Style and substance: mutually exclusive or easy as pie?

Time spent idling in the dentist’s or doctor’s waiting room is enough to engender pangs of anxiousness in even the most poised and level-headed members of the male species. Sometimes it’s not the looming root canal or colonoscopy that’s the problem, however. It’s the magazines.

What starts as a nonchalant flick through a glossy men’s magazine can become a harrowing journey of self-scrutinisation for the average Joe, with endless lists of rules and regulations on everything from decorum to deltoids.

How are we meant to find time for the latest ab-tightening workout when we’re busy finding ways to ‘wow her in the sack’ and ‘make our mark at the office’? And that’s before we’ve had chance to brief ourselves on the latest political hot potatoes and the 25 new celebrities whose style we MUST start stealing.

All is not lost, however. Unlike workouts, watches, womanising and wayfaring, getting dressed in the morning is something we all have to do whether we like it or not. Cultivating a sense of style should be fun but it’s all too easy to get bewildered by the to-and-fros of the fashion industry.

With this in mind, Woodhouse has set out to balance the style scales in favour of the man who craves both style and substance. We have consulted not only fashion experts but also those from outside the fashion world to create a more democratic list of style rules that can be used as a springboard for your style evolution.

Gamers, sports fanatics, fashionistas and the general public were invited to have their say on the fashion rules they think that every man should follow. You can read what they had to say below. But first, a round-up of their dos-and-don’ts:

 

■   Fit is key – you should wear the clothes, not the other way around;

■   Buy natural fabrics where possible;

■   Key pieces include dark jeans, classic lace-up leather shoes, a crisp white shirt and a trench coat;

■  Buy as ethically as you can afford;

■   A navy blue suit is appropriate for most formal occasions;

■   Relax into your clothes and don’t overthink it;

■   You can’t go wrong if you keep the palette neutral and choose clothes on the skinny side of regular.

 

Our style consultants

 

David Evans – Better known as the Grey Fox, David is The Guardian’s resident style blogger for men 40 and over. Jules Walker – Military Tailor at Gieves & Hawkes, No. 1 Savile Row.
Jordan McDowell – Fashion commentator and author of the award-winning Fashion Rambler blog. Alice Kim –  NYC-based men’s style advisor and author of Veritas Men’s Style Blog.
Alec Meer – Gaming journalist and co-author of the hugely successful Rock, Paper, Shotgun blog. Rob Marrs – Author of sports blog Left Back in the Changing RoomRecently featured in The Guardian’s Five Favourite Things of the Week.
Adam Stevens – Co-author of the BaconCape gaming blog. The general public – The same questions were posed to 100 members of the general public.

 

Any style choices that should be avoided at all costs?

Alec: Onesies were funny for five minutes, but now I wince if I see someone over 10 wearing them in public. Mind you, I’d change my mind if ever I saw a gentlemanly tweed affair.

David: I’m not a great believer in being too prescriptive. Experimenting is to be encouraged – you’ll learn from people’s responses and adapt your style accordingly!

Jules: There are all sorts of rules such as no double denim or double stripes but there will always be someone out there who can break those rules and make it work for them. It’s about confidence.

Alice: Wearing ill-fitting clothing: It doesn’t matter how beautiful or expensive the piece is – if it doesn’t fit you right, you earn negative style points.

Jordan: T-shirts with naked ladies in provocative positions – the kind one sees on Geordie Shore – should be avoided. Don’t wear glasses when you don’t have a prescription! It’s like wearing braces over a Hollywood smile.

Rob: The biggest no-no is trying to keep up with the kids. That always looks tragic. Also, skinny jeans. They aren’t acceptable now and weren’t acceptable then.

Adam: Mismatching shoes and belts are never a good look. I also don’t like hats… that might just be me though.

Any key staple pieces that everyone looks great in?

David: A good pair of shoes – spend as much as you can afford on a pair of classic brogues, great with jeans, chinos, cords, a suit. A tweed jacket is good on all ages if it fits well.

