View Full Version : Fashion, Style, Aesthetic. Why do you dress the way you do?

29th January 2010, 08:45
Starting this thread after reading through a very insightful and informative thread on SF and wanted to know everyone from heres take on it.

Here's the original thread from SF:

For those of yous too lazy to click the link and read through the thread (its only like 10 pages anyway), i've compiled a bunch of the posts i find are the most relevant.

It doesn't bother me at all. I'm learning a lot from this thread. I have a sort of Americana style that I dig, it suits me well, and I'm trying to learn more about what appeals people to certain styles, specifically this one which I see popping up a lot lately. If I don't get it, I'd like to learn why or learn more.

Ah. Okay. Well.. I mean, that's kind of a difficult question, since where exactly does our sense of aesthetics come from? I'll just rattle off a few of my preferences and tastes to give you an idea...

I've always liked villains, not superheroes; Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman in Batman Returns was the first woman I ever loved; black and white look so much better to me than red and blue; I appreciate static, feedback, and decay in music just as much as melody, harmony, and rhythm; I'd rather live in a blackened ancient castle than a sunny, warm plantation; I think taking things apart is more fun than putting things together; I like things that drape; when I was a young boy, I watched horror and science-fiction movies like they were keeping me alive; I feel more comfortable in a cardigan, a black button-up, cargo pants and combat boots than in a polo, chinos, and brogues.

I have a very, very dark sense of humor, I'm very sarcastic, and I like reading poetry. My favorite fabrics are leather and cashmere.

and for reference, I think the second and third photographs posted above look fantastic. Would I dress like that on a daily basis? No. Would I incorporate some of the garments/ideas/styles into my own wardrobe? Definitely.

The problem is that clothing is something that's supposed to portray something. I judge people based off of clothing they wear. Sorry, but I do. I'm sure most of you guys do too. I dress not only to satisfy myself, but to look presentable to others and portray part of my personality. I have a pretty open view of what 'presentable' is, and sometimes I like to purposefully break away from presentability. I hope that my personal style comes off as creative yet somewhat sensible to those I meet. After all, like I said, dressing too weirdly inhibits social interaction. I'd much rather have people comfortable talking to me so I could make more friends and have a good time than have them refrain from approaching me because I look like I'm going to rip their spine out and use it to rape their children.

When I see a greasy-faced kid with long hair in a Naruto shirt, sweat pants and nike running shoes, I pass a certain judgment in my head. Not sure if that's wrong or not, but I do.

When I see a clean cut guy wearing a v-neck sweater, meticulously trimmed hair, pressed trousers, polished shoes and thin-rimmed glasses, that's a different judgment.

When I see a girl in vintage clothing matched perfectly with good heels and subtle make up, that's a different judgment.

When I see a girl in a beat up denim skirt cut too short and a beer belly flopping over the fly, I pass a different judgment.

When I see a guy in a business suit, a white shirt and a maroon tie with no pocket square, all front buttons done up, sleeves too long and square-toed shoes, that's another judgment.

WHen I see a guy in a well-fitting suit, fitted but no wrinkles around the shoulders, slight pulling in the waist, a little cuff showing, a nicely patterned tie and antiqued quality shoes, that's another judgment.

It’s a given that people dress, in a way, for other people. At some point in your development you might get away from that and say you dress for yourself but that’s a naïve way to put it as it leaves the rest of humanity out of the equation (i.e. you don’t dress up to stay home and watch TV, do you?). So where do you go once you get out of that, IMHO essential, “NO” phase.

What’s important to understand, if you want to be satisfied with how you dress, is that dressing for the gaze of others, so to speak, does not equate dressing to meet the expectations of other people. It means understanding that garments are signifiers, due to their charged background and history. Leather jackets aren’t just dead cow hide; they’re Brando in the Wild one who’s rebelling against whatever you got or Joey Ramones rocking at CBGB. In fact, leather jackets are such a great example because they became a metonymy, at least in French, where hooligans and various kind of youth movements of the 60s used to be called “blousons noirs” (black jackets) the garment becoming synonymous with the person, even eclipsing the individual, turning him into the archetype of rebellious youth. Garments, by virtue of their history and depending on the way you combine them with other garments, are also polysemous; they can mean different things depending on the context and what they’re paired with.

