Feel free to come up with your own version of heaven for this analogy.
I saw a version of this meme shared by a friend of mine on Instagram and I immediately thought “oh my god that’s me”.
The whole idea of openly sharing (and explaining) what I like openly to hopefully prompt an interest in other people has been the defining characteristic of this blog since the beginning. Sometimes it’s about highlighting underrated garments like spearpoints, high rise trousers, or berets (I guess with the menswear zeitgeist finally catching up to my interests, this isn’t necessary anymore). Other times the proselytizing is about a different way to look at clothes– to use it as a vehicle for personal expression and desired POVs rather than being completely tied to outdated formality conventions, being only concerned with function, or blending in.
I’d like to think that these two approaches help people think about clothing in a way that focuses on personal expression and enjoyment, rather than a pragmatic approach to min-max your life. The only benefits are for yourself, “just because” you like them and should not be for the pursuit of traditional status benefits. In short, I think this reverse-gatekeeping attitude does make me a bit of a Menswear Evangelist, at least when it comes to sharing my own approach to clothing. Or at least to get people to see clothes the way I do.
However, I don’t think I am a particularly zealous evangelist. I’m not someone who drops into forums or stops a passerby to tell him that high rise trousers are the best or to constantly shit on trends. I guess by that metric, “evangelism” is probably not the right word to use for this slight want to share a message I feel strongly about (perhaps instigator or inspirer is better?), but I’m going to use it anyway. I did grow up Christian after all (but no longer practicing)!
In any case, I don’t think that level of proselytizing or cold statements about how “ivy is the best way to dress” is an effective way to get people to enjoy clothing, especially if menswear is always concerned with how the style is “dying”. I have no interest in converting a random guy off the street to “dress well” because I know that my particular style and taste is not relevant to him. Hell, my taste is really not relevant to a majority people, especially when you consider how my clothes are in contrast to my own lifestyle. There is no logical reason for anyone in the modern day to be concerned with the perfect OCBD or to think that collar bars are awesome. Evangelism tends to work best when it’s pointed toward a practical or potentially attainable benefit (even if its an abstract concept like heaven); it’s seldom a tool to get people to like or participate in things “just because”. I guess by that metric, “evangelism” is probably not the right word to use (perhaps instigator or inspirer?), but I’m going to use it anyway. I did grow up Christian after all!
As I’ve stated before, this whole thing is a hobby meant for pure enjoyment and personal expression so increasing converts is not necessary in the slightest. Increasing numbers is not a priority for me! Granted this may add to the people in the community or even physical company, but those are nice-to-haves that doesn’t affect how I wear my own clothes. But despite that fact, it is clear that I still have an evangelical lean to what I do, to share that enjoyment of clothes in tandem with personal introspection is a nice way to live and should be considered. Ultimately this does have an over arching theme that not everything needs to be min-maxed/optimized for traditional social or practical benefits. When you like something in spite of the benefits it may or may not have, it usually means that you really like that thing. And I’d love for people to feel that way about everything, at least with clothes first.
This realization makes me think about how and why people get into clothes in the first place and the role we all play in it.
When you look at most of #menswear media, at least from the early 2010s, it’s clear that there has always been a slight Evangelistic lean to most content. After all, throughout time men have been repeatedly told about the traditional Status benefits that come with changing your dress. Adopting classic menswear (which is unfortunately correlated to dressing “well”) allows you to appear more fit, ensures that you’ll be taken seriously as an adult, and you [may] have a better chance in attracting mates. This also stems from the fact that classic menswear was (and still is) seen as how you are supposed to dress. And whether the message is monetized or not, Influencers, Youtubers, and blogs definitely on this message, all to rescue the uninitiated.
I’ve always found that this method of evangelism isn’t effective in making someone who truly appreciates or enjoys clothes, at least to my obviously biased viewpoint. In my experience, such people tend to see clothes simply as a pragmatic means to an end. When you’ve optimized or min-maxed your wardrobe to be versatile for any life situations in the most relevant or up-to-date way possible (an impossible task by the way) and you appear presentable for dates and work attire, you’re done. Everything is functional and pragmatic, almost to the point of dispassion. The benefits of going further into nitty gritty of clothing or experimenting outside the “norm” (or perhaps socially acceptable or rewarding) are either minuscule or flat out considered irrelevant to your context. Clothes and aesthetics become easily cast away once they no longer serve their benefit-purpose.
