with the fur industry, such as the unsustainable practice of fur farming. If you aren’t aware of what a fur farm is, it’s essentially a factory farm where animals are raised and harvested not for their meat, but for their fur.

Mink in cages at a fur farm.

Mink in cages at a fur farm.

 

Much like factory farms, fur farms are crowded and stressful for the animals inhabiting them, but like factory farms, they are a necessary evil in order to meet the supply of their product. If it were sustainable to efficiently harvest all of the mink required in the fur industry, that system would be in place; unfortunately, just like factory farms are required to sustain the world’s appetite for meat, fur farms are required to sustain the world’s fur industry.

However, this article is about coyote fur used on Canada Goose jackets, and the coyotes harvested for that purpose are all trapped, not farmed. My issue with animal rights groups’ attacks on trapping coyotes for their fur lies in their lack of understanding of the biology of the coyote, as well as humanity’s tendency to react with a sympathetic bias towards certain genera of animals, such as mammals or birds, simply because they’re cute or have fur. First, let’s go a little more in-depth into the biology of the coyote.

A coyote

An adult coyote

Historically, coyotes were native to central plains of the United States, and their range periodically extended North to the prairies of Canada and South into Mexico. Their recent expansion into Northeastern regions in North America has been caused by several factors: the deforestation of the Northeast for human settlement, the increase in food sources such as livestock, and the eradication of the former apex predator of the Northeast, the gray wolf. Coyotes are opportunistic breeders, which means that populations only breed as a function of available food. Because of the increase in livestock populations in North America, coyotes now have a plentiful food source available.

wolf-eradication

The eradication of gray wolves during the 1800s by American settlers was seen as the solution to a growing number of wolf attacks on livestock. The ecological niche of apex predator was left vacant, and aside from the North American black bear, no sizable predators existed in the Northeast. White-tailed deer populations exploded as a result of a lack of predation to the point that these animals are now viewed as urban pests. White-tailed deer are browsing animals, which means that they feed on trees and shrubs. The ecological damage caused by white-tailed deer disrupts the healthy growth of young trees and shrubs and impedes the regenerative cycles of forests. Additionally, deer also cause human injury & mortality – not to mention repair expenses – as the result of vehicular collisions.

Ecological damage typical of white-tailed deer.

Ecological damage caused by white-tailed deer.

Recently, coyotes have begun to fill the niche of apex predator in many regions of the Northeast. Since black bears do not feed on ungulates (animals like deer, moose, or antelope), coyotes now have an overpopulated food source. As mentioned before, coyotes are breeders of opportunity, so with an abundant food source, coyote populations have been steadily increasing in the past few decades. However, coyotes are smaller than wolves, so preying on deer is less common for coyotes, as they prefer smaller prey species like rabbits. With the increase in livestock, coyotes have a food source that is readily accessible and easy to prey upon; a sheep is not as fast nor as potentially violent as a deer.

Coyotes have replaced wolves in many regions where wolves have been extirpated.

Coyotes have replaced wolves in many regions where wolves have been extirpated.

Preventing coyote attacks are now a routine part of every livestock owner’s life. Attacks from coyotes on pets and even humans are now becoming more commonplace as coyote populations adapt and become more comfortable living in such close proximity to humans. Coyotes, like the deer they prey on, are now considered urban pests. In fact, the problem has gotten so bad in Saskatchewan that the Provincial government issued a bounty on coyotes in November 2009; over 71,000 bounties were claimed by March 2010.

Clearly, coyotes are a problem in North America, and will continue to be as long as humans raise livestock. From a biological standpoint, the harvest of coyotes for their fur is not damaging at all to ecosystems they inhabit, as the next breeding cycle will see lost individuals replaced by increased offspring numbers. The coyote cull in Saskatchewan was ineffective; the reproductive strategy of the surviving coyotes accounted for the individuals lost in the cull. Experts state that limiting food sources is the only effective strategy, but good luck telling sheep farmers to close up shop.

Coyotes are a constant nuisance for sheep farmers and now even pet owners.

Coyotes are a constant nuisance for sheep farmers and now even pet owners.

This brings us to the complicated issue of animal ethics. It is impossible to have unanimous support for the harvest of a fur-bearing animal – humans are highly driven and influenced by our emotions and the thought of killing a cute furry animal is a difficult one to process. One needs to look no further than the complicated matter of the seal hunt in Newfoundland & Labrador to see just how contentious the harvest of animals for their fur (and meat) can be. The seal hunt is further complicated by the issue of Indigenous People’s rights, but that’s a whole other issue. What we often forget is that animals have limited lifespans (except if you’re a certain immortal jellyfish), and animals succumb to death due to old age, predation, or disease just like we all do.

The seal hunt. A very controversial practice in Canada.

The seal hunt: a very controversial practice in Canada.

Trapping or hunting, despite their more “savage” reputations among the masses, are in fact the most humane methods of harvesting game or fur-bearers, especially when compared to the conditions present on fur farms or factory farms. When an animal is harvested as a result of trapping or hunting, it is almost always a full grown adult that has bred a few times and lived a healthy, fulfilling life. Juveniles or new offspring are avoided because they are undesirable for meat or fur.

The question of abandoning the trapping & fur business altogether in favour of synthetic materials is an oft-proposed alternative; however, for the same reason that synthetic leather will never replicate the quality and feel of the real thing, synthetic fur is simply not a valid substitute for the real thing. Genuine fur is much better at repelling snow and cold than synthetic fur, and despite the fact that the majority of Canada Goose jacket owners buy the jacket for the brand and not the function of the fur hood, the premium brand image that Canada Goose sells needs to be accompanied by premium materials; that means real fur.

The issue of harvesting animals for their fur is also one of great contention. We are the only species of animal that kills other animals for uses beyond the scope of absolute necessity for survival. In the past, fur-bearing animals provided us with warmth, so their harvest was necessary, but today we are not dependent on furs to keep warm.

The debate on ethics will likely never be settled, because animal ethics are so subjective. We have made large strides in our knowledge of the biology of the creatures we harvest for our own use, but we have also taken many strides backward with the dependence on factory farming. The purpose of this article was to simply present the biological side of the Canada Goose coyote fur debate and help to rationalize the overall fur debate picture, which has unfortunately been polluted with sensationalist claims and a great deal of misinformation about the fur industry. The harvest of fur-bearing animals is certainly far from perfect from a moral standpoint, but it’s not as ethically (or biologically) poor as some of our more regular practices.

coyotetrimhood

 

Society’s Infatuation with the Ugly Christmas Sweater

The ugly christmas sweater has been around for decades, but not until recently have these gaudily knitted garments become popular and almost “cool”. Even those of the Jewish faith have decided to join in on the party, with ugly Hanukkah sweaters sporting knitted menorahs in place of Christmas trees. Why has this ironic fashion trend caught on so strongly? It’s not just the hipsters doing it anymore; popular retailers like Kohl’s have started cashing in on the trend, too. Let’s first explore why a nostalgic item of bad taste like the Christmas sweater has blossomed into the popular item of adults aged 18-50 in the past few seasons.

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Vintage items are desirable items of the middle and upper class. Antique furniture, vintage wines, watches, or cars; the purchase and consumption of such products is almost purely that of the middle to upper class. In his work Retromania, Simon Reynolds describes these classes’ obsession with vintage as the result of a desire to distance themselves from those of lower status by way of alternative consumption. People with more money view themselves as having better “taste” in various aspects of consumption, and buying antiques and other vintage items is a way to make a material statement about that.

