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Three Menswear Experts Explain Why Men Are So Afraid of Changing Their Style

‘Men tend to fear the statement piece’

Whether it’s the inertia of a daily routine or fear of being ridiculed by their colleagues, the average man continues to be reluctant to change his “look.” Still, there’s no denying that an increasing number of men care about what they’re wearing. Just last year, Reuters reported that growth in menswear is supposed to outpace that of womenswear in the coming years. “[A] market research firm forecasts men’s lines will outperform women’s between 2017 and 2022, with sales expanding by a compound annual growth rate of 2 percent,” reports the news agency.

Given this growing curiosity, we spoke to three menswear experts to find out how men’s fashion has changed over the years, as well as why men are so afraid of trying out a new look.

Rayne Parvis, mens stylist: When picking out clothes for men, I’ve learned they’re often insecure about a certain body part just like women. Whether it be a beer gut, so-called “moobs” (man boobs) or wanting to look taller, finding flattering styles to make a man feel confident in their own skin is just as important. I also used to be unaware about how much the feel of the fabric plays a role in whether they want to buy the piece or not. I feel men’s number one priority is comfort versus how something looks. Women tend to lead with how the garment makes them look or feel. Even if the dress or heels are slightly uncomfortable, if it flatters us, we will most likely buy it. Men, not so much. If the fabric or fit is anything but 100 percent comfortable the item will be put on the “no rack.”  

Still, over the past decade, I’ve learned that men are very amenable to change. When a man seeks out a professional stylist, I find he’s extremely open to letting go of his past wardrobe and completely trusting the transformation process. When different styles and colors are introduced during an outfitting or personal shopping session, men don’t need as much time to process the revamped image as women. A quick reply of, “Looks great, I’ll buy it,” is normal.

Having said that, men tend to fear the statement piece. If they aren’t used to wearing the “extra” piece, they can second guess how much it elevates their style. I often get a text with an outfit selfie asking, “Did I style this right? You sure this (FILL IN THE BLANK) isn’t too much for a date/job interview/photoshoot, etc.?” To which, I send the clapping hands emoji with a “Looks awesome.” After a few style thumbs up, men usually set aside all their apprehensions of styling themselves and fly with all they were taught.

Irene Becker, owner of Alandales Men’s Clothing: In California, you know they’ve coined this California look: Jeans, a dress shirt and a sport coat. I mean, men here used to wear suits and ties. It’s more evolved than it used to be — everything is allowed these days.

The fabrics, colors and patterns have opened up in the men’s world too, which I absolutely love. Twenty-five years ago, I don’t think you would see as many guys walking around, like mainstream guys, in salmon-colored shirts. I have a linen shirt in my window right now with massive flowers all over it, it’s gorgeous. You wouldn’t have seen that 25 years ago, but now men want to express themselves through fashion just like women do. Men looked like drones 25 years ago.

Julie Feingold, mens stylist: Men are intimidated by fashion. I think all men want to look good and they want to look fashionable, but most men struggle with knowing what looks good on them, finding that they’re not able to pull off something that they may see in a magazine and not necessarily knowing how to actually piece outfits together.

The reason they want someone like me is because they’re interested fashion. They think it’s cool or they want to look cool; they want to look good and feel good. They just don’t know how to find pieces that work for them or how to necessarily piece it together. A lot of men either come to me because maybe there’s a career change, maybe it’s a new job or a breakup or a new girlfriend or something. They’re at a time in their life where something is motivating them to enhance their style.

The thing that men struggle with most is how to put outfits together. A lot of men can walk into a store and be like, “Oh, that’s a really nice blazer,” or, “That suit looks great,” but they’ll bring it home and they don’t know how to put it all together or wear it more than one way.

Also, you know how men rag on each other? Women will compliment each other, but men tease each other when they’re complimenting. So I feel like a lot of guys, if they go into their office and they’re dressed a little better, they’re worried that others will know something’s up. That’s why I think sometimes men don’t want it to be so noticeable.