To be fair, those evangelists don’t often care about the depth of how someone connects with menswear. They are often as pragmatic as their audience: clothes exist for a means to a worldly end. I personally find that disappointing and worth an effort to change by showing that an alternative approach to clothes is possible.
My evangelical message is to get people to do classic menswear for fun in a personally expressive and an introspective, meaningful way. This want is incredibly clear after I writing the Menswear as a Hobby essay, which retroactively describes every article that came before it. It’s not stated as a CTA, but it’s there scattered across every blog post: a sentiment that you should enjoy clothing and dive deep into why you like things and use that as your guide . (To be fair, I actually did state this message as the “product” we were “promoting” in our Lookbook.)
I understand that this is a big undertaking as it’s not the main reason why people wear classic menswear, but I do think that this message is worth spreading simply because it’s possible as evidenced by this blog, podcast, and the cast of characters featured on both. I routinely meet people who are surprised that jeans can be worn with loafers, that ties can be carefree, collars can be soft, and jackets can be comfortable. Not only that, but that when you wear these things you can combine them in a way that makes sense for who you are and the person you want others to see that is more than just “looks nice” or “is professional”.
However, what I’ve found is that people are able to see the effects of this approach without overt proselytizing. In fact, some people are straight up intrigued at the get-go!
If it wasn’t for the people I’ve encountered over the years who actually react positively and actively try out elements of this blog (or similar mindsets) for themselves, I probably wouldn’t think this mindset was possible outside of super-nerds like Spencer or me. With such guys who already have an inkling for it (or who can at least see that there is something different, the result is almost always an intentional and introspective person who engages with clothes on a deeper level, even if they aren’t wearing the exact clothes I wear. It’s not all the time, but it makes me happy that someone can read about a garment I’ve written about and find their own piece that speaks to them the way a low vamp loafer or a broad DB speaks to me. It’s even better when they ask me in person!
You could say that the main evangelistic message of this blog and pod is to demonstrate the importance of personal taste (the metrics of why you like something). It may start out with suggestions to appreciate “niche” things (I use quotation marks because a lot of what I like is currently popular) such spearpoints, wide legged pants, abstract ties, senior cords, and kimonos, but it uses personal taste and enjoyment as the metric rather than as a pragmatic choice.
To be clear, my personal taste approach isn’t meant to be something to lord over other people in an elitist way. When we use truly personal taste as a guiding principle, it reconciles one’s fashion choices. Minimalism is placed on equal ground as maximalism because it’s based on what you like to wear, rather than trying to posit one lifestyle over the other. Wearing a ties is just as fine as not wearing one. Defaulting becomes replaced by intention. “Good” and “bad” are no longer defined by formality levels or the brands you wear but instead is about how effective your outfit is at expressing who you want to look like. It’s all about gaining freedom from pragmatism and outdated convention so that you can us intentional and specific personal taste as your one true guide.
So if that’s the “message”, how does one get inspired to adopt it? The answer seems to be simple. Just be yourself and enjoy your menswear openly. Being personal with your clothes doesn’t just aid in purchasing or coming up with outfits, it also leads to literally having fun while wearing it out in real life. It think that people can see this freedom and enjoyment, which is why they end up becoming interested in how they can get there. It typically starts out with practical conversations on how soft collars and wide leg pants are pretty comfortable and appear louche, but the reasoning behind why you’d want to do that with traditionally formal/professional clothing is the real ticket.
I’ve been told a few times that clearly my friends and I have a different approach to clothing, since we don’t appear stuffy or trying to look too proper. We’re just living life in our clothes and that seems enough to get a few people interested in expanding how they look at classic menswear! The most I do is write it all out in the hope that someone finds it on the internet (I guess I do share it on reddit, but that’s all). Perhaps the fact that we wear clothes and hang out is enough to show that clothes have a place outside of “conventional” occasion.
To iterate what I said in the beginning, I have no interest in converting truly random people. Not everyone needs to live life the way we do nor do they even find it attractive. But what I have noticed is that there are people who are into this mindset and simply needed a small push in that direction. IN most cases, these tend to be people who are already have strong personal taste and use it as a guide across different things they are already into. I tend to get along best with such people and it’s no surprise that these are the ones who respond positively to my style and blog and who I sometimes end up becoming IRL friends with. Ultimately, they are the ones who realize there is fun to be had with classic clothes and are actively excited about the possibilities that this journey on developing personal taste may lead.