Jules: A good quality navy blue suit. If you’re buying off-the-rack, get an alterations tailor to ensure it fits right. Provided it fits on the shoulders and chest nearly everything else can be altered.

Alice: When in doubt, I always advise men not to overthink anything.  Stick to the classics that make any man look gorgeous, like a crisp white button-front shirt, a navy blazer, a pair of clean dark jeans, and lace-ups in good quality leather.

Jordan: A simple, quality, trench coat. A vintage denim jacket. Aviator or wayfarer sunglasses.

Adam: A button-down Oxford shirt, jeans and shoes.

Any minimum quality standards that everyone should try to adhere to? (In terms of fit, material, ethicality of production etc.)

David: Good fit is essential. I advocate buying as ethically as possible – avoid cheap sweatshop stuff – you’re doing nobody any favours buying what is effectively disposable fashion.

Jules: As a basic guide your garments should be natural fabrics (wool, silk, linen, cotton etc) and lined with non-synthetic linings (acetate, viscose etc). Shoes and bags should be leather where possible. Fit is important – you should wear the clothes, not the other way around.

Alice: Make sure your clothes fit properly, because this will instantly elevate the quality perception of even budget-friendly clothes.

Jordan: Aim for at least 50% cotton in t-shirts to get enough washes out of them before you’re fed up of them anyway. Denim and leather should be a touch too tight when bought to allow for give. ONLY dress ethically if nothing is made of hemp.

Adam: I don’t care about production; I want to shop for clothes as little as possible. I want the material to be good quality, and it to fit. If it doesn’t fit properly, it doesn’t look good.

Any advice for those who don’t care how others perceive their style?

Alec: Shine on you crazy diamond. What you did or didn’t dress in isn’t going to matter on your deathbed, or to anyone who loves you. That said, occasionally going outside your comfort zone can do wonders for one’s self-esteem.

David: Give it a go. Those who dress well feel good about themselves; it helps self-confidence, will help at work and your love life will look up too. Fashion isn’t an unimportant fad – looking good is a basic human need.

Jules: Stick to the basics and you’ll always look fine.

Alice: Regardless of whether you care about fashion or not, you still have to get dressed if you want to leave the house. With this as a given, why not make clothes work for you instead of against you?

Jordan: Keep the palette neutral and earthy, fibres natural and fit either tailored or the skinny-side of regular. You can’t go wrong then.

Rob: It depends. If they are confident then my advice would be to keep doing what you’re doing. If it’s because they don’t think it’s important then best of luck at a job interview!

Adam: Shirt, jeans, shoes. Get them, and make sure they fit. Dress how others do to make things easier.

Any advice for those who worry far too much about how others perceive their style?

Alec: If you’re a clotheshorse who spunks all their cash on keeping up with the Joneses, people might think you’re a plonker. If you must emulate others, do it because you genuinely think they look great.

David: The best dressers are those who relax into their clothes. Try to let the clothes sit on you comfortably – the Italians call it sprezzatura, looking good without apparent effort – if you fret about style you’ll look stiff and unrelaxed.

Jules: You should enjoy moulding your own style; don’t take fashion too seriously. After all, you’ll look back on yourself in 20 years’ time and think “why the hell did I ever wear that!?”

Alice: Lighten up and stop taking everything so seriously. The right clothes can be a confidence booster but they can’t make up for the lack of true confidence that dwells within you. Build a strong sense of self so your clothes become tools that bring out your brilliant individuality – not the other way around.

Jordan: Honestly, we don’t care how you dress.

Rob: Most people don’t notice if you have a mustard stain on your shirt. They certainly aren’t going to notice that you’re wearing a certain kind of belt or have collar stiffeners in (though, clearly, you should be wearing collar stiffeners).

Adam: If you go outrageously out of the box without the confidence to do so, it generally doesn’t look good. Subtleties people!

And finally, what did the public think?