There’s a lot going on here in one watch. The High being that it’s a Rolex, the low is the canvas NATO strap. Interesting contrast because it heavily plays down the Rolex aspect. It arguably could be a good balance between Danger and Play as well. Old Rolexes like this bring up the image of old bomber pilots and their time pieces, but the playfulness of the strap helps tone that down. If you can afford a Rolex, this would be a great way to have some fun with it.
PS. Did you know I do private style consultations? I can help you dress better according to your budget and your needs.
In Part 1 I talked about the sartorial difference between Danger and Play. These are two elements that will contrast in a wardrobe and usually Play will dominate over Danger if you are trying to mix the two.
Today I’m going to talk about how both of these elements are used to ideally dress a man compared to a woman.
Men and women are both benefitted by appearing better through things like clothing, working out, and eating right. However, a man should seek to look better for different reasons than a woman as that improved aesthetic is designed to communicate two entirely different things.
Women dress better to be more visually appealing and more sexual. Men dress better to convey more power and demand more respect.
Think about why certain articles of clothing or things like makeup look great on a woman and are silly on a man. High heels? There’s nothing powerful or dangerous about those from a male perspective. They communicate a daintiness or even a sultriness but never a sense of power. You can’t run, hunt, or fight in a pair of heels.
Your ultimate goal in improving your wardrobe is should not be to improve your visual appeal but your visual power. That’s not to say that visual appeal doesn’t matter, just that it’s not as important as power.
For women visual appeal > visual power
For men visual power > visual appeal
Both men and women will arguably be better off with an element of both, but the priorities are different.
This corresponds with the balance between Danger and Play in that, a man who communicates Danger in his look is really communicating power. However, a masculine man who communicates Play is also communicating power.
The difference between the two is direct communication vs indirect.
We can look at it like this. A man who’s standing with a gun in your face is directly communicating power. His actions are expressly showing you the power he wields and his intentions. However, a man who unflinchingly stares back at the man with the gun in his hand is also communicating power. The only difference is that his communication is more indirect in that it is a refusal to submit to the direct communication of the first man. Both are powerful, both communicate that effectively, but both do so through different means.
Neither method of communication is good or bad. Both are effective depending on the type of man, and this same principle applies to the way men dress. This is why the preppy, Ivy-league student in his bright colors, tight fits, and outlandish cuts can still come across as masculine. If he has the right frame, his clothing will communicate that he refuses to flinch to the Danger of men around him. He can wear loud, attention-seeking clothes because he has the power to effectively handle all the extra attention his clothing will bring. It’s the indirect communication of a dare that makes a Play-based wardrobe still effective in communicating masculinity.
The key to this is having the proper frame. As noted above, women dress well primarily to increase their visual appeal. Gay men will do the same because men are more attracted to visual cues and they are wanting to attract other men through their own visual appeal. This is also why a lot of straight men are uncomfortable with the idea of dressing better. They confuse visual appeal with visual power and immediately think that dressing better equates to them looking gay. But, two men can be built the same, wear the same clothing, and communicate entirely different things through other mannerisms and their overall frame of mind. The clothing is just a tool that can be used to communicate visual appeal, visual power, or a complete lack of both.
Read Part 3
Within each man there is a scale of two competing masculine traits: Danger and Play. Danger is what comes from a man’s power and self-discipline. It’s his ability to exert force over his environment and others. Play is what comes from a man’s sociability and aloofness. It is his ability to invite others into his frame and to embrace his environment. Both are inherently masculine and all men have an element of both within them.
Some, like a Batman, are more danger than play. They are the lone wolves who either care far more or far less about the rules of society than the average man. They are the men who are slow to smile or vocalize – the men who take what they want and don’t apologize for earning the good things in life. They are the men who build themselves up from nothing and continue to succeed for the sake of success alone. For these men the end can and often does justify the means, so long as it doesn’t violate their own sense of honor and integrity.
Others, like Bruce Wayne, are international playboys who live life for the experience. They are the socialites who will command a room and make other people want to be their friends. They are the embodiment of charisma and charm. If they do work hard it is so they can have the experience rather than the result. They are men who see the means as an end in and of themselves. They live for experience rather than results.
Now obviously Batman and Bruce Wayne are one and the same. This same contrast in two types of masculinity has existed for ages. Consider Sir Percy Blakeney/The Scarlet Pimpernel. Neither one of these two types of masculinity is inherently bad or good. Both are appropriate given certain situations and an individual man’s life may lead him to lean more one way than the other. We all fall on varying points in the Danger/Play scale.
So what does this have to do with clothing? Well, a man has to dress his type. A man may be able to have varying degrees of Danger and Play in his personality, but his wardrobe on any given day cannot. One aspect will always overpower the other.
Look at this picture from GQ a couple of months ago. It’s from a quick article touting the virtue of bright red pants. Now, I’m obviously a fan of wearing go-to-hell colors, but this is something that won’t work for every man. Notice the guy on the left? He’s wearing a fitted, leather jacket. It’s black and fits like a glove and this is something that would typically fall into the Danger side of men’s style. But when it’s paired with these red pants, all the Danger is sucked out of it. Don’t get me wrong, it can still look good, but you’re not going to roll up to a dive bar like this and expect anyone to take you seriously. If he wore that same jacket with a pair of dark jeans and boots, he’d be solidly in the Danger category and able to convey that aspect of his personality.
Have you ever wondered why it’s always better that a man buy a solid suit before buying anything with patterns? It’s because solids fall into the Danger side of things. There is nothing playful about a man in a sharp business suit, with everything tailored ideally and all items perfectly in place. This is a man who looks like he has important places to go and important things to do. There is no nonsense about him. There is no Play in James Bond wearing a tuxedo at the Casino Royale.
But even men of supreme seriousness the likes of James Bond and Don Draper have an element of play in the them. When they are in casual or social situations they can show this Play more in their wardrobe.
Unfortunately most men think Play is bad, or that Play comes at the expense of Danger. While stylistically you can’t have one without it overpowering the other (Play almost always overpowers Danger) a man himself can have strong elements of both. When it is appropriate to do so, a well-dressed man embraces his Play and brings it out in his style. It’s why the American Preppy style exists. It began with big wigs in very distinguished schools and institutions who had the clout and the Danger to be able to afford the contrast of wearing loud, Playful clothing.
If you’re just starting to dress better, figure out which side you gravitate more towards. It’s always safer to default to Danger (as ironic as that sounds), but that may not be appropriate for some men. If you’re a stand-up comedian, a musician, an artist, or anything else that depends primarily on creativity, you might be better off defaulting to Play. Either way, figure out which way you lean and start building your wardrobe accordingly.
But don’t stop there. Once you’ve established your Danger wardrobe or your Play style, build up the other half as well. It’s just as inappropriate to bring Danger to a Play situation as it is to appear Play in a Danger scenario. Learn to incorporate both and then choose which of the two fits best for each situation.