This is why most of my “evangelizing” tends to happen by changing attitudes around specific pieces rather than generating an overall interest in wearing suits. Coming around on a specific pant width, a collar shape, or piece of headwear can lead to a different mindset on clothes, especially if your intrigue in that item comes in spite of mainstream sentiment toward it. In other words, if you start to like and wear something that you normally would feel too weird to do, it may unlock other possibilities in your wardrobe.
Sure, some guys are already into the basics of menswear and are now inching toward the “next level”, not in terms of tiered brands to buy from but for expression. But more often than not, they are people who already enjoy having specific personal taste as a guide, whether it’s through music, food, or media. I think of guys like Adam or Nguyen who you may remember from previous blog posts but in looking back through my archives, I’ve come to realize that they weren’t the only ones. To me, this is proof that anyone can get into menswear, even the fun vintage stuff, in this way without being specifically prompted, because they already do these things for other outlets that again, are not necessary for living but are done because they enjoy it. And in talking to with them, it’s clear that they also wish people felt that way about music, food, and media. Personal and intentional taste really is holistic, which is why it’s great to have!
It’s become clear to me that I gained this evangelical lean as well as the importance of intentional, personal taste from simply hanging out with my friends. Being around people who don’t mind standing out and are so open about the hobbies they enjoy has an inherently evangelistic energy. It’s not exactly intellectual since enjoyment is the key metric, but the reasons for enjoyment are certainly deep and articulate, which is what makes their hobbies feel even more inviting to participate. I’ve certainly felt it when I’m discussing things like film with Spencer, the nuances of cuisine with Annie, or even picking the right MW2 loadout with MJ. They don’t even have to convince me. Through simply conversation and hanging out, I can feel their passion and be inspired to discuss, learn more, and participate for myself. It really looks like my friends have evangelized me to expand my own interests and to even use my menswear approach across other aspects of my life.
In the end, it seems that simply being yourself and enjoying what you do is the best way to “evangelize” people into any hobby. Passion, is amazing at getting people interested in things because I believe people like being passionate about things. And when people see that you like something, they might consider liking it too, especially if you’re articulate about why you like it and are open to conversation. Interests that truly stick with you and become holistic in your life (like appreciating clothes) are not built not on gaining traditional status benefits, but about how it connect with you on a personal level.
Evangelism of taste may just be a tool in reframing how we view benefits in the first place, leading us to be fulfilled by other things rather than winning at min-max. As I said before, providing a personal taste focused alternative to a pragmatist life (especially when it concerns clothing) is definitely worth sharing. It really is about reverse-gatekeeping! Or perhaps this whole thing has just been an exercising in what it means to instigate “inspiration”.
And to be clear, if I wasn’t writing about menswear, I’d probably be doing this same thing with film score and trying to get people not to just take it as aural wallpaper in a scene but as its own narrative journey that can be analyzed for its thematic development and use of theory techniques. Why else do you think I share stuff on my stories all the time?
Spencer, MJ, and I discuss our own experiences on “menswear evangelism” during the latest episode of Style & Direction. The pod goes into what I discussed above, about how to shift people’s (or #menswear’s) focus on traditional status benefits associated with classic menswear. There are also anecdotes about when we introduced our own friends to this approach to menswear….and what seemingly worked to inspire them. Overall, the pod is about why we think it’s important to have this “menswear evangelism”, even if it’s not entirely needed for our individual participation of of wearing fun clothes. Again it’s not in a way to lord over people nor is it a way to ensure the tie doesn’t die (I don’t think it will, but it will definitely become harder to find good ties), but rather simply to encourage others to have a deeper understanding of clothes that relies on personal taste and enjoyment.
I’m sure at some point, people better than us will be able to take this message in a better, more straight forward way. I mean, you just need follow Die, Workwear on twitter. He’s the biggest proponent of taste and POVs out there and with his gravitas, I’m sure other people are sure to follow suit. I only wish I was just as zealous as he was in this fight!
- 08:21 – Topic Intro
- 11:36 – How/Why Do People Get Into Fashion?
- 19:40 – Experience Getting Other People Into Menswear
- 50:08 – Getting Friends Into Hobbies in a Similar Way
- 1:00:52 – How Important is Menswear Evangelism for Us
- 1:14:31 – Wrap-up
- My essay on the importance of Personal Taste, which really does help frame this discussion.
- My post on Menswear Communities, which is proof that there actually are others who feel this way and that you don’t have to be alone.
- Die, Workwear’s series on Developing Good Taste, which I do see as a form of Evangelism.
- A Vox article on how the wholesome energy of MFA keeps people around to develop their taste in fashion.
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