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A Year-End Dappered Salute

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    A Year-End Dappered Salute

    Last January, somewhere between your fifth spoon of Mini Wheats and the coffee pot running its course, your wife looks across the breakfast table. Is that what you’re wearing to work, she asks.

    You are wearing a pair of GAP khakis and a dress shirt. That shirt has seen better days, she says.

    She’s right, the shirt fabric balloons and pools at your waist and the collar is as dog-eared as a waterlogged novel.

    You live in a small town of silver-new nothings that barely manages a chin-up to 10,000 people. You get 15 feet of snow over a perennial winter. It’s a blue collar town, baseball caps bobbing around the coffee shop. You work in management in an office where your colleagues dress just like you – that is, poorly.

    So where’s the incentive? A smart dressed urbanite passes 250 beautiful single women from the Subway to Starbucks. You might see six women – the girl at the post office, the two tawdry women in your office and a handful of old betties in stirrup pants – the entire day. Beyond that, you’re happily married going on ten years and aim to keep it that way.

    You remember a work meeting you had long ago with two Italian business interests. Paolo and Fabrice from Cagliari. They were immaculately tailored. Fabrice somehow pulled off a tie with a knot the size of a fist and Paolo’s shoes would probably cost you two week’s wages.

    You left the meeting feeling frumpy and dismissed in your boxy suit, which you’ll later lament was a size too large.

    You’ve seen well-dressed men in magazines. That looks good, you say to yourself. Upon further inspection, the Canali camelhair topcoat runs $4,999. Between a new home and two financial Succubus toddlers, you aren’t getting a Canali coat.

    They always say the shoes make the man. One day, you ask Google to find you some great looking shoes for under $200. You are rotating two pairs of Steve Madden square-toed shoes, one in black and one in brown, bought for $55 each at Winners.

    Google sends you to Dappered. Style on a budget. Then the whole world opens up for you. Fashion parts its legs. Nothing from this day on will be the same. And so it begins.

    You’ve always thought that the well-dressed man has an inherent advantage; an eye borne for style in the same way that great artists are born to paint and great chefs born to cook.

    But you can learn. And, if you keep an open mind and ask the right questions, you’ll get it, eventually.

    It starts slowly, a few bulletproof staples. You didn’t know anything about Land’s End or that LL Bean had a signature line or that J. Crew had a factory line. Oh, and there are bargains floating out there online; it’s crazy. All you have to do is cut the tether and release them to your hot little hands.

    So you dust off the scythe and garrote your wardrobe. The pleated pants, the double breasted suit, the wide-legged jeans, the shirts that have surrendered to the weeds of time; all of it banished to the Goodwill so some poor guy can look terrible instead.

    Every morning, you check Dappered first. Dappered has usurped Sportnet as the day’s first webpage visit. Dappered always dangles the promise of something you need, something cheap. Your credit card is moaning like a wounded cat.

    You learn things along the way.

    Fit is paramount.

    A suit is naked without a pocket square.

    The black shirt and blazer makes you look like a waiter.

    A black shirt and khakis makes you look like Barry Manilow.

    If you don’t perform in a band named Guns N Roses, don’t wear ripped jeans.

    There is nothing so ugly in heaven or hell as an Ed Hardy t-shirt.

    Square toe shoes are Frankensteinian.

    Some things are investment pieces; some things can do a job for you on a budget.

    You get new clothes, clothes that fit. You take chances with footwear. You reinvent your wardrobe and hope, by association, yourself.

    Your first forays in your new style make you feel like you’ve swallowed an elbow. People are almost aggressive in demanding to know why you’re so dressed up. The boss, wearing a short sleeved dress shirt that makes him look like a supermarket grocery bagger, asks if you’re going to church. This transformation will take some resolve.

    But people notice. The girl at the post office notices. She says you look nice. The woman who cleans the office says you look like a stick of gum, whatever that means. Your wife is teetering between admiration and suspicion. You go to a couple’s party and dare a blazer where your male friends wear football jerseys, or a “going out” shirt and jeans. Their girlfriends tell them they should dress more like you. This is uncomfortable. You run into your chairperson, and he tells you – irony of irony – that you look dapper. He’s an old English gentleman; he places a premium on style. Gradually, the people in the office – those with CEO ambitions – make a better effort. Soon everyone at the office is wearing a tie. They’re asking where you got the new briefcase and shoes.

    You’re flying in the opposite direction of the migrating geese. It’s not just the clothes. It’s as if your spine gained two vertebrae. On days you know you’ve killed it with your clothes, you walk taller. You remember something an old mentor told you: If you don’t have confidence in, learn to fake it. You can wear whatever you want, so long as you wear it with conviction.

    You get treated differently, at work, in bars, in the line-up at the drycleaner.

    Your small-town tailor is delighted with an opportunity to work on a real suit. You get the feeling she’s tired of letting hems out of boy’s pant and sewing popped buttons.

    The haters are going to hate. You realize their veiled criticisms, their sideways looks, are borne of insecurity. That’s all right.