If you were to walk through the homes of many wealthy individuals, you would not find the latest, most modern furniture; you would likely find furniture with “character”, an effect that cannot be replicated in a department store, only by time. This is a symbol of status and taste that cannot be purchased by the masses; it needs to be sought out at antique auctions. Buying vintage helps the middle and upper class remain “cool”.

It should come to no one as a shock then that most hipsters are from upper-middle class backgrounds. They purchased vintage clothing not because it was cheaper, but because of the rarity and question of taste their purchase indicated. Under a guise of irony, the hipster movement started making thrift shopping “cool” again, and not just something that was previously done out of necessity due to the low price point.

Part of this culture of thrift shopping was the purchase of “ugly” sweaters. Clearly, these sweaters are worn by those with bad taste, but if sported with a sense of irony, the wearer is exempt from all judgement due to the statement being made due to the self-consciousness of their bad taste.

Pierre Bourdieu

Pierre Bourdieu

Pierre Bourdieu argues that “aesthetic judgement is always a matter of distinction – those who have good taste express it so that they can distinguish themselves from those who do not. According to Bourdieu, aesthetic judgement is concentrated almost exclusively among the high-status members in society.  In cases where members of middle to high status consume aesthetically inferior goods, like an ugly Christmas sweater, they must do so ironically in order to communicate to everyone that the consumer knows their purchase was in bad taste.

In other words, the reason hipsters wear ugly clothes and drink shitty beer is because they know it is, but they use it as a tool to mark themselves as distinctively better than those who come by these consumer tastes honestly. In this way, the reason why hipsters started buying up ugly Christmas sweaters from local thrift stores, or, even more cooly, had their Grandmother knit them one (out of locally-sourced, 100% organic sheep’s wool of course).

As much as we all love to hate hipsters, they are the latest form of counterculture to fall victim to an adaptation of their cultural tastes by the masses. Beards, man buns, plaid shirts; it’s all there in the H&M and American Eagle ads now (they left out the PBR because kids still shop there).

Whether we like it or not, mainstream culture is slowly adopting the tastes of the hipster movement centred in SoHo, Portland, and Queen West. In student dwellings & bars, as well as suburban homes all over North America, ugly Christmas sweaters have become a form of social currency during the annual holiday party. No longer is your status determined by how sharply tailored your jacket is or how exquisite your green velvet dress is; it’s how funny or ugly your christmas sweater is.

If you take a stroll through most of the “hip” or “cool” neighbourhoods in major cities, you’ll see that the ugly Christmas sweater trend has been dropped. No longer is it cool to wrap yourself in knitted irony; those sweaters are lame now in their eyes. Once a trend followed by the cool, trendsetting few has been adopted by the masses, those who strive to distance themselves from mainstream culture will dig a little deeper in order to retain their coolness. This has been a recurring pattern for many years.

The Burberry Nova Check scarf.

The Burberry Nova Check scarf.

At the turn of the 21st century, Burberry scarves were must-have items on the wish list of virtually every stylish person on the planet. Today, they are seen as a fashion faux pas now because the iconic Nova check pattern was copied by so many companies and made the status of wearing a scarf obsolete due to the ubiquity of the pattern.  Alexander McQueen’s signature skull scarf pattern was recently copied by retailer Forever 21 and plastered all over scarves and shirts, and now the designer’s iconic pattern is barely found amongst the fashion elite.

The Alexander McQueen Skull Scarf adorning the necks of numerous celebrities. The pattern has since appeared worldwide on garments produced by fast fashion chain Forever 21.

The Alexander McQueen Skull Scarf adorning the necks of numerous celebrities. The pattern has since appeared worldwide on garments produced by fast fashion chain Forever 21.

It’s only a matter of time before the next “cool” thing to wear at Christmas that is already being adopted by the status seekers and purveyors of all things cool of the world trickles down to the masses, and when that happens, the ugly Christmas sweater will go forgotten for a while. As is the case with many trends, they often make resurgences many years later with a whole different generation adopting it as their own. This is exemplified by the adage that all fashions come back into style one way or another; however, this pattern is not limited to just our clothing.

In the late 1970s, skateboard culture was booming in California and spread across North America as the new cool thing to do. Once enough lame or square people adopted it, the trend’s popularity dipped and went underground for many years, sustained by those dedicated few.

In the 1990s, skateboarding, and extreme sports in general, made a huge comeback. Pop-punk music grew in popularity, clothing companies were launched, video games were released, and the whole skateboarding subculture experienced a massive resurgence. Skateboarding became too popular for the purists and those who desired to be “cooler” than the rest, so longboards became popular, and once too many posers bought those, cruiser skateboards (the short colourful ones) became popular, but boarding as a whole has been declining for years.

To those of you out there who just recently purchased an ugly Christmas sweater: enjoy the fun while it lasts, and hang on to it! History has shown that the trend will reappear somewhere down the line. The heyday of the ugly Christmas sweater is upon us, but don’t expect it to stick around for too many more holiday seasons.

jmb8na-i

 

 

Why Hipsters Dress Like Lumberjacks: The Story of the “Lumbersexual”

imagesI recently came across this article that describes the trend of the “lumbersexual”, which describes the appearance of an “lumberjack” many hipsters and other trendy males have adopted. The rampant incidence of beards, flannels, long hair, and work boots being sported by young, urban males is the basis for the term “lumbersexual”, which brings back memories of the equally inane term “metrosexual” to describe fashionably conscious and well-groomed males of the early to mid 2000s. My issue with the article in question is that the author failed to truly investigate how this whole trend came to be. Time for a history lesson.

cultfeat_4011(lumber1)

How to be an urban lumberjack. 1: Selvedge denim, just like the railroad workers used to wear 2: Flannel cap 3: Axe (not the body spray you used in grade 8) 4 and 5: ??? 6: Diemme work boots 7: Flannel shirt

In 2008, North America experienced the worst financial crisis since the stock market crash of 1929. Millions were laid off, businesses underwent massive restructuring and organizational changes, and society as a whole became a lot more conservative with their money. People no longer could afford to live a life of excess. Consumer tastes demanded longer-lasting, quality goods that would last them many years into the future. It was at this time that the “Workwear” trend in men’s (and to a lesser degree, women’s) fashion took hold. Instead of new, shiny, elegant clothing, male consumers of the world demanded rugged clothing crafted from a quality manufacturing process.

Almost overnight, large fashion houses started cranking out workwear inspired pieces. Entire brands based around a workwear focus even started to pop up. Japanese influence also took an upswing, as the staple garments of the Japanese blue collar industry became the darlings of numerous menswear brands in the form of “repro” (short for reproduction) designs. Even American workwear legend Levi’s decided to get in on the fun, and launched their LVC (Levi’s Vintage Clothing) line to produce a variety of high quality reproductions of classic workwear pieces.

Bottega Veneta FW/08: The most expensive pair of coveralls you'll ever see.

Bottega Veneta FW/08: The most expensive pair of coveralls you’ll ever see.

Bottega Venetta produced workwear inspired pieces like luxurious cotton coveralls and cashmere fingerless gloves. Ralph Lauren launched their double Rl line, RRL, to mimic what LVC was doing. Engineered Garments, launched by Japanese designer Daiki Suzuki, is influenced by the sturdy and cropped garments worn by pre-WWII Japanese blue collar workers. Selvedge denim became a huge trend, and numerous companies were created; some still exist to this day, many have seen their revenues wane with the times. Red Wing boots, long seen as an American classic for their construction and durability, started to be seen on the streets of New York and Los Angeles on the feet of the fashion conscious.

