After 33 Years, I’m Ready to Define a Style

I’m 33. Even with the most liberal periods applied to prolonged adolescents, 33 is definitely square in the realm of “adult.” Which, is something I think I’m beginning to embrace wholeheartedly. It comes in some subtle ways—more and more frequently I get up at the same time on the weekend as I do on a weekday for example—and some not-so-subtle ways—shunning fast food because it makes my tummy unhappy.

One aspect of adulthood I’ve been very slow to embrace is style. Not fashion. I’ve never really understood fashion. The older I get, the less I get it. But, style, that’s something I’m starting to get my head around.

Most of my life, I’ve been a slob.

Matt fashionably shows off his suspenders along with his striped button down and sexy thermal henley.
Actual picture of me thinking I’m fashionable. Sometime around 2012.

Somewhere around my junior year of high school, I got some fashion advice from a magazine—probably something admittedly douchey, like Maxim—sayingI should wear tight t-shirts under a loose button down shirts to hide my fatitude.

Along the way, this grew into me wearing long-sleeved t-shirts or henleys under short-sleeved button-downs, polos, or other t-shirts. Part of this came from losing my wardrobe in a house fire, but part of it also came from just feeling like it was the easiest way for me to be presentable to the world.

I didn’t want to invest in clothes, either. A lingering emotional response from not being able to accept my fat guy position in the world. Being always convinced I was going to lose or gain weight made spending money on clothes seem like a bad idea.

But, underneath it all, there was a desire. I wanted to be stylish. I wanted to be cool.

When I moved to Montana and started a new job, I started to dress a little nicer. Slacks and khakis replaced jeans and I stopped wearing my long sleeves under my short-sleeved shirts. When that started making me feel dorky—for truly, can anyone other than a super-nerd wear a short-sleeved buttoned shirt—I spent a little money and bought long sleeves.

Then, we entered a phase at work which required me to wear a tie every day for four months.

And I felt awesome.

Without a doubt, wearing a tie is one of the most empowering feelings I’ve ever experienced. I seriously recommend it to anyone. Just go get a tie and put it on. Right now. Do it. Then, do it again tomorrow and the next day.

It takes more than the rare occurrence of a tie to really make you feel the effects. You need prolonged tie exposure.

Getting into the tie and nice shirts set me down a path. See, I was still picking shirts based on what I had and matching ties the best I could. Fortunately for me, I was able to borrow from my father’s decent tie collection while I was beginning to develop my own.

In the background of all of this, the world was giving me clues about how to grow my sense of what was classy and what was, well:

Matt wearing a grimy shirt and a backwards baseball cap.
Seriously! Backward baseball cap? Could I be any more of a 90s sit-com cliche?

One of the resources I discovered was the Art of Manliness Style Guide—which gave me a sense of hope. I knew I wanted to dress more classy and now I had a template to learn how.

I started researching. I started learning. I did all those things I do when I want to master a new skill. Basically, I procrastinated.

But, I did pick up some tips and ideas. I got a sense of direction.

Most importantly, I came to a point in my life where I realized it was okay to spend money on clothes. I don’t have to wait until I’ve reached some body image floating around in my head. If I do lose weight, it probably won’t be enough to prevent me from tailoring my clothes to fit me again. Even if it is, I can buy new clothes and donate my old ones.

That’s how a consumer culture works. It’s good for the economy.

The first step is figuring out exactly what my style is. Like I already said, I like ties, especially if I have a nice contrasting color shirt to go with it. I also like vests. I especially like wearing my black vest and black tie with a brightly colored shirt.

So, that’s the direction I’m moving in. I’m actively hunting nice shirts and good ties to go with them. I only have one vest for now, but those are also on the radar. I’m a big guy, so finding a good waistcoat isn’t easy, but it’s worth the time and one vest is similar to one suit jacket. It can last.

It’ll take time for me to put together a full set of my “improved” wardrobe. It’s something I’m doing with a pretty small monthly budget for now. But, I’m savoring it.

Author’s Note

I’m not entirely sure why it took me so long to realize I belong in a tie and vest. I mean, I’ve always looked pretty damn good in it.

Framed picture of Matt in 8th grade wearing a stylish tie and vest.
Actual school picture. I am a handsome beast.

Second Authors Note

A friend of mine shared a pretty awesome article about the power of wearing a suit and tie on Facebook, proving it isn’t just a guy thing.