I’ve wanted to talk about this for a while, so let’s dive in.
Listen to the Podcast Discussion Here!
I never really grew up reading menswear blogs. In fact, I only discovered them until fairly recently! Male Fashion Advice was suggested by Spencer two years ago (when I first discovered reddit) , which led me to find Put This On and Die Workwear; all three of these are perhaps the only ones I currently keep up with. As I’ve stated in different podcast episodes and interviews, I got everything from just studying people’s pictures, without any regards to reading or who they were. I basically relied on friends (in person discussion), random tumblr pictures, and a shit ton of trial and error to finally get to a place where I feel comfortable and confident (two very different things) in my style. However, I understand that this journey may be different than other people.
Classic menswear enthusiasts usually get their start with David Coggins, A Continuous Lean, PTO, Die Workwear, Ask Andy About Clothes, Styleforum, and the like; in short, they were already into the whole classic thing from the beginning. But classic menswear is a very small niche of menswear, even if you aren’t looking at streetwear. The biggest community is the one made up of menswear YouTubers, influencers, and bloggers which is where most of the young people are getting their ideas on style. While learning about style is that generally is a good thing, I think it has a lot of caveats, which can also be detrimental to true personal style. For the purposes of this blog post and the pod, we’re going to focus on the YouTubers, who are stated to be the new age of celebrities rather than the traditional actor or musician.
Before I get into my own thoughts on the matter, just remember that I’m coming at this from a different POV. I learned about clothes for clothes sake, not because I wanted to dress like a “man”. Even though I started as a nerdy, outcast type of guy, I never felt the need to dress to impress women, get the job I wanted, or gain “respect” I craved. While that could be true on some subconscious level, that wasn’t at all the reason on why I developed an interest in menswear.
With that said, I can see how other guys can see the appeal of these YouTubers. I don’t deny that these guys can give solid advice from time to time. You should be more confident and you should dress to the context of your life. But there’s something about how these guys handle it that make me a bit cautious. Overall, my critique (or dislike) is less about the guys themselves (whom I’ve heard are nice) and more of the content and culture it creates. If you do get something positive from this (as a few of my friends do), then you can skip this essay.
Here is a list of why I don’t really like the Menswear YouTube community; you can hear Spencer and I discuss the topic on the podcast with Austin, a guy who actually grew up with the advice from these YouTubers and gone on to meet them and attend their conference Menfluential, previously called StyleCon. In order to prep for this you should probably read this GQ article and this MFA discussion on a Real Men Real Style video. They pretty much sum up all my feelings on the matter.
The Advice Stays in Beginner Mode
While some of the more general advice (fit is king, etc.) is solid, most of the stuff isn’t really all that special. Sometimes it’s outdated (pleats are bad!!) but most of the time it’s just boring (have you tried jeans?). It’s probably because videos rarely go past beginner advice, sticking with tried and true combinations usually involving some form of jean or chino, basic tee or simple button up, and a blazer or bomber. Now there’s nothing wrong with being a “basic bastard”, but I personally would think it would be cool to provide different styles that guys can wear. Instead of fashion and personal style, they try to sell you a capsule (or in some cases a “clothing algorithm”) to ensure that you look “passable” at all times.
This basic content is recycled and repackaged every day. There are countless “suit tips”, “clothing hacks”, and “style mistakes” that are released everyday from a variety of these YouTubers that contain largely the same advice. Every suit tip will give you the shoulder test, the fact that you should tailor your jackets, or have a slight-to-no-break in your shoes. Casual advice is almost always about blue jeans or leather jackets. Then when it comes to basic items recommendations (like the top 5 pants to get in summer), it always contains some form of chinos and linen. MFA and PTO have plenty of posts geared to staples, but they always back-reference it and keep the content fresh. I understand that the algorithm prizes creators that make daily content and that consumers love list-eos (the YouTube version of listicles, thanks Buzzfeed) but that doesn’t excuse them from copying.
It’s made worse when you realize that the YouTubers know exactly what they’re doing! As the GQ article states, there is quite the “diversity of faces but not diversity of content”. Click bait titles and lists are all copied to the letter, with RMRS Antonio Centeno even admitting to it. While it doesn’t really hurt other content creators (as these YouTubers are really just a cabal of influencers), I think that it hurts the community, since these people don’t get to see different points of view or at the very least, different content. They simply see the same content, packaged slightly different each time, all under the guise that it’s something groundbreaking. As if it was previously insane to think that chinos look good with derbies and white sneakers.