Daiki Suzuki of Engineered Garments showcasing a blazer from FW/11

Daiki Suzuki of Engineered Garments showcasing a blazer from FW/11

For two years, the workwear trend boomed. Like all popular fashion trends, eventually the workwear tastes of the fashion savvy eventually trickled down to urban trendsetters. It was at this time that mention of the “urban lumberjack” was first seen in publications outside the fashion industry’s inner circle. Flannel shirts, selvedge jeans, duck cotton coloured pants, and sturdy leather boots became popular amongst the hipster crowds of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and Queen West.

This influx of workwear inspired clothing was closely coupled to societal tastes at the time. Urban young adults grew tired of the “fake” and modern direction that many cities were taking. Many young males and some females were affectionately drawn to the more authentic side of things: this included all things rural, outdoorsy, and rugged.

What trends were common around this time?

1) Shopping local, supporting your farmer’s market

2) Urban farming/gardening

3) The craft beer industry started to take off

4) Beards became en vogue, as did growing your hair longer, perhaps sporting a man bun in the process.

5) Country music became the most popular form of music in North America

6) Folk Music went mainstream; Mumford & Sons won a few Grammies

7) Many TV series were created to reflect these tastes: Duck Dynasty, Mountain Men, Yukon Men – really any “blue collar” themed show was the result of the jaded urban inhabitant’s yearning for a more authentic, rugged sense of self. Dirty Jobs was a great reflection of this.

images-1

This myriad of trends gave birth to the lifestyle of the urban lumberjack, or what is now apparently known as the lumbersexual. Contrary to what the article in question referenced, the lumbersexual did not arise out of gay culture. The urban lumberjack is largely one borne out of the larger hipster countercultural movement, which has evolved from comically large sunglasses and keffiyeh scarves to dressing like lumberjacks and drinking Pabst Blue Ribbon or craft beers.

The hippies of the 60s/70s...

The hippies of the 60s/70s…

Countercultures are created simply as an alternative to the mainstream; there is no true stance or constant activist principle behind them. If we examine perhaps the most famous counterculture example, the hippie, we associate these individuals with environmental activism and freedom from government control. Ironically, these same youth who were so against destroying the environment and big oil were also the primary consumers in the 1980s when the SUV – perhaps the most destructive vehicle for the environment ever created- was conceived. These same bell-bottom wearing flower children were now suburban adults driving their kids to soccer practice in their 4 wheeled tank that seated 7.

...became the SUV driving suburban parents of the 80s.

…became the SUV driving suburban parents of the 80s.

Of course, there were the genuine (read: authentic) individuals who truly did care for the environment and still hold the same stance today as they did 50 years ago, but the vast majority of individuals who participate in countercultural movements do so as a means of social leveraging. To be authentic, to be “cool”, is a large motivator in our society. Our society is comprised of numerous sub-cultures, all who hold a certain belief and standard of what is “cool” to them. For those who have grown weary of the hustle and bustle of the city and yearn for the simpler country life,  the lumbersexual community gave them a sense of belonging, so they ascribed to it.

Even H&M, which used to be a store for "metrosexual" men, has jumped on the urban lumberjack bandwagon.

Even H&M, which used to be a store for “metrosexual” men, has jumped on the urban lumberjack bandwagon.

The feminization of society in the last 50 years has also contributed to the rise of the urban lumberjack. Feminization is one of the reasons violence has declined in our society, but it has also left many men without a sense of what their masculine identity is. Dressing like a lumberjack, one of the stereotypically “manly” occupations is their attempt at trying to capture some of that bygone testosterone, even if they’ve never held an axe before.

Five years from now, we probably won’t see as many beards, flannel shirts, or work boots being sported by hip young adults across North America. Most of these individuals will have moved on, grown up, for a countercultural lifestyle in a capitalist society has a limited lifespan. The generation after them will find their own problem with the world, their own quest to be “cool”, and their tastes will reflect that. It’s what happened with the hippies in the 60s, the punks of the 70s, Grunge in the 90s, and now hipsters in the 2000s and beyond.

7 Fashion Tips for Guys to Help You Look and Feel Your Best

 

 

1)   Your clothes will look better on you if you’re in good shape

 

If you’re in the middle of a wardrobe overhaul/makeover phase, before you start spending all of your money on clothes, pause for a second. Have a look in the mirror: are you in good shape?

If you’re hesitant or the answer is no, don’t waste your money buying new clothes and spend that money on a gym membership instead. Clothes look better on people who are in shape; that’s how they’re designed. Rick Owens, who, if you’re not familiar, is one of the more influential fashion designers of the last decade, has a great quote that applies here:

“Working out is modern couture. No outfit is going to make feel as good as having a fit body. Buy less clothes and go to the gym instead.”

Rick Owens. Inspired an entire aesthetic dubbed "Goth Ninja". It will look weird to 99% of the population, but the man is a design genius.

Rick Owens. Inspired an entire aesthetic dubbed “Goth Ninja”. It will look weird to 99% of the population, but the man is a design genius.

You don’t have to be jacked, but just make sure that you’re in a position where you feel confident that you’re in good shape. If you feel confident on the inside as a result of being in good shape, then this will project outwards into what you wear, but more importantly, how you carry yourself. Dressing well should be an enjoyable experience, and being in good shape helps to amplify that.

 

2)   Women don’t care about your expensive clothes

Know anyone who got laid strictly because they were wearing this shirt? Didn't think so.

Know anyone who got laid strictly because they were wearing this shirt? Didn’t think so.

 

It’s a lifestyle myth sold by designer clothing companies that women will desire you more if the price tag on your clothes is higher. While it is true that most designer clothing does look better because of the cut, design, and materials used, what really matters is how you carry yourself underneath all that clothing. Clothing with logos that advertise the brand doesn’t telegraph wealth; they broadcast desperation, which is a very unattractive trait.

There’s a saying: “A rich man should never have to tell you he’s rich, and a smart man should never have to tell you he’s smart.” If your clothing is plastered in logos and you’re clearly fishing for a compliment with it, please reconsider your tactics. Needy behaviour is not a desirable trait

Clothes make the man, but clothes should not own the man. Instead, focus on finding clothes that fit and look good on your body type and skin tone. Don’t fall victim to logo-heavy clothing just because it’s “designer”. Besides, all of the most expensive designer clothing rarely has logos, so you are only looking pretentious if everything you wear has a logo on it.

A Rolex Submariner. Might get you some compliments, but it won't make girls fall into your lap.

A Rolex Submariner. Might get you some compliments, but it won’t make girls fall into your lap.

 

 3)   Don’t buy all your clothes at the mall

ThriftShop

 

This is an abridged version of a previous article. One of the reasons guys tend to avoid caring about how they look is because shopping can be a stressful or boring experience. Whether it’s overwhelmingly large stores, pushy sales associates who do a poor job of relating to their clients, or the exhausting atmosphere of most malls, shopping for a new wardrobe can be taxing on your system. For a change, why not try shopping at a thrift store or searching for clothes online using applications like eBay? Experiences are said to have more profound psychological effects on our happiness than purchasing products do, but what if the two were linked?

By searching at a thrift store or on eBay, you throw in an element of unpredictability to your clothing purchases, and the “treasure hunting” effect can leave you feeling much more satisfied with your purchase. If you are more satisfied with your purchase, you’ll likely be tied to that particular item more, and if that’s the case, you’ll probably enjoy wearing it more. It’s the same feeling you get from wearing your lucky hoodie from college when you go out for a run or toss the football around. If you feel happier about the clothes you’re wearing, that will translate to more confidence, and you’ll look and feel great as a result.