Now you might wonder where I am going with all that, so here it is:

1. We do dress for the gaze of others, to communicate something to them, to express ourselves.
2. Clothes are very charged items; they have meaning, even more meaning than the wearer as they imbue him with archetypical characteristics.
3. Knowing all this does not mean that we have to meet the expectations of others, just that they’re here.
4. Consequently there is no optimal way to dress, as only simpletons and economists believe there are universal, optimal settings. It’s all about what you want to convey, to whom and in what way. I guess we could go on a tangent on subcultures Vs “mainstream” culture here, discuss if you feel like it.
5. That being said I do strongly believe that there are better and worse garments, combinations and dressers, I just don’t believe there are better type of dressers
6. So I would say there are good goth-ninjas (i.e. Darkanimal) and total failures (hot-topic goth types). Blank does not like that style, no biggie, I’m not interested in everything, it’s important to be able to filter or the amount of information out there is overwhelming. However that means that if you don’t care about them you don’t try to discuss them in an off-hand manner, if that’s not the case then you have to approach it with an open mind and ask yourself essential questions such as:
a. What is that person/designer telling me about herself/himself
b. What are his/her influences?
c. Are they pulling it off, what could they change, to do so?
d. Do technique, styling and materials come together to become more than the sum of their parts or is it, ultimately, an empty exercise?
e. Etc, you get the idea

Fuuma, I appreciate your invitation to post in this thread, but it looks like you said it all. I don't really have much to add. Style is an outward appearance of one's character. People dress how they feel, unless they don't have enough self-esteem and become influenced by society (peers, media, etc.), or if the workplace demands a dress code. So, when blank wrote that he doesn't get it, he really meant that he doesn't get it - he doesn't have the experience in his life that would allow him to relate to such an aesthetic, and that's fine - people's experiences differ, this gives rise to variety. I think how we dress is a part of one's experience, same as all the other things we do in life. I am not exactly sure what blank's style is like - does he get Gucci? Armani? JCrew? Brioni? It may make the discussion easier.

And yes, I agree, in a certain sense we dress for others. I think that is because we look for understanding - I mean, what is more human than to be understood by someone else? We catch someone's eye and we think that this person gets it, and hopefully this "getting" is on a deeper level than one's outward appearance, or so I dream. I think growing up is a part of it, for both designers and consumers. I find it quite amazing that I can look edgy and sophisticated at the same time by wearing Ann's stuff, and I am thankful that she exists. And I am sure Ann is thankful that she could grow up and successfully translate her vision into beautiful, high quality clothes.

As far as prices go, I think that 1) this discussion has been beaten to death - you can support sweatshop labor and wear cheap crap or you can pay a lot for a well made garment, the choice is yours 2) a question of price is kind of ridiculous on a board where people drop $3-4k on a suit with a finger snap.

I don't mean to prescribe things on a forum where I am a guest, but I just think that lumping designer clothes with streetwear and denim is a bit misleading as far as pricing discussion goes. Some designer clothes' quality is on par with what people in the suits area wear, some of them use the same mills and the same fabric manufacturers. Anyway, I digress.

Back to style as an outward manifestation of what you feel inside - this is important, because you are taking a certain truth about yourself and you are showing to the world (it needs not be immediately graspable, just eye-catching to the right person). I think I may understand some of blank's gripe. There is nothing I hate more than fakery, so when a certain look is usurped by someone and made into "a style." Seeing someone wears a certain something just to pose or to adhere to a trend makes my blood boil. It boils double when the trends happen to coincide with my style (you know that come fall all the ditsy bitches will be wearing black had to toe, because the magazines will tell them to). Stylization and style are two polar things, and maybe what blank sees is purely stylization. It may not occur to him that someone genuinly feels that what these designers create is beautiful and deep, something they can relate to.

Well, that was a mouthful.

Frankly, Fuuma, I'm rather shocked that you clearly know so much about semiotics but cling to the naive belief that authors have control over what their signs signify.

When someone wears particular clothes they send a message to both themselves and other people. They have control over the message it sends to themselves (which is why it's often "I'm too sexy for this shirt"), but are not fully conscious of the message or how it is being sent. They have no control over how the message is interpreted by others, because other people are putting the clothes in their own context.

Maybe my father was killed by a goth-ninja. Maybe my sense of humour is such that I confuse goth-ninjas with circus clowns. When you get dressed, you consider what kind of peoples' interpretations you care about, and do your best to craft your message.

One of the most important messages you can send to other people and one that clothes are particularly good at sending is a description of your identity. Unfortunately, these days we have very complex identities, so usually you communicate just a part of it at once and then only vaguely.

