Every guy needs a good fashion mentor. The problem is that very few of us ever find one either amongst our family or friends, or even in the workplace.
Sure, there are those guys we admire from a sartorial standpoint, but that’s usually because their clothes-selecting prowess comes secondary to the continuously-changing rotation of women they seem to entertain and the disgusting amounts of money they make each year.
Rich guys, jocks and celebrities can look good in almost any type of clothing because they have other things going for them — especially confidence.
So, during a recent interview I asked Project Runway’s Tim Gunn to mentor the men of North America on the basics.
In doing so, I took liberties in placing our collective trust in Gunn’s wisdom and also assumed that my readership stretches across the continent.
While I’ll assume that my readers will indulge the latter point, I figured I could trust Gunn, what with the show’s sky-rocketing ratings, millions of fans, and all.
First off, Gunn says he finds Toronto’s male population to be particularly fashion-conscious along with guys in major centres such as New York and Los Angeles.
Sorry, Boston, Washington D.C. and Chicago — you don’t pass the Gunn litmus test.
Overall, however, we have a lot of work to do, according to the guru.
“Generally speaking, I’d rate the North American male C or C-minus,” Gunn says. “The biggest faux pas is wearing clothes that don’t fit. Comfort seems to be the governing force in men’s fashion these days and a lot of men look like they’re still wearing their pyjamas.”
His solution: Look like a bum behind closed doors, but dress to impress when you hit the streets, even if that means sacrificing a certain degree of comfort.
As he puts it, “When we’re out in the world I think we have a responsibility to the world.”
But that doesn’t mean dressing like we walked off the set of a very buttoned-down 1940s film.
Sure, Hollywood legends such as Cary Grant were impeccable dressers, but times change and so do expectations.
Although Gunn laments the surrendering of formality on occasions which at one time would have been black-tie only —he cites red carpet appearances at award shows as one example — he points out that the jeans-open dress shirt-sport coat look made famous by designer Tom Ford can work for the average man.
“I think the jeans and sport coat can look sensational or it can be a mess. I think the difference between a mess and sensational is a matter of fit.”
In other words, if you can afford to drop $2,000 on designer clothing, spend an extra $100 and get it properly tailored.
Fit aside, Gunn feels there are several staples which should always hang in our closets:
• A good pair of designer jeans, but not necessarily a pair which costs $300
• A good leather jacket — either a blazer or as outerwear
• A good two-piece suit, preferably in a dark colour
• Decent footwear, namely a good pair of loafers, lace-ups or an ankle boot.
And there you have it, gentlemen: a handy guide from a man well-versed at fashion and design mentoring. How you put his advice to work in your best interests is entirely up to you.