After you purchase something that’s new, the novelty of it being in pristine condition wears off quickly when it gets used, worn, or dirty. Buying clothing second hand is also beneficial because you won’t experience that same feeling of depreciation; your clothes are already used and a little worn, so there’s nothing to worry about if they get a little dirty or look worn.

 

 4)   Context is everything: just because you’re dressed up doesn’t mean you’re dressed well

Just because you're wearing a suit doesn't mean it's always the best choice; especially if it fits like the guy's on the right.

Just because you’re wearing a suit doesn’t mean you’ll be the best dressed guy in the room; especially if it fits like the guy’s on the left

 

For those of you who took business in school: did you ever have that kid who wore a suit to class in freshman year because he was trying to act “professional”?

This guy would be a classic example of failing to understand context when it comes to wearing clothes. Dress for the situation or else you’ll look like a clown. If you really want to try going outside the spectrum, that’s fine, but you had better have a lot of charisma and self-confidence.

Here’s what you do to look your best based on context. Figure out what the accepted dress code is for whatever situation you’ll be in that day: work, class, wedding, whatever. Figure out the acceptable spectrum that you can dress within, and then always aim for the high end of it.

Are jeans and a sweatshirt the most common thing on your campus? That would be an example of what the middle of the spectrum is, so wear a great fitting pair of jeans and a nicer crewneck sweater to place you near the top end of the spectrum.

Are you going to a semi formal event and everyone is wearing khakis with a dress shirt and tie? Wear a suit without a tie and a dress shirt. This is still semi formal, but you look a lot more put together. The absence of a tie tones down the formality so you don’t dress outside the spectrum. Plus, ties without a jacket always look worse than a jacket and shirt with no tie. Just make sure everything fits properly.

 

5)   Take fashion advice from women with a grain of salt

Educate yourself so your girlfriend/wife isn't always telling you what to wear.

Educate yourself so your girlfriend/wife isn’t always telling you what to wear.

 

The old adage is that all women know how to dress well and whatever advice they give their husband/boyfriend on what to wear should be taken as gospel. Not even remotely true; it’s a myth that women are all knowledgeable about this sort of thing. As men, we’ve been forced to believe that caring about how we look is a feminine character trait and should repress it for fear of appearing like a sissy or acting “gay”.

As a man, you should at least have a working knowledge of what clothes look good on you and which ones don’t. Learn what looks good on your body type and skin tone. Declining a woman’s suggestion on what to wear can actually make you appear more attractive, because it will demonstrate your independence and assertiveness. Having a women order you around all the time when you’re rummaging through your closet is not attractive to her or you.

Women are traditionally more gifted in art and other visual-based things, so it does make sense that they are generally better at dressing themselves. That being said, there are many men on the planet who are also very visual-based, and there are many women who aren’t that visual-based. This is not to say that you should completely ignore a woman’s opinion; a second opinion on what you’re wearing may yield a new perspective, but you should at least have the basics down to argue your side of the case.

 

 6)   Dressing well means that you’ll look “gay” or feminine

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Another stupid stereotype and myth that needs to die. There is zero correlation between being a homosexual male and being well dressed. Yes, there are some well-dressed gay men on the planet, but there are just as many, if not more, well-dressed straight men.

This stereotype stems from the whole argument mentioned in the previous lesson that caring about your appearance means that you will come across as more feminine. Your clothes should not dictate who you are; your actions should, so if you think that you’ll be seen as feminine if you dress fashionably, you won’t, unless you act in a stereotypically feminine manner.

In fact, caring about your appearance and acting like a normal, confident guy, will make you look more attractive. By dressing better than the norm and standing out from the crowd, even if it’s ever so slightly, you take a calculated social risk. This risk makes you vulnerable, both to potential criticism and increased attention. Despite the notion of the word, vulnerability is actually something that men should express more often. I’ll explain: as long as you carry yourself well and don’t act needy or desperate for attention, your vulnerability of dressing will be seen as an attractive trait, and your risk will pay off.

This can backfire, though, so this is why your body language needs to mirror the appearance you wish to personify. Recall the risk of dressing well I mentioned previously. If you dress well but act needy and annoying, you’ll make people dislike more than if you didn’t put in an effort to look good. You may have dressed the part, but because your actions aren’t attractive, the fact that you went out of your way to look good compounds with your unattractive behaviour and makes you look worse overall. In this case, your risk backfired, and this is where the stereotype of men who dress well are seen as high maintenance and overly feminine comes from.

These guys are dressed well, and there's not a shred of doubt that they're two manly dudes.

These guys are dressed well, and there’s not a shred of doubt that they’re two manly dudes.

Men are not scrutinized for their physical attractiveness to the same degree that women are; we are judged more on our actions and personality. Even though one of the goals of dressing well is to increase your attraction to others, men need to remember that their clothing is not the single most important factor in the equation. Your clothes will be the first thing people notice about you since appearance. This is the brain’s first step in assessing somebody, but your staying power is rooted in what do say and do after that initial assessment phase.

 

7)   Invest more in things that you wear more often

 

Makes sense, right? You should invest the most per item in the following order: outerwear, suit (if applicable), shoes, sweaters, jeans/pants (ideally only 1 or 2 pairs of each), dress shirts, casual shirts, activewear.

 

A pair of Edward Green shoes. They will set you back almost a grand, but the finish on the leather and the quality of the construction will outshine and outlast 3 or 4 pairs of cheaper shoes.

A pair of Edward Green shoes. They will set you back almost a grand, but the finish on the leather and the quality of the construction will outshine and outlast 3 or 4 pairs of cheaper shoes.

The reasoning behind this order is that since you will only need 1 or 2 nice jackets, 1 or 2 suits, and 2-3 nice pairs of shoes, you should spend more per item on them. It doesn’t make sense to spend the bulk of your disposable income on t-shirts or gym shorts if you’re just going to ruin them faster by sweating through them day after day. If you’re only purchasing 1 or 2 pairs of jeans, it makes sense to invest in a few nice pairs to last you longer. Your shoes are in constant contact with the ground, but a nice pair will last much longer as long as you take care of them.

 

Invest more in your coat than you would dress shirts or t-shirts.

Invest more in your coat than you would dress shirts or t-shirts. Pictured is the Stephan Schneider Alpaca Long Coat from FW ’11

You can also look at it this way: the more direct contact on your skin the item has, the less you should spend on it proportionally. Guys sweat a decent amount, so things like t-shirts and even dress shirts wear out the quickest. Your coat, your suit, and your sweaters don’t have the same level of contact with your skin and the sweat it produces as the layers directly against your skin like t-shirts, dress shirts, and undergarments. As a result, they’re likely to last a lot longer, so it makes sense to invest in something nicer, especially considering a nice coat, suit, or sweater adds a lot more statement to an outfit when compared to a nice t-shirt or dress shirt (provided you control for context).

Fashion is a highly subjective field, but I believe these 7 philosophies and guiding principles are universal. I believe that we should all take pride in our appearance the best we can because it demonstrates a great deal of self-respect to the world. These 7 philosophies will help you feel great and feel your best, and hopefully make getting dressed in the morning that much more enjoyable.

 

 

5 Myths About the Fashion Industry

Fashion is an every day part of our lives (unless you’re a nudist) because the clothes we wear say a lot about who we are as a person. Like all industries, fashion is not immune to stereotyping and myths. Here are some of the common mistakes many people make when it comes clothing and the fashion industry.

