Someone once asked me if I thought I had any fashion sense. My assumption was that the question was an insult disguised as humor. I laughed and gave a cryptic answer. (“I have the fashion sense of Tricyrtis hirta” I said. The questioner had no idea what Tricyrtis hirta was. “It’s a plant called toad lily” I explained. Laughter ensued. What I did not explain was that toad lilies have beautiful flowers with equisite petals. Someday someone involved in that conversation might encounter a toad lily and be amazed, and consequently realize that my self-perception of my own fashion sense is not as lowly as first thought.)
It seems to me that fashion sense could have many definitions. Is it awareness of current styles and social faux pas? Is it some appreciation for aesthetics and design? Is it understanding how to select well-fitted clothes? Is it the equivalent of chameleon skills? Is it buying the right brands?
You see, I’m not sure fashion sense is something that I want. I don’t want to be revamping my wardrobe every season. I don’t want to freak out if someone else at an event is wearing the same shirt or shoes that I am. I don’t want to feel pressure about what I choose to wear. If fashion sense applies just to coordinating colors, styles, and elements of an outfit then I am all right with it.
My preference when it comes to fashion is a classic and conservative style. I’d love to return to the days when wearing a suit everyday was normal. But this would be very out of place in the world I live in, so I dress casually.
I have certain rules that I follow when it comes to what I wear. Here are a few of them.
The setting. Right now I wear almost exclusively casual or business-casual clothing. I do my best not to be the most casually dressed person in the room.
Clothing brands. I try to avoid any products that have the name of the manufacturer conspicuously on them. I don’t mind spending a fair amount of money on clothing as long as I am paying for quality and not a brand.
The fit. I avoid very loose or very tight clothes. Unfortunately when I buy shirts I am forced to compromise. People with long arms and a long, narrow torso will never find shirts that fit perfectly off the hanger. Ideally I’d like to have my shirts tailored but right now that is not practical.
Socks must be coordinated. This starts with colors. I have a large palette of socks to draw from. White socks are only paired with jeans, casual khakis, or shorts. Depending on the outfit sock color might be determined by the color of my shirt, pants, or shoes.
Shoe rules. The rest of my outfit determines my shoe selection. I have strict rules about shoe color and style depending on what I am wearing.
My self-perception is that my fashion sense is rather bland. I do not recall hearing genuine criticism or compliments regarding something I have worn in the past decade. I’m perfectly happy that way.
I view fashion with a skeptical eye. In fact, my feelings toward fashion contribute to my appreciation for the film Zoolander. Ben Stiller’s satire of the fashion industry looks at shallow people, bizarre clothing, oppression of workers, and the fickleness of the public. It’s just brilliant.
As Derek Zoolander once said:
I’m pretty sure there’s a lot more to life than being really, really, ridiculously good looking. And I plan on finding out what that is.