We’ve all been there: In front of a full-length, dressing-room mirror, shuffling around in a leather biker jacket. Or a pair of wide-legged pants. Or stretching the collar of a turtleneck under a suit. Or saddling our head with a giant fedora as we assess whether the person looking back at us could possibly pull off this new look.
I saw it happen last week. A friend of mine was trying on a pair of leather loafers that were in sharp contrast to his usual tennis shoes. He took a few steps in front of the mirror, looked himself up and down, returned to the bench he’d been sitting on earlier and started to take the loafers off and put them back in the box. When I asked him what he thought, he looked at me, a bit dejected, like he’d failed a math quiz, and said, “I like them. I just don’t think I can pull them off.”
To be fair to him, I’ve had my fair share of I-like-them-I-don’t-think-I-can-pull-them-off experiences, too. After all, flirting with a new wardrobe or accessory is intimidating, and change of any kind, as the saying goes, is hard. But don’t let that stop you from wearing what you like — even if you think it might not be like you at the start.
To that end, here are a few tips to help you “pull it off” even when that seems impossible…
Don’t Mention You’re Trying Something New
A Male Fashion Advice subreddit (MFA) devotee tells me that after years of being too afraid of what others might say, he finally decided to don a flat cap. “I shopped around a bit and found one that fit my head well and went all in,” he says. “While it might not be a bold fashion move for many, it was for me.”
His initial approach to flat-cap life? He simply acted as though it had long been a part of his wardrobe. “Not one person said anything that questioned my change in fashion, unless it was a random compliment,” he continues. “My wife laughed a bit — not in a mean way, more like in an encouraging, yet confused way — but by the end of the day, she loved it, which I attribute to me not making a big deal out of it.”
No One Cares
Along those previous lines, another MFAer tells me that you might be surprised to find how little anyone actually notices. “I started wearing a bandana around my neck, and I assumed a bunch of my friends would say something about it,” he says. “But not one of them said a word.” If anything, he was sort of disappointed that everyone assumed he’d been wearing a bandana around his neck for years.
Don’t Take Any Criticism Personally
Not every piece of criticism is meant to hurt you. In fact, if someone says something about the fit of your new hat, a new style of shirt or a different sort of shoe choice, “take it into consideration without offense,” a different MFA subscriber suggests. In a lot of cases, “they’re just giving you some feedback that could ultimately help you feel better about wearing your new clothes.”
Mix It in with the Rest of Your Wardrobe
If you find yourself feeling particularly insecure about a new style, bolster your confidence by pairing it with clothes that you are comfortable in. “If you’re trying on a new jacket, mix it in with your favorite pants,” another MFAer advises. “Or if it’s a shirt, wear it underneath a jacket you love.” That way, he argues, you can balance out your insecurities until you feel confident enough to wear your new style exactly the way you want.
Sometimes You Have to Let It Marinate
On the flip side — and the last piece of advice here — let a new piece sit in your closet until you feel like you can make it work. “I owned a sweater for literal years, but I just couldn’t make it work,” a final MFA denizen tells me. “It was really nice and expensive and fit perfectly, but the color just never sat right with my skin tone. I kept hoping I could find the right button-down to pair it with, and I eventually did. Now it’s my favorite outfit. My point is, everyone can pull off everything some of the time, you just have to find the right way to rock it.”