Unknown-71) Made in Italy means it’s better.

Prato, Italy

Prato, Italy

Historically speaking, the crown jewel of the textile and garment industry was Italy. Many legendary fashion houses were founded here, and in the city of Prato, the capital of the Italian garment and textile industry, most of these fashion houses set up shop. That was then, and this is now, and in today’s world, Prato is no longer filled with a bunch of adorable old Italian ladies sewing together Italian suits and shoes for fashion houses. Today, Prato is estimated to be home to almost 50,000 migrant Chinese workers, of which less than 10,000 are legal. This makes up for almost a third of the entire population of the city.

 

 

 

A Factory in Prato

A Factory in Prato

The conditions in many of the factories populated by migrant workers are reported as being sweatshop-like, and as a result of the low pay and harsh working conditions, the textiles and garments produced in Prato today pale in comparison to those of the past bearing the same “Made in Italy” label. This label used to be synonymous with quality, but today, many companies are popping up that sell garments with the coveted “Made in Italy” label, often with some phony Italian name attached to the brand as a namesake. This is not to say that major fashion houses are exploiting this cheap labour, as most of these houses retain family-owned garment and textile factories to protect the integrity of the brand, but be aware: next time you see something that is “Made in Italy”, that label might as well read “Made in China”. Ironically enough, this brings me to the second myth.

2) Made in China equals poor quality.

What Italian textile industry was to quality, the Chinese textile industry was to cheap, efficient production. Today, the stigma of “Made in China” is not entirely accurate; yes, there are still thousands of factories that churn out cheaply made products, but in recent years, due to inflation and demand for higher wages, many companies that were previously based in countries with higher standards of employment conditions such as the United States, Canada, and Italy, have recently shifted production to China in order to keep product costs down while maintaining profit margins.

What all Arc'Teryx tags used to say.

What all Arc’Teryx tags used to say.

A Canadian example is the outerwear company Arc’Teryx, a personal favourite of mine. All Arc’Teryx products were designed and manufactured in Canada, but ever since the company changed hands and production was expanded, many Arc’Teryx garments are now manufactured in China. Despite this, the company employs strict quality control standards, and the reputation of their brand has yet to falter despite the change in production location. In fact, company revenue has tripled in the past 5 years. Other companies that manufacture high quality goods in China include: Theory, Helmut Lang, Rag & Bone, and Emporio Armani.

A Chinese worker making an Arc'Teryx Jacket

A Chinese worker making an Arc’Teryx Jacket

The conditions in these factories are much better than the sweatshop like conditions that still plague many Chinese factories to this day. The employees who are working in these garment factories have more extensive training and possess more skill than many of their counterparts working in factories that assemble garments for places like Wal-Mart or the Gap. Essentially, think of it like the difference between the AHL and the NHL; you get paid more because you’re a better player, or in this case, garment maker. As a result, quality is not impacted, only the price of labour.

3) All clothing products made in Asia are of inferior quality to those made in Europe and North America.

A Japanese Denim Mill

A Japanese Denim Mill

Japan has an incredibly rich manufacturing history, as many of the manufacturing techniques and technology were directly imported from America. Japanese denim is widely regarded as the best in the world, as many highly trained artisanal companies have been manufacturing denim the same way for almost a century. Today, most of these denim companies manufacture their products using old shuttle looms, which they procured from Levi Strauss Co. after they shifted much of their production to China in the designer denim boom of the 1980’s. Many high fashion companies also manufacture their clothing in Japan due to the high quality workmanship and technology available in many of the manufacturing prefectures. Global brands such as Dior, PRPS, Nudie, and Robert Geller manufacture many of their products in Japan, or use fabric from Japan to be sewn into garments elsewhere. Japan also has a rich history of fashion design, with common themes including relaxed fits, deconstruction, and a certain casual elegance surrounding many designers’ collections. Workwear is also a fairly popular trend in Japan, and many companies hit it big during the workwear trend that began in 2008. Due to Japan’s rich history of manufacturing, reproduction of the clothing and styles of this era were easily reproducible.

 

Yohji Yamamoto.

Yohji Yamamoto.

The godfather of Japanese fashion, Yohji Yamamoto, has been successful for decades designing clothes that are truly unique, and in my opinion, some of the coolest on the planet. Japan is also home to arguably the best fast fashion company in the world, Uniqlo, who have recently expanded into the North American market with an extremely positive reception. Uniqlo is prized by many fashion hobbyists because of their high quality products and designs compared to other entry level stores such as H&M, The Gap, and Zara.

Three of Yohji Yamamoto's looks. Authentically Japanese and effortlessly cool.

Three of Yohji Yamamoto’s looks. Authentically Japanese and effortlessly cool.

4) A higher price automatically means something is of higher quality.

Stephan Schneider. He designs both the textiles and the garments for his collections. The quality and design that goes into his pieces are second to none, but they are relatively cheap when compared to large fashion houses' products.

Stephan Schneider. He designs both the textiles and the garments for his collections. The quality and design that goes into his pieces are second to none, but they are relatively cheap when compared to large fashion houses’ products.

Many decades-old fashion houses sell clothes not on merit, but simply based on the legacy of their name. Gucci, Prada, Chanel, etc…have rich histories, but their current designers were not the ones who founded the label. Many of these labels suffered slow periods when the industry crashed or when a certain designer was at the helm, but the brand is only as powerful as the designer’s interpretation. This is why I rarely purchase things not from an eponymous label; the designer founded their label on certain aesthetics and a vision, so their passion is so much more evident than in the big houses, which choose designers based on past history, but pay them a handsome salary in the process. As a result, the drive and the passion is sometimes lost in the money, while smaller labels still trying to prove themselves are inherently more exciting.   What’s nice about these smaller labels is that because the designer is trying to gain a foothold in the industry and form a following of fans, prices are often lower. It’s essentially the same process that occurs in the music industry: when a band first starts out, their shows are cheap, low-end productions, but the passion in their work is evident, and you can sense the energy of the band much more in a small venue than in a huge stadium. When a band gets to a huge stadium, their music has often changed, they’ve “sold out”, and they’ve become a lot more safe and predictable in order to secure more money from their fans and sponsors. The key is not to purchase your clothes from a world-famous rock star; you have to get them from that local band that’s just starting to take off.

5) Europe is ahead of the rest of world with regards to fashion.

A pochette.

A pochette.

Perhaps decades ago before the advent of airplanes, the Internet, and online shopping, but this simply isn’t true now. Many trends that exist in Europe will simply never be popular in North America because of cultural and functional differences. For example, pochettes (see picture) are fairly popular with European men, but they’ll probably never catch on in North America because our lifestyles are functionally different. Europeans do a lot more light travelling and aren’t infatuated with the automobile quite like we are, so owning a pochette makes sense for a European man, but a North American man would look out of place with one. Despite this, many travellers return from Europe infatuated with how progressive many European cultures are, and while emanating these cultures might seem like a good idea, we have to remember that North America is functionally different from Europe, and, unfortunately, a lot of things popular there will simply never see the light of day here.

8 Common Fashion Mistakes Men Make

Dressing for a business or formal setting often becomes a regular part of a guy’s life, and doing it right can improve your long-term job performance, your co-worker’s perception of you, and the chance that you get a promotion or hired for a job that you interview for. Dressing appropriately and doing it well is one of the little details that many people often overlook and view it as unimportant, but psychological research suggests otherwise. You also get treated better when you dress better.

