In terms of developing a sense of style, most of us do not have it all figured out so a second opinion from a trusted source is at times helpful. But then the question becomes who is that trusted source?
Online discussion forums like Styleforum and Ask Andy have their place. The "what are you wearing today" threads on these forums offer a quick and dirty way to get feedback from a fairly large number of individuals. This is a way to shape your style via anonymous crowdsourcing (or groupthink depending on your viewpoint).
But other options come to mind - friends, colleagues, even significant others (though that could be hit or miss). There is another alternative, the style consultant. Perhaps not the first choice for many men I imagine. However, keeping an open mind and being sartorially curious, I contacted New York City based Natalie Decleve and signed up for an initial consult and wardrobe review. Natalie is a stylist and image consultant with a background in women's fashion (Diane von Furstenberg, Kiki de Montparnasse) and PR. Having worked and/or lived in California, New York City and Europe, she has a feel for the lifestyles, clothing and attitudes of those different environments.
During our initial phone consult, I asked her what she thought the most common style mistake men made. Her response was perfectly sensible and free of the usual platitudes about style expressing a form of innate elegance or a timeless sense of taste. In her estimation, fit is the critical issue since unfortunately many men do not wear clothes that fit well. I agree entirely.
In my case, I was interested in a fresh opinion on how my wardrobe cohered as a whole, how I mixed and matched individual pieces and whether I was overlooking specific combinations or looks. Natalie has a good feel for what works for you and will readily point out the gems in your wardrobe. She also suggested several great color and/or clothing combinations that I had not thought of. For instance, pairing my favorite sports coat with denim instead of traditional wool trousers (which had not occurred to me oddly enough), or wearing certain shirts/colors with specific jackets.
Conversely, she has an eye for what looks contemporary, and can point out the pieces in your wardrobe that may be perceived differently than you had imagined or intended. If you have a tendency to follow the same routine and would like to mix things up, she will be an effective antidote against looking predictable. Moreover, Natalie is refreshingly direct and straightforward in her guidance and suggestions. So if you are in need of a style intervention or just looking for a fresh perspective, consider having a chat and an initial consult with her. And if you don't have a trusted style advisor or muse, perhaps it's time to cultivate one.
- Valetmag / DonQ's survey of the female perspective on men's style
- Menswear/WWD essay on what women notice