Fashion Is What You Buy, Style is What You Do with it- Musings from the Man About Town

By Daniel van Voorhis

Greetings from rain drenched, El Niño battered Southern California. While the rest of the country is in its usual winter appropriate gear, we here are wondering if our UGGs are waterproof, bemoaning the possible hazards that water might bring to Awards season, and slowing to a crawl in our cars on the already worst freeways in the nation.

I do not claim to have any cold weather style advice. I suppose I learned in Scotland not to use umbrellas in the wind and that layering is for chumps. Unless you are staying outside, the place you are heading is likely heated, and thus when you get there you’ll be making a mound of windbreakers and sweaters—get a heavy jacket to put over what you normally wear and ask to hang it when you arrive. Beyond that, I would ask that you use the appropriate word “inclement” for stormy weather instead of “inclimate”; the latter seems correct but is not actually a word.

Lately, here at the Jagged Word I have been writing more recently about general demeanor and a gracious frame of mind over specific style rules or comments about culture. Through various emails, I have amassed a number of questions over the past few months and I will use today’s article to offer musings on these questions.


  1. Gentlemen, clean up your face. You can go bearded, freshly shaved or somewhere in between, but a face wash and moisturizer isn’t a sign of femininity. Don’t worry too much about the “gender” of the soap but pay attention to the moisturizer and don’t skimp (and find skin-type appropriateness). We should never judge someone’s appearance based on factors beyond their control, but when I see a dude with a beard that isn’t groomed or someone with obviously unwashed, oily, dirty skin I wonder if they are actively trying to repel others. The hair coming out of your ears and nose? Here’s an answer to that. Oh, and for fun and mild self-loathing there is this, which comes compliments of my own religious tradition and is the amongst the most absurd things I have ever read.
  2. The corollary to a man’s beard is a woman’s hairstyle. When did not cutting your hair become a sign of moral superiority? And, for some fun religiosity, there is this. Wear your hair as an accoutrement to highlight your hair type and facial structure. But, as always, be practical. Don’t get too bohemian because “you are too busy” (guys, this is the equivalent of “I’m just going to put a hat on anyways”). Here are a few ideas for quick at-home hair styling (some of them are more complicated than others).
  3. For both men and women rocking the frames, choose wisely. Just because “celebrity x” can pull them off, doesn’t mean that you can. Once again, facial structure is important. How much lens do you need? I tried a slimmer frame a few years ago, but with progressive lenses it became uncomfortable. Also, consider what else you are rocking above your shoulders. If you are going straight cosmopolitan/peacock runway style, match bold jewelry and hairstyles with dark and/or large frames. Otherwise, consider a balance between daring and modest with hair, frames and jewelry. “Bad frames, good lenses” was a phrase coined by Adam Carolla to designate someone that knew what they were doing but had little decorum. Ultimately, the lenses are what matter for function, but form shouldn’t be just an afterthought.
  4. I rarely wear cologne. I find that other products in my hair or for my dry skin have scents that often clash with other products. My only words of advice on cologne or perfume is that dudes shouldn’t consider anything from Axe, nor should women buy a fragrance “designed” by their favorite celebrity. Also, if I smell you before we say hello, or I am smelling you after we say goodbye, you might be doing it wrong.
  5. Spend on shoes. But don’t blow it all on one pair. Make sure they fit, wear the right style for the appropriate event and rotate through what you have for longevity.
  6. Not all sizes are equal. Find the brand that fits you (assuming you don’t have time for a tailor) and stay loyal if it’s in your budget.
  7. An easy tailor trick is to go oversized and buy a suit coat, jacket, dress that is on discount because it is a larger and more obscure size, or is a good brand and second hand, and have a tailor bring it to your specifications.
  8. Get to know a tailor, seamstress and cobbler/shoe repair specialist. Talk to them about your budget, simple tips for longevity and general advice. If they are worth their salt, they will welcome conversation about something they have chosen as a profession and can become an ally in looking good on your budget.
  9. Don’t be fooled by some brand names or stores that mark up because of their label. If you find something that works, disregard any claims to the “superiority” of a better label. I personally buy fitted white Stafford travel super shirts- straight out of JC Penney. I’ve tried “better” brands and been dissatisfied and lighter in the wallet.
  10. Remember, to beware of the emperor’s new clothes and passing trends. If you have good friends that call you out on a sartorial selection, weigh it seriously. Don’t let your end goal to be only or even primarily noticed for your style. Substance matters. A lack of manners or a constant scowl will undue whatever time you’ve put into your clothes. And lastly, as always, learn the rules like an artist, so you can break them like a pro.

All the Best,

The Man About Town

Written while listening to Yo La Tengo Fade