Style

Trends: Dressing Under the Influence

If you asked me if I like trendy clothing, I would tell you “no” without hesitation.

They’re often a waste of money, can make you seem immature, and don’t exactly foster a professional image.

But recently, I’ve found myself wearing my pants a little on the short side, letting my beard grow longer, and really enjoying my straight razor side part hairstyle.

All of these elements can be considered trendy, and as a result, I’m sometimes referred to as a hipster (a catch-all term used almost exclusively by poorly dressed men).

But I don’t think any of these elements, or the combination thereof, make me look like an obsessive up-to-the-minute fashion fiend.

And when employed correctly, trendy pieces can be valuable additions to your wardrobe and enhance your appearance.

In this post, I’ll detail why trends can be a great thing and provide you with an overview of how to incorporate some of my favorite recent trends into your wardrobe.

So without further ado, I present to you my thesis: in defense of trends.

1. They’re a sign of the times

men's fashion trends

Can’t quite remember what 1985 looked liked? Here it is in my first photo with my Dad.

I don’t mean that in a negative way, like fashion has gone to shit.

I mean it in the way that trends often capture the essence of a moment or moments in time.

Why does your dad look so damn cool in his photos from high school?

Because he was dressed in the style of that time.

He had bellbottom pants, a stripped polo, shaggy hair, and perhaps a mustache.

He was undeniably and quintessentially the 1970’s – you can almost hear Pink Floyd playing in the background.

All of the feelings, emotions, and ideals of the decade are immortalized in the style of the day.

It’s the very same reason Jay Gatsby is a memorable and emulated style icon; he embodies the trend of luxury and excess of the Jazz Age.

If he would’ve dressed in the drab styles of the previous decade, he wouldn’t have made such a lasting impression.

I personally love the clothing, auto, and architectural design of the 1960’s.

Everything was sleek, minimal, and functional.

But there wouldn’t even be a cohesive style for me to recognize and feel a kinship with unless designers, engineers, and influential people were following (and improving upon) the trends of the time.

The trends of today are the stuff of fond nostalgia 20 years from now.

2. We’re always changing anyway

It’s easy to look back and think that styles of previous periods “always were” and that anything that followed was trendy and unrefined nonsense.

But in reality, every period in history is marked by stylistic elements that were either an evolution of or in retaliation to trends of the previous period.

Even historic landmark buildings that we think of today as the epitome of classic style were most likely outside of the box and cutting edge design ideas when they were built.

It’s the trends that tastefully push the boundaries that are influential and contribute to the development of timeless style and aren’t just mere comical representations of a certain period.

To stay timeless, you really must have a mindset toward continued refinement.

Ask a man today what period he thinks represents timeless men’s style and he’ll likely note the 1960’s.

If, however, you were able to travel back in time to ask a 1960’s man the very same question, he’d likely cite the style of the 1910’s or 1920’s.

So keep in mind that the perception of what’s timeless is always evolving – not by a lot, but it isn’t a constant.

3. Stagnation is the enemy

Really, it’s entirely too easy to get caught up on buying only timeless clothing.

But, even reaching this timelessly well dressed image I promote takes a lot of experimentation, risk, and venturing outside of your comfort zone.

So with evolution being so strongly built into developing your personal style, you’re only hindering yourself by fighting every change.

When it comes to style (and life in general), successful people never stop evolving.

Just don’t seek change for the sake of change.

Or in other words – if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Consider the Porsche 911.

When viewed from most angles, it looks like it hasn’t evolved much at all over the past 50 years.

But it definitely has.

It just takes a keen eye to spot and articulate the differences.

And that’s what makes it an epic car!

Rather that bastardizing the original by completely reinventing the design year after year, Porsche has chosen to stay true to the car everyone fell in love with and has simply made it better and better with each iteration.

And better is always superior to different.

Incorporating Trends

The best way to rock a trend or trends is to establish a wardrobe foundation that consists largely of timeless, good quality investment pieces.

Then the incorporation of trends into a wardrobe grounded in a timeless style looks intentional and slick.

Without that anchor, you risk looking like you just wandered into an Urban Outfitters and asked for one of everything.

So what exactly is timeless style?

trends timeless men's style

When I say timeless style I don’t mean dated, boring, or unchanging.

I’m not suggesting that you dress exactly like your grandfather.

Instead, dress in a manner that wouldn’t have appeared too out of place in any decade over the past century.

This means that clothes should be fitted, but not tight. The proportions should enhance your body’s natural shape, not exaggerate it.

The color palates shouldn’t mirror the current most popular interior design motifs.