Dressing as a goth-ninja is a message that most people will not understand, so it's like writing using a lot of jargon: a few people might be impressed, but it's often the better writer who can say the same thing more simply. As art, though, where the message is purely aesthetic, goth-ninjas are excellent.That's a good point, but quite irrelevant to this discussion, I think. If you look at my post, I don't expect people in general to understand what I am projecting, but only those who can relate (understanding is what I am looking for, a certain sense of affinity). I mean, would you have a conversation about Mozart with a redneck in an Iowa bar? No. Same principle goes for style. Besides, it seems that by your rational we should all wear standard issue clothes, so (god forbid!) we don't project a non-palatable image. This is exactly the kind of mentality responsible for an incredible amount of dullness in clothing, especially in the workplace.

You bring an interesting point but, as Faust alluded in his answer, people often dress to be understood by a particular audience that, at least partly, shares their sensibilities and background. This is why the analysis stating that people dress both to conform and distinguish themselves holds water; you want to dissociate yourself from the masses and claim belonging in some sort of specific group. I know this can sound elitist, but, hopefully, the idea is not to claim your “tribe” is the better one, but that it is the better one for you. I would say one of the function fashion boards serve is to help posters mingle with individuals who share their aesthetic preferences and even construct some form of shared narrative. This is why you hear comments such as:
 The internet dresses you!
 The sufu fit
 Raw denim is hyped! (where!!?? Only in here and similar places)

Another point to consider is that the interest of archetypes lies within the idea that they offer a set of characteristics that are known by a large set of the population (i.e. the hard-boiled detective and femme fatale of film noir).

However I do agree that the messages we send may be either unconscious or read differently by people with different backgrounds (everyone else but us). Literary analysis also teaches us about the various degrees of reading and this also applies here, in addition to what we think we’re saying there are also additional degrees that reflect our subconscious state, the society we live in, etc. We will never be understood completely by anyone, including ourselves, but this hasn’t stopped humans from trying again and again to connect with each other, I must say I’m optimistic (or blind) enough to keep trying, that it does not bear the results I initially wanted is part of the fun anyway.


29th January 2010, 09:47
we have already a thread like this...you can dig it up somewhere

29th January 2010, 10:10
If there is already another thread perhaps we can move the discussion there? Otherwise I'll say good one, luda for opening a useful thread which may lead to interesting discussion, i think its a good idea.

As for my own take, I would point out that I still havent read the whole above thread, other related topics, or let the idea brew in my head long enough so my opinions should be taken lightly or just complementary to the issues above.

What i do know is that i consider myself a complete beginner in terms of fashion style and aesthetic, for a few main reasons;
I struggle against my own body proportions, the way premade clothes "generally" fit, the temptation towards brand conformity, money (could this could be argued against?), environment, and the lack of sartorial experience in general. I think we can all relate to to this struggle in some way. I am still trying to develop my own "look" (which in itself would be expected to evolve along the way)

I have a long way to go, and am only just starting to develop an idea of what type of clothing works well for me and what doesn't. The problem i find is that there is too much which hovers in between the two extremes rather that be a definite one or other. The way i am starting to approach it is by reading info on forums like this, and just looking at pictures/blogs, WAYWT, and people out there. Then I like to break it down into finding out what type (fit/style/colour, etc) of a certain item (eg: Jeans) works best for me. (eg. Anti-fit, straight, regular, loose, bootcut, shorter length, midrise, low rise.) Ideally i want to apply this concept to all elements of clothing, and develop it further. The only way to do so is to education, and trial and error... so that is what i intend to do.

29th January 2010, 10:12
ill say.....lets start new with this thread and lock the old one i say.......

29th January 2010, 10:21
ah crap i was a bit hasty in making this while starting this thread and made a slight typo.

I basically just want to know why you dress the way you do simple as that.
i did not mean this at all haha

Starting this thread after reading through a very insightful and informative thread on SF and wanted to know everyone from heres take on it.
this is what this thread is supposed to be all about (relating to why you dress the way you do), hence all the quotes.

edited first post to reflect this

29th January 2010, 15:53
Well, lets see... I definitely think that the way people dress can be a reflection of who they are inside, though only if they give thought to it.

For myself, I've always been drawn to more classic asthetics and values. Depression era clothing, from workwear to dressier fare, has always had a great alure to me. This really started with wearing a pcoket watch when I was in high-school and has developed over time to my current style of dress. The pocket watch is still there, often in a vest and generally with a jacket over it, weather permitting.