This one doesn’t bother me as much since I know that every blogger has some sort of monetary agenda. Permanent Style, PTO, and Die Workwear all run ads or have sponsors of some kind. The only difference is that it seems a bit contradictory when the YouTubers do it. Within classic menswear there’s a sense of heritage or craftsmanship, like if you’re talking about a specific bespoke tailor or recommending Drake’s or Alden. In streetwear, they’re at least open with how cool certain pieces are; they even talk about why a particular piece is hyped.
When the YouTubers do it, it’s often built around products that aren’t often that useful or even good at least when you do your research My mind instantly goes to Vincero, a fashion watch brand that seems to their darling sponsor. There’s nothing wrong with having a sponsor that you like, but according to reviews found online, it’s not the best quality. What irks me is when they compare it favorably to established brands like Timex or Rolex/Patek Philippe. Promoting a subpar product really goes against their ethos of buying for value and quality instead of hype.
They also find the weirdest ways to put the sponsor into their content. Spencer and I have a running game where we watch a few of these and try to guess when the sponsor will appear and what it will be. It’s even lampshaded in a A “reaction” video by RMRS to an old TMF video where he laughs about Jose plugging Chassis, a body wash; the reaction video was actually sponsored by a VPN of all things. Almost all the “style hacks” video culminate to a tip where you can always add a watch (which then leads to a plug for Vincero or MVMT) or some form of shirt-garter (KK & Jay). It always makes me wonder whether the video idea or the sponsor came first.
It’s funny because that this same phenomenon of sponsored content and the advertorial is what AoS stated was the death of magazines.
Emphasis on Power and Women
Like I stated before, I never really thought of my style as a means to an end; it was just about wearing something that was aesthetically pleasing! Menswear YouTubers don’t see it that way. In every video of “why you should dress well” , it’s always about the goal of having power and having women (or a spicy senorita). Dressing well, working out, and trying to be more charming/charismatic are all noble goals but the way they approach it is wrong and a bit dangerous in my opinion, as it’s an old school way of thinking.
They always say people will notice you more or respect you when you’re in a tie and women at the bars will be more attracted to you. Yes, these things are true to a certain extent, but to me, it still looks like you’re dressing for the opinions of others rather than yourself. And like we said before, these guys really don’t delve into excluding personality through clothing and tend to just pick basic outfits. As Alpha M says in the GQ article, everything comes down to sex. If all of your outfits are based on what a woman finds attractive, do you even have a personal style? And what happens when your outfit fails to get the girl? I understand that these guys have good intentions at the very least, but I can see how it could lead to some discouraging ideas (I just saw a post on one group about how to dress to impress a girl who already has a boyfriend).
The power argument is also an interesting one. A lot of them assert that men have a need to dominate and show off power and the natural way to do that is through clothing. Think of it as a “redpill” but for fashion. Again, it’s a lack of fashion and aesthetics which disappoints me about this community. When you look at the best dressed guys, they always dress for themselves. Maybe on some level, it is a power move, but it’s definitely not the forefront; a lot of the power comes from ease and comfort rather than antagonism. Overall, it implies that men need to dress with power otherwise they are not real men; Tanner Guzy of Masculine Style implies this the most and states that dressing for aesthetics or “beauty” are more for women. I feel that this severely limits your style and puts emphasis on how others perceive you, as this advice is repeated ad infinitum in the YouTube echochamber.
Takes Things Too Seriously
Speaking of power and women, I think that these guys take things way too seriously. In Ametora, W. David Marx recalls that in Japan in the 1960s, men treated fashion as not an art form, but an exact science with right and wrong answers. Of course this has changed today as Japanese people now put their own spin on ivy and Americana, but this definitely hasn’t reached the YouTubers. Instead, they describing fashion as a war or a game with winners a losers and that you always have to be a winner; in general, it’s not fashion its about being a man! This definitely goes against how Spencer and I view it a true means of self expression.
This puts a huge emphasis on the minutiae of fashion. They talk about matching the tie width to the lapel, down to the centimeters and suggest colors combos based on that psychological study into the perception of color (blue is calming, red is powerful). While some of these are internalized by people in classic menswear, most of the time we just wear what we like; we don’t have to reference charts and videos to make sure our outfit is absolutely perfect (or eye catching enough for that potential boss or lady). Alpha M. was even on Shark Tank trying to sell an formula for outfits.