Before embarking on a campaign to wear all of the latest looks, I think it’s extremely important for you to have a comfortable starting point.

For that reason, I recommend that you first…

Build your foundation wardrobe

In middle school I, of course, wanted to wear what everyone else was wearing.

I didn’t care if the style fit my personality, was functional (26” leg openings?), or even looked good.

I just wanted to fit in.

And that was okay…at the time.

As a general rule, adolescents dress like idiots and we’ve all come to expect and accept this lemur-like fashion sense.

It’s part of the fun of growing up.

But actually growing up is key.

Nothing looks more awkward than a grown man scrambling to keep up with celebrities or what “the kids” are wearing these days.

No matter how much money is spent on clothes, it’s painfully obvious when a man doesn’t have a stylistic sense of who he is.

So with that said, you need a versatile wardrobe that fits your personality, location, and lifestyle while also being timeless enough to look good for the foreseeable future.

Only then can you support the heavy weight of risky and otherwise out-there fashion choices.

But once you’ve established a timeless base…

Then get creative

trends evolution graph

Once you have a foundation wardrobe built around your life, you’ll naturally find your style sense wandering, and that’s perfectly fine.

Really, it’s the natural progression of learning to dress yourself and then perfecting and tinkering with your style.

No one wants to become bored with their clothing.

But make an effort to adopt trends that will contribute to your lifelong style evolution rather than detract from it.

Acting with this “trend filter” actually won’t be very difficult once you have a keen sense of what you like and what works for you.

When you’ve developed a sense for style that can endure the test of time, most trends will appear repulsive.

You’ll find yourself questioning the mental soundness of certain celebrities or fashion influencers.

But other trends will immediately catch your attention and will seem utterly irresistible.

Once you develop this gut feeling about men’s style, you’re well on your way to being a lifelong well dressed man.

And if ever you feel like you’re getting a little too far away from your roots, you should reset and spend time getting reacquainted with classic menswear pieces.

If you’re just starting out and aren’t sure where to begin, check out Casual Style 101 to find out exactly what I’d buy if I were starting all over again.

Then once you’ve mastered your closet, it’s time to move on to the fun stuff.

Trends I like and how to wear them

Unless you follow runway fashion like most guys follow their hometown team, it’s best to take trends in smaller doses.

If you’ve read my previous work, you’ll know that my approach to style is all about balance.

I like to contrast rugged pieces with refined ones, breathe new life into old designs with modern materials, and balance bold patterns with muted color palates.

That means incorporating only one or two trends at a time and using other timeless elements to ground my overall appearance.

Monochromatic

trends monochromatic

The monochromatic look essentially means dressing in a single color from head to toe.

It’s great for creating a sleek, sophisticated look and you don’t have to worry about contrasting or complementary colors.

But that doesn’t mean it has to be exactly the same color like a cult member’s tracksuit.

In this article I explain how to play with texture, saturation, and shade to incorporate this look without appearing to be dressed over-the-top.

But beyond that, when you’re making an obvious attempt to wear a single color, make sure the design and fit of each piece is timeless to offset the trend factor.

Camouflage

trends camo

Maybe it brings me back to my skater days of baggy cargo shorts or maybe camo really is just plain cool.

Regardless, this fall I decided to give in to my intuition and pick up a camouflage shirt to incorporate into my wardrobe.

But rather than going for the same pattern that’s available at most military surplus stores, I chose one with a darker and less obvious color palate.

From ten feet away, it’s hard to notice the pattern at all.

When I wear this shirt, I like to anchor it with strong, classic menswear pieces.

Think wool vest, top coat, and dress boots.

Cropped, narrow pants

trends narrow cuffed pants

The 90’s sure did create some bad habits for me.

It took me a very long time to be comfortable without having my pants bunched up around my feet and to this day I wear my pants a little low on my waist.

But after picking up a pair of jeans with a 14” opening and giving them a cuff, I fell in love with the streamlined silhouette.

I’ve now taken a couple pairs of dress pants to my tailor to have the dimensions recreated and couldn’t be happier with the results.

To pull this off without looking odd, it’s best to choose pants with a classic color and pattern.

Also, don’t forget about the rest of your look.

People aren’t only noticing your trousers, they’re taking in your overall appearance.

If you’re going for slimmer pants, make sure your shirt is equally fitted to avoid top-heavy proportions.

Beards

trends beard

You knew this was coming.

I’ve wanted to grow a beard for more than a decade, but wasn’t exactly sure how to make it look right.

