Style Lessons from the 2014 Oscars

No I didn’t watch them, although I do own a TV and even spend some time watching it each week. However, my Twitter and Tumblr feeds blew up with this stuff all night Sunday and into the day Monday.

Whether we like to admit it or not, these men are at the peak of society. Men want to be them and women want to be with them. They have fame, fortune, and influence – all of which are indicative of a level of power. Yet even these apex men and their reputation are impacted by their appearance. Obviously some of it is fueled by a bottom-up mentality, in which people not as high up the social ladder will grab onto any apparent flaw or weakness in an attempt to level the playing field. But it’s not just fueled by jealousy, those who worship these celebrities look at their clothing as well. It’s a way to confirm that they really are as cool, put-together, and flawless as hoped for.

So here are the top things I learned from seeing all of the photos of the men at this year’s award  ceremony.

Pay Attention to the Break

Whether it’s one of many things going wrong with a look, or the only problem to ruin perfection, pants that have too much break is a near omni-present issue at celebrity-attended black tie events. I get that not all of these guys are style gurus who care, but they are dressed by professionals who should know better. It’s getting to the point that I’m starting to think it’s a subtle way of indicating elite status in an occult group. That way people like me can write about how bad it looks but really they’re just signaling to each other that they’ve sold out their souls.

Kevin Spacey 2014 Oscars Red Carpet

Barkhad Abdi 2014 Oscars Red Carpet

Michael Fassbender 2014 Oscars Red Carpet

Matthew Mcconaughey 2014 Oscars Red Carpet

Standing Out Can Be Overrated

In the past I’ve written about the difference between dressing so people notice the man and dressing so people notice the clothes. When someone is at the social level these men are, the only reason a man should want people paying attention to his clothing, rather than paying attention to him, is when he’s trying to avoid recognition. Although there is the occasional trend setter, most guys who attempt to out-unique others just come across as lesser men trying to status-jockey within their own group.

If who the man is carries more social capital than his implied willingness to expose himself to risk by standing out, it’s better to emphasize the former over the latter.

Chris Hemsworth Elsa Pataky Oscars 2014 Red Carpet

Pharrell William 2014 Oscars Red Carpet

Jared Leto 2014 Oscars Red Carpet

As a counter point to this argument, all of the attention-seeking outfits shown thus far (excluding Pharrell) are within a normal enough range of tradition as to be considered classic. Therefore, by choosing to embrace a little risk these men communicate that they don’t take themselves too seriously and enjoy dressing up for its own sake. Although Leto’s hair looks ridiculous, everything else about his wardrobe was spot on, making the cream dinner jacket a good tweak instead of a cry for help.

Proportion is Key

The three men who were the best dressed all had their proportions down to a science. Pant length, lapel width, button stance, and more are all in complete agreement with the natural build of each man.

Bradley Cooper 2014 Oscars Red Carpet

Joseph Gordon Levitt 2014 Oscars Red Carpet

Leonardo DiCaprio 2014 Oscars Red Carpet

If DiCaprio and Levitt were to swap tuxes, they’d both look ridiculous, even if they were tailored to fit their bodies. What makes their individual appearances so strong is how well all of the minor details compliment their unique features.

What it really comes down to is, the higher a man climbs, the more he’s scrutinized for any apparent flaws. I could do this same post about a high-school band’s banquet with even worse offenses but no one would care. However, the mere fact that these are celebrities means they’re constantly under public scrutiny. If a man wants to maintain a hard-earned image of dignity, daring, respect, rebellion, or anything else, his style needs to be consistent as his reputation increases.