This over-analyzation of self is brought forward with different guides ranging from how to be more attractive to how to hold a cell phone in a manly way. Like Jesus, these guys want to be the everyday guy but it’s clearly not casual if you’re always thinking whether everything you do is masculine and exuding power. One of the best examples of this mindset is Tanner Guzy’s video called “Style is like a War“.
In general, this leads to guys freaking out about every outfit combination, choice, and wrinkle simply because a man is neat. Gentlemen post pictures in the most tried and true outfits online in order to ensure that its absolutely perfect. We start to get dress shirts made from synthetic fabrics that are extremely slim as to accentuate every muscle (although showing off muscle is cool to an extent). We get guys willing to wear uncomfortable clips and belts to prevent any semblance of an untucked shirt. And then we get guys who resort to putting tape or magnets in their collar to keep things perennially upright.
I would be extremely uncomfortable and inauthentic if I put that much thought into my outfit. But then again, I might if all of these “mistakes” where akin to me losing a war.
Views on Other Styles
This is a small point, but its worth talking about. Now men’s fashion is an all encompassing term; it’s not just about dressing for a finance or law job. As much as these guys try to be the regular dude who wants to help guys gain confidence, they really don’t give their viewers a lot of room for expression and exploration. They talk down about everything else simply because it’s different and not the “norm”; add this into the algorithm, cabal, and echo chamber qualities and you get a bunch of guys who are quick to talk down any style that isn’t a suit or a OCBD in some dark wash denim.
Streetwear gets this most of all. While hype plays a big deal into some facets of this style, you can’t just expect to wear track pants and a Supreme tee (or a tee shirt, black jeans, and chelseas) and expect to be the epitome of streetwear (like TMF did). It’s disingenuous to real purveyors of the style, as all the YouTubers call it not-stylish or stupid. They don’t understand playing with proportions or with the simple idea that people resell these items to get their money back. Then these content creators tell others that when you wear a suit, you’re infinitely better than the rest of the streetwear crowd. You don’t have to dress avant-garde if you don’t want to, but that doesn’t meant that you have to shit on it. Most of the time, you can find streetwear (or allusions to it) in the plethora of style mistake videos.
In doing this, they lock out their community from exploration or worse, give them a wrong impression of what other styles are like. Perhaps this is the “style is warfare” mentality at play, since they always have to better than the other person. I personally don’t do much streetwear, but I definitely do some intentionally different things from time to time that doesn’t really jive with the traditions classic menswear. The only difference is that we all tend to get along and encourage each other instead of tear it down.
Lastly, we have to talk about Menfluential, previously known as StyleCon. I’ll admit that while I never was driven to watch these YouTubers for my own merit (I found them too basic), I briefly entertained the idea of going to StyleCon. I thought it was a bunch of like minded guys who liked fashion and would discuss it, as more of an accessible Pitti Uomo. Instead, it’s completely different. Menfluential is more of an empowerment seminar that strives to make men into being internet entrepreneurs and better men overall.
Now I can’t knock them off for empowerment. It’s good to be surrounded by a community of guys who want you to be better. But something never seemed right to me. Firstly, they try to make it look like everyone can be a YouTuber and get rich if they just follow these rules (almost echoing their YouTube videos). Testimonials are great for this, but a lot of it is more about business and making it grow. A comment on reddit makes the best comparison: it comes off like a motivation conference from Avon or Amway. And it’s true, in videos, guys feel like they can take on the world after attending.
The content overall isn’t too bad; the seasoned creators tell you to create a great moniker, post everyday, and try to be engaging but that’s where it stops. Like their actual style advice, it never goes beyond the beginner level. There’s no cinematography techniques, editing software, or new ideas. In fact, a few times they say that you have to just put anything out there and that can mean resorting to clickbait and basic videos since you need to pursue engagement and beat the algorithm. They also say that you need to be as general as possible and cover every topic instead of specializing (which makes sense for a businessman, but not for original content). It’s almost as if they’re making fashion and lifestyle into their business rather than doing it because they genuinely like it. Maybe the saturation works in their favor, since it will lead the algorithm to prize established channels over the new ones.
I suggest watching the recap of last years Menfluential or sifting through the insider access where you can see snippets of actual lectures. Truth be told, a lot of these guys are genuinely happy to attend and get a lot of out of it, so I can’t knock them for that.
