We’ve spent a lot of time talking about things like color, pattern, and fit. Once a man has these three factors dialed in, it’s time to start focusing on another area that is easy for the average Joe to see, but difficult for him to recognize or comment on – texture.
Let’s go back to our spectrum of formality with a man’s clothing.
Texture is a huge, differentiating factor when trying to either dress up or down. The rougher the texture, the more casual the appearance – the smoother, the more formal.
An easy and immediate way to see the difference between these two is to use a little word association. If I say “denim” you automatically get a picture in your head. Associated words may be work, heavy, warm, rough, or durable. Now, if I say “silk,” an entirely different image emerges. Words like luxury, soft, rich, and formal will come to mind.
Texture can be used as a tool to fine tune a man’s wardrobe to the same extent that fit, color, and pattern can.
Take a look at this photo from the most recent iteration of the Great Gatsby:
You can see the sheen and almost feel how smooth and soft the cloth is. A texture that smooth has no place in the casual world or even in the realm of business. It is reserved for the refinement of black-tie affairs, after-dark parties, and other formal events.
Now take a look at this picture of a group of men walking in traditional hunting gear:
They’re still wearing suits, but the thick and heavy texture of a British tweed is too casual for the world of business and certainly too rough to appear in the formal realm.
In both of the above-pictured situations the men are wearing jackets and trousers – not just “some suit” or a T-shirt and jeans. Obviously there are large differences between the cut of the suits, the colors, and the patterns. However, if all were to be equalized except the texture, even the untrained eye could look at the two photos and know the type of event in which the pictured men find themselves.
The beauty of texture is that it is found in everything a man wears. This means the budding sartorialist can mix and match textures to either dress up or dress down an outfit. To the same degree that High/Low can be accomplished when pairing specific items that are considered formal or casual in the modern world, High/Low can be tweaked and fine tuned by mixing and matching different textures.
In the photo above you can see this businessman is draped in the heavy and highly textured wool that is commonplace on most topcoats. As a way to provide some balance to this look, he opted for a silk scarf. The contrast it provides is one that speaks to both an understanding and intentionality in dressing appropriately for his world.
The opposite is also true. Nothing says “amateur” more than a man who tries to wear a suit jacket made of smooth wool and a silk tie with a pair of jeans. The contrast is too strong and it gives away his lack of understanding. The same man would look like a pro if he were to swap out the jacket for something like a Birdseye weave or a tweed and trade in the silk tie for one of wool or even a knit silk.
So once you feel like you have your fit down, your colors figured out, and your pattern matching dialed in, try playing with texture to make more of a statement. The average person on the street won’t know enough to say why you look better, but they’ll be able to tell that you do.