This tendency is also tempered with my distaste for dress-codes. After working in a place that required a white dress shirt, tie, and dress pants/shoes every day, I wanted to break away and do something different. This has made me try to make pieces of clothing fit in where they might not normally be seen. This is part of why I like raw denim, as it can be sharp enough looking to dress up very nicely, and when it's more broken in it's great with similarly styled other articles of clothing as I usually wear, just in different fabrics. i.e. When the jeans are more faded, I don't wear them with a wool jacket any more, but perhaps with a more casual fabric or patterned jacket. I also find that by doing this, I can go from any location or event in my day to any other without worrying about what I'm wearing; feeling comfortable and fitting in well, if perhaps dressed slightly nicer than most expect, in any social situation.

This is my current line of thought.

29th January 2010, 21:14
i can't find the right threath for this but thought that this was the best one.. Offyatree i know you have a pendleton flannel. i'm planning on buying one but not sure about the sizing. maybe you know how to size.. size down becouse the run big or otherwise... would like to have some advice


30th January 2010, 08:35
Thats the exact kind of response i'm looking for BOF.

I'm trying yo get a better understanding of what draws people to the type of clothing and outfits that they're in to and to discuss it above all.

I guess anyone who thinks twice about what theyre going to wear on any given day assembles their outfit according to the message that they want to convey. Formal events are a good example i guess since you will want to look 'presentable' for the occasion (whatever presentable is) if youre going to a wedding or whatever due to there being a 'dress code' either official or unofficial. Of course your personal style and aesthetic can have influence on that too but i guess in general people will dress more or less the same to these events.

Its what you put together to wear everyday where the variables come into play and you dress the way you do according to this message you want to put forward. Understanding this message is the hard part as you really have to think about a number of different variables and even then the person conveying the message may have not done a very good job at getting what they wanted across.

I think this is what defines a good dresser. Someone who can put an outfit together and have it convey their message accurately more often than not. the more often they get it then the better a dresser they are. It also depends on who is interpreting the message though, if the person interpretting it shares a very similar aesthetic then it will be much easier for them than someone who doesnt. Thats why its always important to have an open mind when looking at what someones wearing since if its not similar to your aesthetic then you really need think about things like this:

a. What is that person/designer telling me about herself/himself
b. What are his/her influences?
c. Are they pulling it off, what could they change, to do so?
d. Do technique, styling and materials come together to become more than the sum of their parts or is it, ultimately, an empty exercise?
e. Etc, you get the idea

and only after going through that can you judge if someones well dressed or not. There are many types of styles and being well dressed in one such style may be the complete opposite in another.

BOF, I personally havent generally liked your outfits that youve put up, and i know you have definitely gotten some negative feedback (as well as positive) about them in the past. I think your style and aesthetic is very unique as well as very different to mine, and this may be the root of much of the negative comments on your fits that youve recieved. Generally if you don't understand something you try to work out why right? I think most people don't think about it.

Its all about conveying your message well to your desired audience, with internet forums being one of the outlets.
The recent 'mynudies fit' of plaid shirt, jeans, boots, workwear theme appeals to many members here but it definitely wouldnt get much praise on SZ, pretty extreme example i know. I remember i was drawn to mynudies by the outfits of ace, greg and snozepp as they seem to share similar aesthetic and styling to me and i could relate to each of them individually. I think its a shame none of them really post anymore.

This is the reason i think some people like snozepp and catch dont post here so much anymore after the mainstream mynudies aesthetic became what it has. I know they generally got very favourable comments on their fits but did they always feel the same way about the fits posted by other members? (not saying this is true, but its definitely a pausible theory i think)

This is basically most of what i can think of and put into words that came up after reading that thread over at SF

30th January 2010, 14:56
I'm glad to have hit the nail on the head, and I realize that my sense of style isn't entirely in line with the majority of people (otherwise, I might actually see someone dressed similarly in real life). However, I think that there is great value to be had in there being a diversity of opinions and views shared, and this is still the friendliest of the forums, so this is where I am most active.

Last week I had to take a personality profile for work, the results of which indicated that I am less inclined to be a leader or a follower, but rather likely to be individualistic. This is definitely true in the way that I present myself.

30th January 2010, 19:29

30th January 2010, 19:41
omfg...so good :lol:

actually i thought the same as i saw luda's post! :-)