Rant over. I wrote this while I was working on the podcast episode with Austin because I felt that I needed an outlet to explain why I had a problem with these menswear YouTubers. It’s something that’s been on my mind for a while, especially because I ride the line between these guys and the more traditional style writers. It’s easy to promote great places like Male Fashion Advice for their breadth and variety of users, but you can’t ignore the fact that the big market lies on Youtube. I get that: videos are easy to digest and if you’re wanting to learn more about professional menswear, you probably also want to know how to make yourself more attractive. And that’s what Austin’s point was.
In the pod, Austin tells us that most of the men that watch these videos aren’t looking to be the next dandy and that they don’t care about the Armoury or Drake’s. These guys just need something to get through their jobs or primer on how to be confident and that’s fine. There definitely needs to be an outlet for that thing and its admirable that these YouTubers are filling that market. But again, it ends up being an echo chamber with the same advice, telling you that you might be doing these mistakes (or worse, you’re not manly enough) and that you need to keep coming back in order to be a better man. Luckily Austin sees through this and has even commented that he just picks the good advice from the bad and doesn’t pay attention to the product placement; in general, he’s moved on from the beginner mode.
Now not all of them are bad. Guys like the Modest Man and Effortless Gent are pretty good. Though they definitely have their own businesses (MM works for Peter Manning, Effortless Gent does coaching, and both get sponsors/ads) it comes off a bit more authentic than Alpha M., RMRS, and TMF. In fact, they don’t put out a video everyday and both MM and EG say that’s because they want to make sure the information is important and that the video is high quality. I also think that their editing is miles ahead than the other guys, coming off more as a real YouTube blogger than a Buzzfeed listeo. Gentleman’s Gazette is also good for historical information, though the stock photos and examples he uses leave a lot to be desired.
Overall, it’s probably a difference of market/community like Austin pointed out. Classic menswear is a different market than the GQ-YouTube community, where we have brands like Drake’s and The Armoury where the associates at those stores have individual style despite wearing “old school” products. Some like repp stripes others like bright foulards; others prefer english drape while others like soft neapolitan style. The kicker is that most of us are pretty open with it and don’t claim one way is right over the other. Hell, Rowing Blazers or Inspiration should even show you that multiple styles can exist in harmony simultaneously.
I also have to respect them for making a business out of this. It’s tough to be an entrepreneur; everyone has to pay the bills somehow. You could also stretch this content creator business to even describe the bloggers that I like! While I have no plans to monetize the blog currently (outside of the occasional review), I would be remiss if I said I never thought about it. Turning your personality and content into money is a tough endeavour and at the end of the day, they’re the ones making the big bucks with a dedicated audience. I’ve also heard that when you meet these guys one on one, they are fine gentleman who genuinely are encouraging. Like I said multiple times through the article, my criticism is more focused on the content and culture itself rather than the individual.
The real reason I wanted to discuss this is because I occasionally get a few messages about these menswear YouTubers, no doubt due to the interview I had with Gentleman’s Gazette a few years back. A lot of people ask me what it was like to dress in college, how girls viewed me, and if my teachers gave me respect. In reality, it wasn’t my clothes that was the problem, it was just my mentality. I wasn’t confident in what I was wearing and didn’t attain that until I found what my style actually was and embracing that it was different. I never wanted to dress up for other people, only myself.
My hope is that more guys get to Austin’s level. By that I mean, that they are able to separate the good advice from the bad and use it to develop a truly personal style, one that is free from concerns over “traditional masculinity” or job. Sure, you should always dress to your context and aspirations(if you want to dress to hit on women, be my guest), but that doesn’t mean that you can’t have a personal style or experiment with something new. And this definitely doesn’t mean shitting on other people who have different styles. It’s something that I’ve had to learn after going to Dapper Day a few times; not everyone is there to be classic or even vintage, it’s just about fun. Learning to not take things so seriously or so calculated is one of the first steps in truly becoming a stylish person!
Maybe all of this means that Spencer and I need to start making YouTube videos, since our taped lecture wasn’t enough. In all honesty, if I did it, it would probably be more like a video essay like H. Bomber Guy or this new one I found last week.
Always a pleasure,
Street x Sprezza
PS: Please watch this video. It makes me wonder if Antonio wanted to break into the lore YouTube space, despite putting the First Order and Death Troopers in the same timeline.
Well put. Spot on. Thanks!
Someone had to say it. Nice work.
Well Ethan, your article gave me a bad case of the “Hahas”! I whole-heartedly agree with your assessment of these so-called fashion bloggers. I find most of the advice either passe or entirely wrong-headed, and that is coming from a rather different perspective than yrs, age and experience-wise, but having arrived at the same conclusion, more or less.
