Monday, July 14, 2014

When Testing Trends Works

The pieces we’ve done this spring on testing trends (and then putting that advice into action) really seemed to connect, so here’s one more follow up. The best part about trends, and giving yourself the chance to test them out, is that some of them really stick. So far, both of our other examples used the black/white contrasting minimalist look as our ‘trend’, and while I’ve enjoyed wearing it again a few times since then, I’m still not 100% sure if it’s me. However, there definitely are some moves that I’ve tested over the past year or so that have really landed for my personal style, and are now staples in my closet.

First and foremost is my broken-in, braided leather belt. This started out on a whim, as I’d seen it in a few looks I’d liked, but for some reason had grown up with an aversion to the style. Therefore, I wasn’t about to go spend a bunch of money (or even a reasonable, but significant, chunk of change) on a brand new belt from one of my favorite stores. In fact, I almost never bought one at all. 

Then one day, rummaging through the odds-and-ends at a local thrift shop, I came across one that was nicely worn in, but not beat-up, and in just the right length. Price check - $1.50 (or something in that neighborhood). Sold. I figured, hell, if I only wear this once, I can toss it in the trash, no harm done. 

Once I got it though, I couldn’t stop wearing it, and have gotten to the point where I wear it as often as possible. It’s the perfect shade of brown to match with anything except my black shoes, and is worn in enough to look casual while still dignified enough to wear with chinos and a blazer. 

Dressed up - dressed down.
True, I wouldn’t call the braided belt a ‘trend,’ per se, but it was still a move outside of my own box that I was hesitant to move forward with. This ‘test’ turned out even better than most, in that my ‘budget’ buy is (to this day) the perfect piece for me. Sure, now that I know I love it, I could go blow some stacks on a high end replicate, but I couldn’t be happier than I am with this super-cheap find.

Another one, and this one goes back even farther, is the knit tie. By now you know how much I love a good knit tie, but I wasn’t always that way. In fact, I really didn’t even know they existed (when I say way back here, I’m talking back to the day I first wore a tie to work). As I researched and browsed pictures and really started diving into reinventing and reinvigorating my personal style, something kept drawing me back to these slightly-casual, square-ended oddities. 

The only time I’d really seen one before was digging through my dad’s closet as a kid - and my dad doesn’t wear ties, so I thought it was, well, a tie for people who don’t wear ties (or didn’t know what they were doing - no offense dad, I don’t think I ever even saw you wear it)! But here it was, popping up again and again on fellas with timeless prep aesthetics, looking damn sharp in them. 

Classic prep style captured by Tommy Ton at Pitti Uomo.
Still, I wasn’t 100% sure, and wasn’t ready to really commit myself to the look. Instead, I went the uber cheap route, going below even the $15 options from the Tie Bar, and using one of my first selections from the Tie Society subscription to give one a try. Hell, I almost didn’t even return the thing, and now I wear them constantly. Sure, I have many more non-knit ties that I do knits, but I wear my knits far more often and far more regularly.

Dressy dots and casual solids.
Anyway, the point is (and sorry it took me 600+ words to get here), is that there is more than one benefit to our method of testing trends on the cheap - not only do you get to try out something you find interesting with taking out a second mortgage, but you open yourself up to new styles that otherwise you may have never given a chance, but are now a fundamental part of who you are and how you dress. We can’t grow without stepping outside of our boundaries, but it’s far safer to do so when you have a system to your exploration.

Do you have any ‘trend-testing’ success stories? Staples in your wardrobe that you’d have been shocked to see yourself wear five (ten, twenty) years ago?

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