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
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.
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?
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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,