The Evolution of Fashion: Becoming the Gentleman
Looking back on some old photo albums I laugh playfully at how I used to dress. Being an adult now, I sometimes question the way those younger than me dress, but then it hits me: We all have our phases of fashion. I continued to look over my photo albums and some friends as well and was able to determine that for the most part, we go through three phases until we find ourselves, fashionably speaking.
Phase one is your High School years. For most, before this your clothing choices were dominated by your parental figures. Your choices in apparel were limited and monitored. However, even if you had freedom to choose at this point, the high school teen is far too impressionable to really have their own fashion sense. Think back. This is an overwhelming time of peer pressure in your life and the need to fit in with the cool kids takes control. Thus you don’t really have your own individual style, but your fashion is a group effort that is heavily attached to where you grew up and with whom you were around.
For instance, I grew up
and attended a dominantly white high school. So much of my fashion was adaptive to the culture there. Khaki cargo shorts, rainbow flip flops, and Abercrombie & Fitch polo’s flooded the hallways of my respective learning institution. Growing up in this dominantly Caucasian atmosphere is probably what propelled me to choose a Historically Black College, and it is that decision that influenced the second phase of my fashion evolution. Raleigh, NC
Your college years are usually a mixture of so many experiences. For most, it is a period of finding yourself, or losing yourself, and more than likely both. It was an overwhelming experience going from a dominantly white high school to a black college in the south. Although I was older and less apt to adapt to my environment, I was still influenced by the culture that surrounded me as most of us our. However, in this case, the peer pressure and outside influence we experience is much more personalized towards the niche groups that we settle into. Accounting majors, Music majors, etc. These personal pursuits have a reflection on our outward appearance.
While living in the south I was very much influenced by the “Crunk” music movement and the baggy clothes and over sized Tee shirts. After all, this was my first time being around so many people of my color, I didn't always want to be known as the uppity black guy in cargo shorts. So I allowed those outward influences to mold my own identity and dress the part. I was as cliche’ as one can get in the hip hop arena. But the older I got and the more I learned about myself and where I wanted to go, the less I felt comfortable about how I dressed and what I was wearing. The culmination of reaching a certain age along with graduating college leads to Phase III.
PHASE III: The Grown Up
After graduating and stepping into the “real world” you quickly realize that baggy jeans and over sized Tee Shirts will not suffice for appropriate clothing in the work place. This is the beginning of your fashion maturation. The young and impressionable caterpillar becomes the grown up and sophisticated butterfly. However, one of the major contributing factors to forming your own fashion identity is monetary access. Working full time in the corporate world and having the finances to make clothing selections, and knowing the value of money, leads you to make purchases that you will really like. And it’s those purchases that begin to tell your fashion story.
When your responsibility towards your choice of dress meets your monetary means to shop, that’s when you can really come into your own. But it’s also then when you become accountable for looking the part. Don’t try to decide what kind of gentleman you are too early. Enjoy growing up and embrace your phases. When I was 18 I hated suits, ten years later, and I can’t walk past a suit store without stepping inside. And don’t get me started on ties; I could buy ties all day! Most importantly, however you choose to represent yourself, do it with style, do it with pride, and own what you put on. They say the clothes don’t make the man, the man makes the clothes, so walk in confidence, be the gentleman.