1. Thinking Style Means Fashion
It’s one thing to be stylish; it’s another to be fashionable. One is about cultivating a personal sense of taste and expressing yourself through your own choice of outfits and appearance. The other is about chasing after trends and conforming yourself to how others dress and look, using their thoughts to inform what you wear and which aesthetics you like.
You can be stylish and fashionable; you can also be stylish in a more timeless way that doesn’t involve seasonal trends. Personal style is all about personal taste. Here at Modern Ratio, we offer advice on what may or may not be stylish, but it’s ultimately up to you to decide which parts you want to heed and which parts you want to ignore.
2. Wearing Clothes That Are Too Big
Most guys who are just starting their style journeys are too afraid of clothes that are the right size for their frame. A lot of us grew up wearing shirts and pants that were too big, and we got so conditioned to think that “loose” is normal and we’re now self-conscious about wearing anything tighter—maybe because we don’t want to look out of place, or maybe because we don’t want to come off as metrosexual or hipster.
But if your clothes don’t fit properly, then it’s going to look sloppy no matter what else you do with it. If you’re skinny, oversized clothing won’t make you appear bigger; you’ll just look like a child swimming in dad’s clothing. If you’re overweight, oversized clothing won’t cover up your size; you’ll just look like a slob who doesn’t know any better.
You’ll look the best when your clothes hug your body without choking you. It doesn’t have to be tight, but it should be form fitting. Fit is king. Get it right and everything else will follow.
3. Ignoring the Impact of Shoes
It may be hard to believe, but 80% of an outfit’s look comes down to the pair of shoes you’re wearing. Skeptical? You can try an experiment at home to see for yourself: first, wear a t-shirt, chinos, sneakers, and snap a photo; then, wear the exact same get-up except swap out the sneakers for a pair of boots; then, keep the outfit but swap out the boots for dress shoes.
You’d be surprised at how drastically different an outfit will appear simply by wearing a different style of footwear. That’s why it’s so important to graduate from sneakers! Not that sneakers are bad, but refusing to wear anything other than sneakers is one way to seriously limit your sense of style and what sort of vibe you give off to those around you.
4. Wearing Athletic Socks With Everything
Between the ages of 5 and 25, I wore nothing but white athletic socks that stopped at the ankles. In my mind, the only alternative was to wear “dress socks,” and to me, dress socks were only appropriate with “dress shoes.” And given that I never wore dress shoes, it made sense to only wear white athletic socks.
But there’s a middle ground! You can wear calf-high socks in cotton and wool in all kinds of colors, and these are appropriate for all kinds of footwear: sneakers, boots, loafers, derbies, even boat shoes depending on the style.
White athletic socks—white socks in general, to be honest—should only be worn with trainers, when you’re doing something athletic. Otherwise, a casual or semi-formal calf-high sock should be your main go-to. It may not seem like a big deal, but every so often when your socks peek out from your pant cuffs, the bright white will ruin any stylish outfit.
5. Relying Too Much on Black
Black is a safe color when all you wear are t-shirts, hoodies, jeans, and sneakers. But once you graduate and start wearing button-ups, sweaters, chinos, scarves, blazers, boots, and all the other kinds of clothes available out in the world? Black is to be avoided.
You’ll soon find out that black is too stark a color to fit into most casual outfits, and even a lot of formal outfits. Black shoes, pants, and suits are too reminiscent of the tuxedo (extremely formal) and funeral attire (extremely dour). Black belts should only be worn with black shoes. Black button-up shirts are only appropriate as clubwear.
If you need safe colors in your wardrobe, stick to earthen tones: navy, olive, beige, chestnut. These are a lot more versatile than black in casual outfits, and your outfits will look way more interesting.
6. Caring Too Much About “Style Rules”
Any advice given about style is ultimately a guideline, never a rule.
Sure, some guidelines are more important than others, as most guidelines have been tested time and time again over decades and centuries. A lot of style advice exists because that advice has generally proven to result in a smarter appearance and more confidence. But at the end of the day, if you want to look a certain way, it’s your call.
Want to button up the top button on your shirt even without a tie? Go for it. Want to wear boat shoes with socks? Let it happen. Want to wear a wine-colored shirt with wine-colored pants and no belt? Don’t let me stop you. As long as you understand why certain guidelines exist, feel free to break free and blaze your own style trails.
7. Neglecting the Face and Hair
There’s more to personal style than clothing. In fact, one could argue that it’s even more important to take care of your face and your hair before you start upgrading your wardrobe. Poor skin, unkempt beards, and a goofy haircut will cancel out most—if not all—of the effort you put into a stylish get-up that fits.
And don’t forget hygiene! It’s an invisible element of style in that it affects your health and confidence. Without good health and strong confidence, you’ll look out of place in any outfit you try to rock.