I recall an instance where I was low on money in my chequing account because I had preset my savings account to withdraw money on that day of the month every month from my chequing account. I was in town for an interview and was wearing a suit and tie. I went to pay for my bus ticket, but to my horror, I had no money in my account! Three people at the bus terminal witnessed my situation and immediately offered to cover the $5 that I was short for my ticket. As I’m sure everyone has been short for money at least once in their life, it pays to at least look successful, even though at that moment your bank account might suggest otherwise.

With this in mind, these are the mistakes that I see a lot of guys young and old making when it comes to looking their best. If you aren’t currently following these tips, this won’t make or break your career. That being said, improving the way you dress can only help you give off a better impression, which can only help you in the long run, so you might as well try and look your best and show you care. There’s a reason that large client-facing corporations invest a portion of their training budget into image consultants: how you look does reflect on your professional appearance.

I understand that fashion is a subjective beast and that many “rules” are made to be broken, but there’s a reason that certain ways of dressing are more widely accepted than others; they just look better. This is not an exhaustive list, but these are the most prominent ones I see most often.


1) Wearing clunky slip-on shoes with a suit.

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Your shoes are the single most important part of your wardrobe. They are the first contact with the ground and take the most abuse throughout the day. No one item in your wardrobe can elevate your outfit quite like the way a good pair of shoes can. Unfortunately, due to the prevalence of stores like Aldo and Spring at the mall, most guys default to a pair of clunky, slip-on, square-toed shoes from these places to wear with their suit.

The first problem with doing this is that these shoes look cheap. I understand that many guys just starting out don’t have the most cash to spend on a nice pair of shoes, but if you’re going to invest in one thing, it’s a nice pair of shoes. Many other places exist aside from the mall that allow you to purchase a nice pair of shoes on the cheap. Try discount stores, eBay, thrift stores, etc…A cheap suit with good shoes will always look infinitely better than a nice suit with cheap shoes. One of the main reasons for this is that humans can see the quality of leather much easier than suiting material like wool.

If you’re wearing loafers with a suit, make sure it’s in a more casual setting. It’s just an accepted practice that your shoes should have laces in a business or formal setting.


2) Wearing a tie that is a lighter colour than their dress shirt.

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The rule of thumb is that your tie should always be a darker colour than your dress shirt in a business or formal setting. What you wear out to the club falls under totally different criteria.

  203Your shirt should also never be the same shade of colour that your tie is, even it has stripes. While you might think that your shirt and tie “match”, the reason that you wear a tie is to create a visual interesting strip to break up the blocks of colour that your jacket and shirt create, ideally in a colour that compliments them to form a balanced colour palette. By picking a tie that is lighter than your shirt, you ruin that balance. The last thing you want to do is make your tie lighter than your shirt because it ruins the visual effect. Same goes for matching your tie too closely to your dress shirt. The reason this is seen so often is that employees at a lot of low-end menswear stores in such as Moore’s or Tip Top Tailors often dress this way, which gives the false impression that it is correct. Dress shirts and ties that are sold in a combined package (as per the examples on the right) are also guilty of this, so it makes sense that many guys would wear the shirt/tie combo just as it came in the package.


3) Wearing a plate buckled belt with their suit.

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Never with a suit, but I’d argue never at all

If you are dressing formally, a metal plate buckle looks tacky and unprofessional. A classic buckle is the way to go here. I’d argue that metal plate buckles just look tacky in general and that you should wear a proper buckle with everything from your suit to your jeans, but that’s your preference.

Classic belt buckle with a suit. Always.

Classic belt buckle with a suit. Always.

If you want to be taken seriously in the business/professional world, lose the plate buckle. Get a black or brown belt to start, but once you get a more diverse wardrobe you can add more colours as you see fit.


4) Wearing inappropriately coloured socks

White socks with a suit. Rookie mistake

White socks with a suit. Rookie mistake

White socks with anything business/formal related is the sign of someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing, and that can send a message to your potential employer that you might not know what you’re doing at your job if you can’t get the basics right. Wearing the right pair of socks is a lot more important than you think.

Fine for the day-to-day, but never for an interview

Fine for the day-to-day, but never for an interview

Socks can provide a flash of personality in an otherwise boring outfit, which stimulates visual interest and can tell people who you have an interesting personality if you’re willing to risk drawing attention to yourself. Colourful socks are a great way to jazz up an otherwise conservative outfit without going over the top.

When in a professional setting, match your socks' colour to the colour of your pants.

When in a professional setting, match your socks’ colour to the colour of your pants.

That being said, don’t do this in an interview setting; you’ve already got their attention, no need to distract them. When dressing more professionally, like during an interview, make sure your socks are a similar shade of colour that your pants are.


5) Tying a tie knot that isn’t the right size.

Merril Hoge: A legend for all the wrong reasons.

Merril Hoge: A legend for all the wrong reasons.

Unless you’re Merril Hoge, you probably can’t pull off a tie knot that is the wrong size for the collar style of your shirt (and even then, Merril gets constantly lambasted for his ridiculously oversized tie knot).

Perfect sized tie knots. Notice how the middle guy is wearing a spread (wide) collar shirt, so his knot is proportionally wider. The other two are wearing shirts with more narrow collars, so their knots are also a little smaller.

Perfect sized tie knots. Notice how the middle guy is wearing a spread (wide) collar shirt, so his knot is proportionally wider. The other two are wearing shirts with more narrow collars, so their knots are also a little smaller.

Make sure that you tie a four in hand knot for smaller collars, and a half or full-windsor for point and spread collar shirts. Balance the size of your tie knot with the width of your collar as well as the width of your suit lapels. A knot that is too large or too small will make your neck area look abnormal, affecting the balance and contrast of your suit and overall look.


6) Not removing the inventory tag from their suit jacket.

The inventory tag: remove after purchase.

The inventory tag: remove after purchase.

I see a lot of younger guys making this mistake, mostly because they want to advertise the brand of their suit. You will find this tag sewn on to the left sleeve of most suiting jackets. The tag is meant to be removed upon purchase of the jacket, and is used for inventory purposes only. Leaving it on there makes you look like a jackass.

 


7) Using a tie made of synthetic material like polyester

This one is simple. Polyester just isn’t like silk or wool in the sense that it doesn’t fold and tie that well. Forming a dimple with your tie is 10x easier with a silk or wool tie, not to mention that they just look better. Yes, they are a tad bit more expensive, but if that’s a factor, eBay or a thrift store are your friends. Places like Banana Republic, Ross, TJ Maxx, or Winner’s also have cheap silk ties in fairly classic colour choices.


8) Believing everything they read in GQ, Esquire, Details, or Men’s Health and taking it as gospel

Nick Wooster: #menswear cult leader, fashion blog photo whore, and fashion clown. Tries way too hard to look good. GQ loves him.

Nick Wooster: #menswear cult leader, fashion blog photo whore, and fashion clown. Tries way too hard to look good. GQ loves him.

These magazines all have an agenda: to sell the clothing that companies who have ads in their magazines make. The effect that a magazine like GQ can have on recommending a certain brand or product can have is akin to the Oprah effect with books. Ever wonder why Canada Goose jackets just popped up overnight? GQ ran a feature on them in a 2008 issue – the next year stores everywhere had them stocked. Raw denim from companies like Nudie and A.P.C. had almost no sales before GQ started recommending them; now they’re commonplace. “Classics” such as Sperry TopSiders and Clark’s Desert Boots also had their heyday in recent years thanks in large part to GQ and similar magazines.

