Rules vs Guidelines

Because learning to dress well is often a foreign and intimidating endeavor for a lot of men, most of us will start doing so by digging in and learning as many style “rules” as possible – and there are plenty of them. There are entire corners of the Internet dedicated to and built by men who will argue for or against specific rules until their dying breath.

And there’s some truth to it. Each man has individual characteristics of his build, coloring, and contrast that can be either accentuated or suppressed by following guidelines about colors, patterns, and fits that affect those characteristics. Hell, I break down all these rules for you in my Basic Consultations. Things like your shirt collar style, suit button stance, color saturation, the way your trousers are tailored, what kind of lapel you should wear, etc. all have real, measurable effects on a man’s appearance and are the basis from which these “rules” are derived.

The key is to remember that these are guidelines, not iron-clad rules. One of the beauties of men’s style is that it’s an art more than a science. It’s also a medium for us to express our personalities, our tastes, and even our geographic areas. Here’s an example from one of my friends, Dustin.

Round Face Round Collar

Dustin has a round face and technically should be wearing a shirt collar that is long and pointed. Instead, he’s gone to almost the opposite extreme by wearing a spread collar. According to the rules, this is less flattering because a spread collar accentuates the roundness of his cheeks, whereas a point collar would counter their shape and even out the overall appearance of his face.

But Dustin not only gets a pass wearing this type of collar, he makes it look good. He does so because he follows so many of the other principles of good style. His shirt and jacket fit the way they’re supposed to. The colors in the shirt provide a bit of contrast for his face and accentuate the blue of his eyes. His face is also narrowed out because of the thinness and vertical direction of the stripes on his shirt. By having an idea of and adhering to most of the guidelines, Dustin is able to fly in the face of a major rule and reflect his personality doing so.

The new company I work for has an appropriate motto for dressing well:

“As always, style rules are written in pencil, not ink. Play around with it, be daring, show some personality, and discover your own style.”

My process with this site is to give you an idea and understanding of the rules. The consultation aspect is helping you apply these rules to you as an individual and help you internalize them. However, the ultimate goal I have is to simply serve as a springboard for you to develop your own style, and part of that is knowing enough to tweak the guidelines.

Just like a musician can break the rules and create a masterpiece only after knowing things like the difference between a major and a minor scale, or the circle of fifths, a man is best able to create true style after learning the rules and then getting creative breaking them.

PS. I’m on Facebook and you damn well better Like it.

Paul Fredrick. Your Fit. Your Style.