Okay. We've divided the world into three general categories of men: Category 1 being the well-dressed men with some kind of flair; Category 2 being the men who make few mistakes and are passable in most situations, but have no particular strong aesthetic statement, and Category 3 being the oblivious bad dresser.
We've outlined some of the major mistakes that the Category 3 people make. We've talked about the implicit messages, good and bad, that being a sharp dresser, an acceptable but neutral dresser, and a bad dresser send.
So now I guess it's time to talk about what makes a good dresser. This is much harder than the others. And I am not, myself, a good dresser. I don't have a great eye or the patience or discernment to notice a lot of things. And I don't have much confidence in my own judgment about what's cool. Nonetheless, I persevere to fulfill my readers' request.
First let's distinguish between being a good dresser and having a particular style or taste. You can be a good dresser and be, say, way too preppy for my tastes, or way too indie, or whatever. This becomes very murky ground. Still, I plow forward.
I think the trick for male dressing is mastering texture and layering. Color's important, too, and drape. And pattern. But texture is really what it is all about, I think. You can't have too much going on, or it's noisy and unpleasant. But there should be some softness and some sturdyness in what you've got on. Softness makes me want to reach out and touch. Sturdyness reminds me that you're a man. Corduroys are nice. A little bit of nub in the weave of a shirt is nice. Or a jacket that's surprisingly soft. But you don't want too much of that. I am not sure how to articulate this, but I suggest you start looking at men who are dressed well. Observe pattern and texture. You will start to see things that you might not have noticed before.
My ex-boyfriend, a Category 1 guy for sure, took me out for a birthday dinner tonight. I interrogated him on the subject. He maintains that men have a lot of trouble with color, generally. He's got a great eye for colors that are unusual without being flashy -- a lot of browns, greens, burnt oranges, olives -- warm, relaxed, unique but not overly eye-catching. He layers well. He looks comfortable without being fussy; hip without being trendy. He tells me shoes are a big distinguisher. Today he was wearing leather half-boots that are interesting, sensible, and stylish. He tells me you have to be willing to spend money on your clothes (this is a mental barrier for me, too, and keeps me in the women's equivalent of Category 2 or 3 more than I'd like to be). I asked him where he learned how to dress and he was stumped. "I always kind of noticed things, and had an opinion about how I wanted to look," he told me. "But I made some terrible mistakes, too." There's a picture of him at a pretty young age wearing cowboy boots with shorts. This is the price you pay for taking risks, I guess.
I have no solutions for men who are looking to be Category 1 dressers except to pay attention to texture and pattern and play around with layers. And don't settle for the plain old khaki-blue-grey-olive limitations that Banana Republic or J Crew or the Gap is feeding you. The world is more colorful and interesting than that, and you are more resourceful and independent minded than the people in the merchandising department.
And don't fuss too much about it. It's not that important, to anyone. I've had mad crushes on men in all three categories. If you're cool, and you're cute, and you're fun, and you're confident in your own skin, I don't really care how you dress.
Phew. What a big subject this has turned out to be. I've ruffled a bunch of feathers, it seems. All in a day's work.