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Dapper District: Standard Deviations

Make suits more interesting by upgrading the rest of your outfit.

Now that I’ve brazenly accused your city mates of sloth and conformity in their suit-wearing ways, it’s only fair that I offer some polite suggestions about how to make their suits more interesting. At the risk of sounding like Stacy London from What Not to Wear—though there are worse fates— it comes down to a few key points (I reserve the right to add to this list).

1. Difference
2. Texture
3. Fit

Difference is the easiest, and it’s the topic for this week. 

Difference is a spread-collar French-cuff shirt
… instead of a button-down barrel-cuff shirt. (Not that I wouldn’t wear that one with shorts if I owned it.)

Difference is “I’m wearing this bow tie because it looks sharp with this suit … ”
… instead of “Oh, who cares whether the paisley coordinates with my suit?” Not that it can’t, mind you; just that you actively decided not to bother.

Forget suits! It’s the difference between a $100 pair of Seven for All Mankind jeans from Filene’s that you adore and that flatter you in return.

Or three $30 easy-fit pre-faded jeans from Old Navy that you wear because you bought some three years ago and they’re so comfortable and they more or less fit you.

Hey, guess what? One pair of pricier jeans that you wear all the time is more comfortable than three pair of denim legbags. I didn’t know it, either, until someone made me try.

Difference is canvas deck shoes.

Not chunky cross-training athletic shoes that are beat-up, old, and dirty.

The hard part about difference is training your brain to think it’s okay to question your own assumptions. There’s a reason—actually a very complex interrelationship of cultural attitudes—that your city mates gravitate toward extremely safe wardrobe choices. That’s a whole other can of worms, but for now, all you need to know is that the people you think of as “way more stylish than I can manage” are stylish because they already figured out that they can benefit from being stylish and put in the hours getting up to speed.

1. Increased confidence
2. Positive response from other human beings
3. Nonverbal communication of respect toward others

When you decide to dress up, to dress better, to care, you gain quite a lot, and they’re benefits you didn’t even know you were missing. It’s like finding a $20 bill on the ground and spending it on wingtips on eBay.

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