Of course, none of this would be so imminently necessary if manufacturers would stop following street fashion as its guiding light for delineating the proportions, cut, and stylistic philosophy behind their manufactured garments, and that goes for main street clothiers as well as munitions grade manufacturers; e.g. tiny collars and lapels, too short, over-tight jackets, and too-tight, pubic cleavage revealing ultra low-rise, or at best, only barely mid-rise mass produced trousers.
I also honestly believe that more than half od the reason that so many men have been stereotyped as being so reticent to purchase clothing, is due to the fact that so much of what is out there is simply neither well made, nor well cut and hence feels neither substantial nor comfortable.
The basics should always be available in their basic form; no bells and whistles, simple quality and comfort and I think that this fundamental lack has been and continues to be a key player in the continuing decline of the market shares of many department stores; the state it succinctly; they’ve gotten too outre for their customer base and lost their ability to attract key market shares. Sadly, the above can even be said of both Brooks Brothers and Uncle Ralph, to a certain extent.
What it comes down to in this world today (sadly) are followers. The answer to every philosophical or economic question always goes back to, “well he’s got 2 million followers” or “are you arguing with someone who’s making $150,000 a year giving advice on how to wear t-shirts who also is sponsored by a t-shirt brand?” The mainstream “dudes” who show off their masculine know-how with pumped arms, six-pack abs, sharp haircuts and white toothy smiles may not be the best models for dispensing arcane, individual, unique, artistic ways of dressing. They are there, on Youtube, to sell their products in which they themselves sell skincare, t-shirts, sneakers, underwear, hair products and how to look 25 when you are 75.
Where did I learn about proper dressing? I observed my late father (1932-2009) who dressed in proper Chicago business attire influenced by Ivy League style, favoring oxford shirts, crew neck sweaters and classic attire. He showed me how to keep dress shoes polished and preserved with shoe trees. Later on, I went to work at Ralph Lauren and absorbed that world which itself was based on timeless Anglo-American dressing inspired by old Hollywood icons such as Cary Grant, Fred Astaire, Steve McQueen and John Wayne. There was no Youtube, but there was GQ. There was no Instagram, only observation of NYC men walking into Polo, or Brooks Brothers or Paul Stuart.
The era of the pig, which began in the late 1960s, and overturned older ways of dressing in favor of torn jeans, ripped t-shirts, sandals, lots of hair on the face and head, and throwing out “rules” in favor of “self-expression” has brought us to where we are today. We need rules more than ever, because just as architecture needs the basis of classical proportions and forms to express itself, so does dressing well. We don’t simply invent looks, we take them from established sources and reinvent them for individual use. But it all comes from a common language, either in the military, or the establishment, or the anti-establishment.
Much of fashion social media is not an attempt to be chaotic, it’s a way of bringing order and rules to the carnival of confusion in dress. This is especially true for men, and masculinity, a fragile state of being which can be destroyed in one second by a wearing pink shoes or carrying a purple handbag. Yes, there is an opening up of gender and more acceptance of the outliers in fashion and sexuality, but it will always go back to the Alpha Male showing you how to make yourself look more muscular by wearing a tighter t-shirt.
I still appreciate and value you, Ethan, and your enthusiasm and passion for vintage dressing and expanding ideas about dressing. I treasure that you are unique in your explorations and hunting for sagacity and wit in dress. Whether there is a larger audience out there for intellectualism in sartorialism is still a waning question.
We talked extensively about this topic, but I want to make sure that you get the support you deserve. I wanted to write almost the same as Andrew.
There is a reason that (young) men watch these video’s, because (opposite of Andrew) they didn’t have a dad that showed them how to do things. So they need guidance. The problem here is that they look at the wrong place.
Today, as Andrew wrote, they don’t think for themselves. Without evaluation, they will implement and use the stuff they find on the web.
At the same time, I talked to a young ‘fashionable’ friend and he also was turned off by the so-called fashion bloggers and found out that some logical thinking can get you a long way. Intellectualism in sartorialism (ad Andrew calls it) is indeed an unpopular topic, but it’s necessary for this day and age to keep that intellectualism alive.
BTW the way we dress is in direct correlation to the ‘zeitgeist’ (from Hegel’s philosophy). The same is true for architecture and art (music, paintings, sculptures etc.). Interesting hè. What does our ‘popular’ fashion say about our zeitgeist?
I think they simply appeal to a more general audience where yours is more niche, different market!