While their in-your-face style of writing comes off as non-argumentative, most people who are experts in the fashion industry largely consider magazines like GQ to be a bit of a joke.

They do offer some solid advice for basics, but a lot of the trendy stuff they push on their readers can be quite absurd sometimes. The whole #menswear movement is a little bit of a cult anyhow. Stick to what you’re comfortable in, and don’t go changing everything about yourself just because a magazine with “authority” told you to do it. There is a wealth of information online that far surpasses what these magazines can provide. These magazines are a great starting point, but just dip your toe in the pool, don’t dive all the way in.

This is why your suits or shirts will never look the same as in a magazine.

This is why your suits or shirts will never look the same as in a magazine.

Also, never expect your clothes to fit like they do in a GQ photoshoot. Photoshop works wonders, as does pinning clothing from behind to make it fit more snug on the models. Visit your tailor and know your measurements.

You don’t have go out and spend a ton of money to look your best; it’s the little details that make the difference.

Lessons from Suits: Honest Body Language, Dress Sense, and Swagger

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Our non-verbal communication accounts for 93% of our total message that we’re sending to our recipients. We often think that it’s what words we choose that are the best tactic for effective communication, but it is in fact how we deliver these words, combined with how we carry ourselves and what we are wearing, that are most necessary to effectively deliver your message. Fortunately, the methods to achieving success with regards to effective communication are not that difficult. I’ll use the television program Suits to help illustrate how to use honesty in the way you portray and dress yourself, and how it can impact the message that you’re sending to your audience and impact your own self-confidence as well. I’ll start by analyzing the two main characters, Harvey and Mike, and then I’ll get into why honesty in your body language and dress sense can affect your self-confidence and the impression you’re giving off. Finally, I’ll bring everything full circle and explain how this concept affects your natural swagger.

In Suits, the show centres around Harvey Specter and Mike Ross, who are two lawyers at the firm Pearson Hardman. Harvey is a high-ranking Senior Partner, while Mike is a lowly, albeit brilliant, associate at the firm. The way that Harvey and Mike carry themselves reflects greatly on their character and their personalities, and the actors in the show do a great job portraying the specific traits of their character. The costume designers also deserve full marks for their choices. After all, with a name like Suits, your fashion sense better be top notch.

Harvey-Specter6

Harvey is a high-ranking, alpha male character. He is tall, handsome, and confident, and his body language and dress sense reflect this. He walks with his shoulders back, arms slightly swaying, and he’s always looking up.  When he sits down, he is at ease; he leans back in his chairs unless he is making a dramatic point, and his posture remains very relaxed despite the intense depositions or interrogations that he is often a part of. If you examine how Harvey dresses, his suit choices also reflect his character and mirror his body language, and the way he dresses and how he carries himself is an honest projection of his personality. His suits have a wider lapel, his shirts are almost always a wide, spread-collared style, and his tie knots are always a full Windsor, which is the largest of the common tie knots. The wide lapels accentuate his chest to make it look broader, and the large tie knots combined with the spread collars draw a lot of attention to his accentuated chest. This combination makes Harvey look how he acts: dominant.

Harvey, just sitting back and playing it cool.

Harvey, just sitting back and playing it cool.

Contrast this to the character of Mike Ross: Mike is a low ranking individual at the firm and still quite unproven in his career, despite his brilliance. He has a very skinny build and his lack of experience doesn’t yet lend him the confidence to be a dominant character or person. Mike walks a little more hurriedly than Harvey does, and when he walks, his shoulders are hunched forward slightly, hinting at some nervousness on his part. Harvey initially ridicules the way Mike is dressed, from his cheap suits, bad skinny ties, and shirt collars that don’t sync well with the size of his tie knot or the width of his ties. His dress sense remains the same throughout the duration of the first season because it mirrors the behaviours and inexperience of Mike’s character.

The character of Mike Ross is intentionally dressed in slimmer suits and skinny ties because they both match his body type, but they also match his character’s presence. His suits do not accentuate his chest as much as Harvey’s do, and his tie knots are much smaller, either tied with the 4-in-hand or the half Windsor knot. His shirts are standard point collar dress shirts, but the width of the shirt collar does not sync up to the size of his tie knots (as you can see in the picture below). This signifies a lack of experience with dressing in a business formal setting, and is a reflection of Mike’s lack of experience as a lawyer, as well as his youthful ignorance. Mike’s dress sense conveys that he is less dominant as a person and relatively young and inexperienced. This isn’t a bad thing, because his dress sense portrays an honest message about who he is as a person. As Mike grows and learns the tools of the trade and becomes more experienced and confident, the costume designers mirror his gained experience with a heightened sense of style, as you can see in the differences in pictures below. The first is from the first season, and the bottom is from the third.

Mike's sense of style reflects his character's relative maturity

Mike’s sense of style reflects his character’s  maturity…

...and has evolved with his character throughout the series

…and has evolved with his character throughout the series

So why does honesty matter when portraying your message through dress sense and body language? The metric behind projecting good body language to your audience is projecting honesty towards them. This could include: honesty about the message you’re delivering, honesty about your passion for the subject of your message, honesty about who you are as a person and how it relates to your message, and honesty about your intentions. When you communicate, you’re attempting to form a connection by delivering a message to your recipient, and if it’s dishonest, your recipient will detect that and respond negatively to you.

Think of one of the first things you do when you meet a person: the handshake. A good handshake confirms that you have honest intentions and that you’re not hiding something (such as a weapon) from your recipient. As the interaction evolves from here, your honesty and intent should remain apparent to your audience. When you stand with your arms at your sides or slightly raised, you’re conveying that you’re not out to harm someone, and that you’re not defensive; you’re trustworthy. If you were to have your arms crossed or if you had your hands right out in front of you, this conveys a dishonest and defensive persona, and your message will not be received in the manner you intended. If you maintain eye contact, then you’re comfortable talking to the person, which also conveys honesty. If you avert their gaze, perhaps you are hiding something or are too embarrassed to maintain eye contact, which again displays a dishonest message.

As much as you might not think, what you wear can have immense effects on your confidence and your overall body language. This is why it’s important to make sure that you are dressing in a way that’s comfortable for you, and that’s not just limited to physical comfort, otherwise the world would be overrun by people in sweatpants. You need to have a certain psychological comfort in what you are wearing and how you are portraying yourself, otherwise you are being dishonest to yourself, and this message will project outwards as well. Just because a magazine or the Internet tells you that you should wear something, take a moment to do a little self-examination.

Does this certain item or certain style mesh with your personality?

Do you act in a certain way that will reflect well on what you’re wearing?

Can you see yourself being confident wearing whatever is in question?

If you answered no to any of these questions, perhaps that particular style isn’t for you, and that’s ok. I feel as if more people need to embrace different personalities and aesthetics that are portrayed by the various types and styles of clothing, and start understanding what kind of image they should be projecting. Don’t just go wearing what everyone else is, especially if you’re not crazy about it. Your clothing choices should be an honest reflection of your interests. A lot of people are faking who they are and conveying a dishonest message, and you’d be amazed at how many people can see right through it. If you know what type of person you are, what to wear to best reflect that, and are comfortable with this reflection of yourself, then you’ll notice that you will naturally become more relaxed and confident on a day-to-day basis.

Two men: vastly different in their roles, but both equally comfortable in them. Swagger at its finest.

Two men: vastly different in their roles, but both equally comfortable in them. Swagger at its finest.

