by James Gallichio
As many of you will have seen, I recently completed an “IAmA” over at Reddit, entitled “IAmA Personal Stylist for men. I teach men how to dress, how to present themselves and how to take pride in their appearance. Ask me anything.”
For those unaware, these interview-style posts allow the massive Reddit community to ask questions about a huge variety of topics. My favourite from today are “IAmA documentarian who spent 8 months in Transylvania investigating vampires and the supernatural, AMA.” and “IAmA Crime scene cleaner. Ask Away”.
My AMA (Ask Me Anything”) was very successful – not only did it yield 1,100+ comments and questions about men’s style, Harrison Fjord and personal styling in general, but it also gave us 20,000 unique hits for HF and our sister site, Image Consulting Melbourne, and generated some new clients for our personal styling services, which is always nice.
There were two common threads in the comments which I thought were worth discussing. The stigma I will henceforth discuss relate heavily to the stereotypes attached to being well-dressed. Many men feel threatened by fashion, by style and by taking pride in one’s appearance. They view it as weak; as narcissistic; as effeminate and unmanly.
The first can be surmised with a simple screenshot:
There were many questions regarding my sexual orientation, as well as the sexual orientation of my clients and the people I associate with on a day-to-day basis in the fashion community. It seemed almost disappointing for many to hear that I am straight, as are a large majority of guys I encounter in the fashion world. The perhaps-suprising truth is that there is probably around the same proportion of gay men in the fashion community as in any other community. Being well-dressed and being gay have nothing intricately in common.
The second “stigma” that arose from the Reddit interview was one that I have heard many times before. I heard it when Julian and I started Harrison Fjord; I heard it when I first told my friends about my business. I hear it all the time, and it’s a misconception that I think a lot of men have trouble wrapping their heads around.
To illustrate, I’ve selected some choice remarks from user “jjijj”:
My question to you is: If I, one day, desire to look any of my future children in the eye and be able to hold on to some shred of our culturally-vanishing masculinity or dignity, should I A.) not listen to a word of anything you have to say, or B.) actively campaign against you and the messages you’re propagating?
(Our grandfathers fought in motherfucking Normanday or Guadalcanal, and we’re queuing up so that this fucker can recommend skin-care products or coordinate your goddamn dockers???)
I’ll hip you, briefly as I can, to a concept from T. Veblen from the early 20th century…
You know how in fictional presentations of the future (think Warner Bros cartoons when they travel to the future… or anything similar) people are all wearing the same thing? It’s usually this silver jumpsuit thing, but everyone’s wearing it. Why is that? Well, Veblen says it’s the outgrowth of years of us being conditioned to think that these arbitrary cycles of changing clothing styles are incremental steps towards something better. They are, after all, sold to us, quite insidiously, as though they are stepwise improvements — this year’s collar-widths are so much more beautiful than three years ago — it’s only natural that we think that these are all steps in approaching some sort of stable “ideal”.
What the fuck ever. It’s a con and a shell game, and no more disrespect to you than I need to give, but you and people like you are the shysters that are selling this bullshit.
For many men, fashion is something that is inaccessible. We are taught to think that if we are straight and if we are male, then we are automatically hopeless, poorly dressed slobs. At the same time, a man who has pride in his appearance is characterised as being narcissistic and vain; he works to improve his outward appearance at the expense of more suitable pursuits, such as sport, mateship and car maintenance.
Most of our personal styling clients are self-diagnosed as being pretty hopeless with clothes. They don’t know how to look their best, and they have a bit of a fear of shopping. So instead of going out there and trying new things, they shop where society tells them is “safe” – Tarocash, .yd, crappy generic tshirt/casualwear stores. The result of this is what I would argue is much closer to the concept that “jjijj” quoted from Veblen above – thousands of guys, all dressed in the same, generic clothes, that say absolutely nothing about them and convey no real personality. They all look alike.
Harrison Fjord, and personal styling in general, is about making changes for the better. It’s about helping men to develop a style that differentiates themselves from others, and allows them to express themselves aesthetically. We do our best to encourage men to be different; to carve out their own style.
Thankfully, people with opinions such as those documented above are a dying breed. More and more men are seeing the huge benefit of being well-dressed and well-presented. Men are beginning to understand staple element of masculinity is the ability to look good; to know how to dress and to have a keen sense of style and class. What’s more, every man should feel great about the way that he looks; to experience what it is like to be debonaire; to be sleek and suave; to be irresistibly charming. To deny these things is to deny some of the greatest, simplest pleasures of masculinity.