I let it grow for a month or so a couple of times, but jumped ship before I could really see it in action.

I wasn’t following these guidelines for a smooth transition and I sure as hell wasn’t caring for it properly.

During these earlier attempts, I was still dressing in graphic tees and ratty jeans. I had shaggy hair and a generally unfinished look.

So adding a beard just took my appearance down even further.

But after making significant improvements in these areas, my beard provides a nice contrast to my otherwise refined clothing.

Men’s fashion trend cheat sheet

Trends aren’t inherently bad, but blindly following them is.

You need to have a mind of your own when it comes to clothing selection because it communicates who you are to the people around you.

Take these tips into account to successfully incorporate some trends into your current wardrobe.

  • Build your foundation wardrobe first
  • Develop a strong sense of personal style
  • Play with trends that enhance your current style
  • Avoid trends because so-and-so is wearing them
  • Experiment with inexpensive pieces

Final words of advice

My final pieces of advice in regard to trends are twofold.

First, never feel compelled to wear something you absolutely hate simply because it’s trending.

Your personal style is as much about the things you don’t wear as it is about the things you do.

So if you can’t stand wearing your hair longer, keep your buzz cut and forget about the side part. It’s not for you.

Secondly, if there’s something that really speaks to you, don’t dismiss it just because it’s trendy.

Maybe that bold patterned shirt or a slim, cuffed pant doesn’t seem like “you”. Or you’re worried about someone calling you out for wearing the trend of the day.

But if it’s something you really want to try, push yourself to bring in the new and don’t let other people’s opinions of trends negatively influence your personal style evolution.

Fair warning – you may get called a hipster.

But it will probably be by a guy wearing a football jersey three sizes too large, ill-fitting jeans, and dirty sneakers, so try not to take it to heart.

All the best,

Nate

10 Timeless Wardrobe Essentials

GET EMAIL UPDATES + BONUS E-BOOK!

Enter your email below to get my free ebook 10 Timeless Wardrobe Essentials!

You Might Also Like

9 Comments

  • Reply
    Lands
    January 18, 2016 at 3:10 am

    I was remembering the baggy jeans just yesterday, very dated now, but at 15 It was a pretty fresh look! Odd though to think that the musicians and to a lesser degree, the pro skaters that were in part responsible for the fashion were around the age I am now. In retrospect, Fred Durst looked like someone’s dad at a skate park! I do still have the Sepultura tshirt, though that’s a timeless classic reserved for the construction site!

  • Reply
    Shobhit Choudhary
    January 20, 2016 at 1:06 am

    You made me remember my days. I was the guy who’d show up in Nike to work.
    Rule No.1 – Keep the Nike for gym.
    Rule no.2- Never forget rule no.1
    Luckily as I swallowed the red pill my fashion sense evolved with it. I now wear double monk straps and tailored linen shirts! Pheww!

  • Reply
    Phi @ The Sweetphi Blog
    January 21, 2016 at 8:39 am

    Stopping by to say “hi”, I found your blog after reading an article you wrote for Primer Magazine when I was looking for jeans for my husband, you gave awesome advice. Now I’m going to binge read your blog and buy him a s$#t ton of clothes, he thanks you in advance lol.

    • Reply
      Nate
      January 21, 2016 at 9:17 am

      Hey Phi, Thanks for stopping by! Let me know if you need any further advice or recommendations. Your blog looks fantastic!

  • Reply
    Shaz
    January 22, 2016 at 3:17 pm

    Hey Nate,

    Just need some style advice. Well i bought a navy blue dress shoe a couple of days ago and can’t seem to find a navy blue dress belt in any store! So just wanted to know, is it compulsory to buy a navy blue colored belt to complement my shoes or can I get away with any other color like black? Thanks in advance!

    • Reply
      Nate
      January 22, 2016 at 6:30 pm

      I’m not stickler for always matching leathers, but I think wearing black with dark navy may give off a “trying to match but failing” appearance. If you’re going to mix leathers, aim more for contrast rather than getting as close as possible. With that said, your best bet is to go with a navy belt. For a high quality option, Allen Edmonds has an awesome one in suede. If you want a more inexpensive fix you can find a suitable one on amazon.

    • Reply
      Mark
      February 6, 2016 at 10:23 am

      What were you doing buying navy blue shoes, anyway?

  • Reply
    ChrisH
    December 3, 2016 at 4:29 pm

    Nate, what is that haircut with center swept to one side? I see it everywhere these days. Wonder if it looks better on some guys.

  • Leave a Reply

    About Me

    Casual Style 101

    Free style guide