    You realize style is not a competition. In the Dappered forum, the last bastion of civility in the angry swirling maelstrom of opinion that is the internet, people are actually helpful and encouraging. They can answer a style virgin’s question honestly and without condescension. It is a band of brothers, united under the flag of a Nordstrom anniversary sale.

    You also realize that you have limits. You are not Andre 3000. There are 6 billion people in the world, and there will always be someone better at something than you. You can be a style bantamweight. Those sartorial ninjas can do things you can’t. You’re fine with that. You just want to be a plucky contender in your own weight division. You want to put in your best effort, throw a few haymakers, stick your chin out.

    You realize there are rules and there are suggestions and both are pliable. Style is many things but ultimately it’s a physical expression of self, and it shouldn’t be counterfeit or a surrogate persona. At day's end, style has to be you.

    You realize you’ve become obsessed. Your last credit card statement was a blindside helmet-to-helmet blow. You realize you have to exercise some restraint.

    You fish the deep murky waters of the web trolling for those wingtips you want. Before Dappered, you thought a wingtip boot was something a parking maid secured to an aircraft left unattended in a fire lane.

    You stare at the ceiling at night wondering where you can get a good tie clip under $20, shipped.

    You comb through your closet occasionally and actually think about what you might wear tomorrow.

    You want that argyle woolen tie, 50% off. It’s $67. The cursor hovers over it. The place order button is swollen, pulsing and vaguely clitoral. $67 is a lot of money. But it is 50% off. You grapple.

    This has got to stop. But it won’t. Things have forever changed.

    So, as you pull out into the passing lane and leave 2011 to recede in your rearview mirror, you see a different reflection of yourself.

    All of us want to affect positive change in this world, in our own small way. So even though it’s wrapped in the shiny façade of rampant consumerism, Dappered has done that. I think its worthy – almost noble – to help men become the men they’ve long inspired to.

    Thanks, Happy New Year, Auld Lang Syne, et al.


    (clicks heels and salutes)

    Well said, and spot on about the confidence one derives and exudes from being dressed dapper.



      Awesome, well written



        Well his sums it all up for me. Well I only discovered this site not even two weeks ago as part of a wardrobe overhaul, but I'm already hooked.

        Heck, I only had a 3-day work week because of the holiday, and I wore ties twice. That's as much as the whole past 6 months!

        I'm not that small-town guy above, but I work in IT. There are certain expectations for the way they dress. Even with a half-empty office this week, I've gotten a lot of compliments (and questions). I'm liking it. :-)



          Haha! Yeah, suddenly people in my office started ironing their shirts and wearing ties.

          After you've made yourself broke you may go my route and start thrifting... and then even picking up things that don't fit you but are high quality and flipping them on ebay, just to feed your habit. I'm not a junkie though. I can stop whenever I want.



            LOL funny that you mention thrifting. I stopped by Goodwill on the way home last night. I found a herringbone blazer that fits and looks awesome (it's actually what I went in there looking for). It was originally $8, but on sale for 50% off so I walked aout with a blazer costing me just $4.32 after tax. Chaching!

            When I got it home and showed it to my wife, she liked it, but wouldn't let me set it down on anything. It went straight into a bag to go to the dry cleaners.



              Nailed it, TC. Especially:

              "The boss, wearing a short sleeved dress shirt that makes him look like a supermarket grocery bagger, asks if you’re going to church. This transformation will take some resolve."

              Ahh, been through that. Only the people I work with all of a sudden ask, "oh crap, is there a meeting today?" whenever they see me with a tie, and then go to check their calendars to make sure.



                [email protected]

                @kittiwake30, well said. I admire your writing, its intriguing, keeps me yearning for more, Now, I expect a weekly column on the threads to feed my lust.



                  KC, I got a slightly different reaction at work. They wondered if I had a job interview on my lunch break. :-P



                    I'm surprised you guys can do so well on thrifting. I would love to find a decent blazer, some shoes, or even a great tie. I gave it a try a few months back and cycled through a smaller, neighborhood thrift store and a bigger, standard Goodwill and never really found anything great. I scored a couple of J. Crew button downs from the neighborhood spot one time, but that's it.

                    The bigger Goodwill store just had a bunch of the same Brooks Brothers shirt, in, guess what color - light blue.



                      You've just gotta keep going and be patient. Lots of times I get nothing when I go, then you'll find something great at other times.



                        Kittiwake, I'm glad I'm not alone!! Beautifully written!



                          Very well written! Improving yourself is not a crime as some would make it out to be. Go outside your comfort zone and you discover just how limitless you can be.

                          Related reading from The Effortless Gent:


                          I'm excited to see what 2012 brings!



                            well done!



                              I've been dressing better for about 2 weeks now, and pretty much everyone at work has noticed. So has my father-in-law (which can't be a bad thing).

                              Most responses have been positive or indifferent. Only a couple have been negative. It almost seemed to me that they were somehow uncomfortable with it, though. So that's not me - that's on them.

                              I wore a tie to work every day this week - even on casual Friday. (By contrast, in my department, not even the managers wear ties.) I'm getting very comfortable with it all, and I guess that's the key. You just have to do it until it starts to feel right.

                              My MBA classes start back up next week, and we'll see if any of my teammates notice. :-)