To Dress-Up or Not

While waiting for a class to begin and chatting with a friend of mine, Monique, whom I’ve grown quite fond of since the beginning of the semester, I was asked a question that struck me as both complimentary and thought-provoking. In the middle of our conversation, she interrupted and asked, “How come you are always so dressed up?” After pondering the question over for several seconds I responded, telling her I enjoyed looking presentable every chance I got since occasions rarely called for it. And I refused to subscribe to the idea of putting an effort into my appearance only for those rare occasions.
But the question really got me thinking, why do we choose to get dressed-up (especially when the time and place don’t call for it)? We all have our reasons, I’m sure: to impress (perhaps the lady you’ve been eye stalking from a distance), to channel the confidence that lies dormant within, an attempt to fit in, or simply to reflect a passion for a craft deeper than words can express that is menswear. Whatever the reason may be, we’ve all been there. Without a doubt most men, on the path to discovering their style, experience some, if not all, of the aforementioned phases.

The entirety of my high school years were defined by the lack of a strong sense of self and as a result, I found myself trying to keep up with the trends in play — obnoxiously over-sized t-shirts (XL, to be exact), baggy jeans, expensive Jordan sneakers, etc. — and to no success, if I might add. Interestingly enough, I always knew how I wanted to present myself, sartorially. The means was just never there. Not until my junior year in college at least, when I got a decent paying job as a private home tutor and developed a keen interest in men’s fashion via a blog, at the time called Robert I. Brown Style (R.I.B.S), aptly named after its curator (sixteen years of age, at the time!). R.I.B.S simply opened my mind up to the possibilities that men’s fashion had to offer and most importantly, how easy it is to be well-dressed, once an understanding of one’s self and style was established.

Upon my discovery of R.I.B.S (and several other influential blogs, sites, and characters — The Sartorialist, Bereolaesque, to name a few), it was difficult to approach my appearance the same way that I had for years. (When you’re given a sample of the best food you’ve ever tasted, assuredly, you would desire more, perhaps you’d even go as far as learning the recipe.) This was the same passion I was fueled with. I dedicated a whole day to clearing out my closet, embarking on a new beginning and approach to my wardrobe; reserving the few pieces that could stand the test of time, and tossing the rest. Sure enough I went several weeks without flexible wardrobe options but it was a sacrifice well worth it. My new-found passion for menswear and style (and most of all, a brewing confidence) would bring about the way I had always imagined I’d present myself through my clothing.
Discovering a personal style proved to be more challenging than I would’ve imagined. However, the journey revealed several things to me:
1. Without confidence, the style is irrelevant — you want to wear the clothes, not have the clothes wear you.
2. Dressing to impress will only lead to disappointments — dress for you, and only you (there’s true happiness in that).
3. Standing out beats fitting in — you stand out when you’ve learned to love yourself and be confident.

That being said, nowadays, I dress up simply because it’s hard not to. It is happiness, it is confidence. It is being the best you that you could possibly be (at that moment). It is an unspoken language that exists between yourself and the world, and a constant reminder of being conscious. It is an art and a lifestyle. Who wouldn’t want that?!

“People dress up for funerals. Why not dress up to celebrate that you’re alive?” Wise words from American author, Gay Talese.

For those that do and would like to share, why do you dress up? Drop a comment below.

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