This is essentially the basis for swagger, which is something that cannot be purchased or faked. True swagger is about portraying yourself through honest body language, honest style, and honest action. A double-breasted pinstripe suit with peak lapels isn’t for everybody, and simply buying one will not make you instantly become “a boss” (or a bawse, if you prefer).  Despite what a lot of songs or magazines will have you believe, buying expensive designer items doesn’t maker you cooler and give you swagger – in fact, it often makes you look worse, because people detect the dishonesty portrayed by it.

This is the same reaction you might get if you discover that someone owns a counterfeit designer handbag or sunglasses. They’re being dishonest about their income, and no one likes a liar. This is often why you hear fashion magazines preaching about ignoring clothing with a lot of external logos when you’re investing in a grown up wardrobe. Buying clothing based on solely the logo is largely a dishonest motive, because it shows that you aren’t truly thinking about who you honestly are as a person before you purchase it; you’re simply buying it because of the label. What a lot of people fail to realize is that no one cares how expensive your clothes, watch, or shoes are, because if it doesn’t sync up with who you are, it will simply draw negative attention towards yourself. This is why buying a Rolex – real or fake- will never be directly responsible for getting you laid.

Learning what works for you and what style best suits your personality is definitely not an easy task, but once you have established this, I guarantee that your life will be positively impacted.  To use an example from Suits, Mike often experiences difficulties whenever he tries too hard to be too much like Harvey instead of embracing his strengths as a person. He was essentially trying to fake it till you make it, but that never works. Understand what type of person you are and align that with the image of yourself that you’re projecting to the world. Your personal brand will be much easier to identify, you’ll make more memorable impressions on people, and you’ll be a lot more comfortable in your own skin. After all, that’s what true swagger is all about.

Don’t Buy Your Clothes at the Mall

This is not meant to be some anti-capitalist rant; in fact, I am going to encourage consumption throughout this article. What I will try to make you think about is not why you’re buying clothes, but where you’re buying them.

Rapper-producer duo Macklemore and Ryan Lewis are now world-famous after performance at the Grammy Awards, with respect to both the number of awards they won, and their performance of “Same Love” that evening. However, the duo is best known for their #1 hit “Thrift Shop”, which highlights looking great by wearing vintage clothing purchased at a thrift shop, all by spending minimal amounts of money on it. This is atypical of rap or hip-hop culture, whose artists pride themselves on gaudy displays of wealth and excess. Songs often name-drop certain brands, or the song itself could be about an entire brand or product (Jay-Z’s “Tom Ford”, Nelly’s “Air Force Ones”, and Run DMC’s “My Adidas” to name a few).

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Before “Thrift Shop”, the notion of shopping at a vintage store was largely looked down upon, seen as a place that only hipsters and the less fortunate could ever find sartorial heaven. I would argue that it is not so much a question of class or wealth, as evidenced in Simon Reynolds’ book “Retromania”. In the book, Reynolds describes vintage shopping as an interest unique to the middle and upper class. Because of their (generally) higher level of education, the consumers of these classes have the knowledge to put vintage clothing in a historical context and appreciate its value more than someone who is rummaging through clothing racks at the Salvation Army simply because it is all they can afford. It is the same principle that is applied to antique shopping, or vintage wine collecting. Yet, despite this knowledge of fashion context, our society is still vehemently opposed to buying second-hand clothing. Why?

In 2012, a student at the University of Melbourne named Tullia Jack published a study that examined the people’s habits when it came to washing clothing – specifically, a pair of jeans. When she interviewed over 250 people about why they wash their jeans so regularly, over 50% of the respondents replied that “it was their habit to do so”. The second most common answer was that “the jeans were visibly dirty”, which is surprising; most would expect visible dirt to be the most common reason for washing a garment. Miss Jack used the term “collective conventions” to describe why the vast majority of people wash their clothes so regularly and have a general aversion to dirt. In today’s society, we are conditioned from an early age to be clean, and apparently, we will go so far as to wash our clothes regularly to avoid them becoming dirty, even if there is visible evidence of no such thing! A microbiology study out of the University Alberta determined that bacterial growth on a garment plateaus after 11 days, and never reaches levels that can be deemed harmful to the wearer. So, we fear dirt and disease, even though most of the time it is simply all in our heads.

So what does this have to do with thrift shops? Our fear of dirt and disease prevents us from purchasing clothes at thrift shops because we think they’re just that: dirty. We often forget that after a few wears, all clothing is in essentially the same condition, and only after many years of wear does it begin to deteriorate. So aside from the obvious benefit of saving money on your purchases, what is so great about going to a thrift shop for second hand clothing when you can get shiny new garments at the mall?

Shopping is a temporary psychological reprieve. It offers a rush in the form of a brief search of a largely known commodity, the premise of looking good, but it all goes downhill as soon as you fork over your money. New clothing quickly gets worn, looks wrinkled, and simply doesn’t look as good as it did in the store. At a thrift store, all the potential disappointment created by your garment not being shiny and new anymore doesn’t exist, since everything there has been worn before. Additionally, your search for clothing is full of mystery and intrigue; you simply do not know what is hanging on those clothing racks, so the search is both much more exciting and much more lengthy.

At the end of your search, when you do find something you like, you feel much more accomplished because you put more effort into finding it. Gone is the novelty of something new, but what sticks with you is the experience of searching for that garment. I like to term this approach “experiential consumerism”, where you are more attached to a product based on the effort and experience attached to events leading up to its purchase. This creates more attachment towards the product, and flips the notion of empty, vapid consumerism on its head. You also don’t experience much anxiety in the form of payment since everything at a thrift store is so damn cheap anyways.

Don't turn your nose up at shopping here. It's cheaper, better for the environment, and you'll enjoy your clothes more.

Don’t turn your nose up at shopping here. It’s cheaper, better for the environment, and you’ll enjoy your clothes more.

I’m going to change gears a bit, because while I did say that you should avoid malls, the thesis of this article isn’t that you should only shop at thrift stores…

Online shopping has revolutionized the world, and made entire businesses become viable and products become accessible. It has also opened the world up to the world of high-end designer clothing, which was previously only available in the largest cities in the world. Most of my wardrobe consists of items from high-end designers, most of which I purchased second-hand online or at a thrift store. Why the eclectic mix? What ties these two together is the experience and search I had to go through in which to purchase them.

I didn’t walk into Barney’s in New York to buy any of my clothes. I saved my money, waited patiently, searched with great fervency online and eventually found what I was looking for. This might have required a bit more work and input on my part, but it makes the clothes you wear that much more special. Additionally, I enjoy having a unique wardrobe, so if you feel like you are comfortable pulling off some more unique looks, then think outside the mall and be better than the Gap. Ebay is a great start to this, but there are many other avenues with which to procure high-end designer clothes for substantially less than what they retail for.

eBay is one of many online resources for new or used designer clothing at cheap prices.

eBay is one of many online resources for new or used designer clothing at cheap prices.

I’m not saying that everyone should just drop everything and only shop at their local thrift store and buy all of their nicer stuff from eBay – it wouldn’t be practical or achievable for most. I will say this, though: if you find yourself somewhat jaded and in need of “retail therapy”, don’t go to the mall, it will probably make you feel even worse the following day. Instead, take the time to search for some cool things at a thrift store, or surf around eBay and save yourself some money. And even if you could care less for clothing, why not save yourself some money and try looking at a thrift store? If you don’t care much about something, why get ripped off and spend too much money on it? Attach experiences to things you enjoy when you purchase them; you’ll find that you’ll enjoy them that much more.