Following up on my previous article "This is Why I Hate Fashion", I thought I would clarify my point today, as well as generally bring a little more positivity to the conversation about different men’s fashions.
If you boil it all down, there are two basic categories of men’s style consumers, in my opinion.
I like to think of it as “men’s fashion” versus “menswear“. Or even better; “DRIP” versus “DRAPE”.
A “DRIP” customer is somebody who is trendy, current, of-the-moment. The word “drip” itself is trending right now and probably won’t be around for more than a year or two, just like the fashions that are associated with the word. Value in this market is driven primarily by social context and social currency, much more so than intrinsic value or craftsmanship. This consumer is looking for inclusion – a stamp of approval, if you will – that signals to the outside world: “I’m current, I’m cool, I know what’s up right now”. A “DRIP” consumer is someone who closely observes what is fashionable at the moment. He desires to be accepted into the inner-circle and he updates his look, his language, and his identity as quickly as the rest of the inner-circle changes theirs. The irony, in my opinion, is that the most fashion-forward looks of the day, despite being marketed as “unique” or “outsider”, are most often purchased and worn by the consumers who are most easily persuaded. This creates a market that is controlled top-down by the brands and those at the top of the consumer funnel. In other words, in order to remain “current” or “unique” this consumer must try to stay ahead of the curve by buying what the creators of the inner-circle signify as what is most “current” or “unique”. Ultimately this creates a “fast fashion” consumerist cycle where shoppers are “forced” to replace items not because they are used or worn-out, but because they have been arbitrarily stripped of their social currency.
On the other hand, a “DRAPE” customer has a very different view on fashion. The word “Drape” itself is a tailoring term (or technique) that implies knowledge about fit, fabric and craftsmanship. This customer never wants to replace his clothing. He is not concerned with “current fits”. He values his clothing being properly fit to his particular body. He doesn’t care about labels or logos. Rather, he wants his clothing to be made of high-quality raw materials. He doesn’t care if it’s “new”. In fact, he loves when his clothing looks old, lasts a very long time and builds a natural patina. In many ways, the “Drape” customer is the exact opposite of the “Drip” customer. This guy doesn’t care what is considered “cool” or “current”. In fact, he purposefully avoids changing trends and is more concerned with creating a style, wardrobe and identity that will last not only years, but decades. Ultimately he is more concerned with intrinsic value and lasting craftsmanship than social currency. This creates a market that is controlled bottom-up by the customer’s requests and tastes. In other words, the “Drape” customer is someone who will tell the brand what he prefers and exactly how he wants his clothing – not the other way around. This is why this customer gravitates toward custom clothing, which in many ways, is the opposite of trend-driven fashion.
Personally, I’m (more of) a DRAPE customer. I love menswear, and hate fashion, for reasons that go far beyond the fabric itself. It’s important to understand that there are more factors at play here than simply how you look, or how people perceive you. Clothing is inevitably tied to psychology, the environment, the global supply chain, etc.
With all of that said, here are some of the reasons why I love menswear, and why the “fast fashion cycle” will never satisfy me as a conscious consumer.
I’ve spent many years studying the history of fashion, and I continue to learn new things every day. I find it absolutely fascinating how we and our forefathers are connected by our shared experiences of wearing clothing, and some of the styles developed 100+ years ago are still in use today. I also find it satisfying that some of the best “style photos of all time” were taken more than 50 years ago, and are considered to be timelessly cool. Guys like Steve McQueen and James Dean wore classic menswear that is still on the market today, and these guys have never not been considered stylish, current or cool – no matter the decade or the trend of the moment.
I could go on-and-on and get very deep here. But generally, as someone who grew up on a farm and values hard-work and building things “the right way”, I value HOW things are made. Tailoring is absolutely one of those crafts that takes a lifetime of experience to perfect. In my opinion it is one of the most respectable trades available, as it combines intellect (math, geometry, fit, etc), physical ability (handwork techniques, exhausting hours), human service (clients, psychology, relationships) and, of course, art (taste level, eye for beauty). A tailor is naturally a well-rounded and highly respected professional who brings joy, satisfaction, and sometimes relief, to his clientele.
Fashion it the second most polluting industry in the world. It creates more carbon emissions than the transportation and shipping industries combined. Not to mention the amount of fresh water it requires to mill fabrics and craft garments. Therefore, one of the most practical and impactful things you can do as a consumer to cut down on your personal carbon emissions is to buy less, buy better (one of the AOS mottos). Buy things that are going to last and support companies who use conscious manufacturing techniques…. More on this later.
As I’m sure you’ve read on this site before; we are all about versatility and building an interchangeable wardrobe. If you buy something that can only be worn with one specific outfit – naturally you’re going to be buying a lot of stuff. In an ideal wardrobe, a person can get dressed in the dark – because all of the pieces are thoughtfully curated as part of a larger whole. This way you need less stuff and – just as importantly – it creates a simplicity and minimalism that is healthier for your brain than holding on to a vast array of cheap things you rarely enjoy.
Manners & Etiquette
Tailoring and traditional men’s clothing also carries with it centuries of symbolism. I like classic menswear because it is often indicative of good manners, etiquette, respect and integrity that were more prevalent in generations past. This is part of the reason people show you respect when you “dress up”, because when people used to dress up more frequently, the population were generally less open about being disrespectful in other areas of daily life. To highlight this idea, below I touch on groups of people around the world who use classic menswear as part of their identity in order to show the world that they are good people and to combat negative stereotypes and discrimination.
A pair of sweatpants worn by Justin Bieber that say “Essentials” on them might be considered “stylish” (right now) by perhaps 5% of the world’s population. But a beautifully-cut suit is considered stylish by a much wider demographic of people around the world. You don’t have to be “in the know” to understand how/why something looks good. A garment can simply, and objectively, makes the wearer look good – more handsome, more healthy, more confident, etc. I love classic menswear because, when I’m wearing a suit, I will get a compliment from a sweet elderly women on the street the same day that I get “props” from a young trend-heavy high school kid wearing Jordans. More than any other form of men’s fashion, classic tailoring has universal appeal. You can say that “beauty is subjective”, but you can’t doubt that some things are universally accepted as being attractive.
I’ve been traveling a lot lately and every time I land in a new country, I’m reminded of why I love menswear. Tailoring is a universal language that is understood in just about every place around the world. I may not be able to speak Japanese, Italian, or Russian – but I can communicate important messages non-verbally using only my clothes, and the way in which I wear them.Virtually everywhere, the tailored suit & tie is a sign of respect, dignity, professionalism, etiquette, proficiency, cleanliness, and in some cases, hope. In fact, in some unique pockets of the world local men use tailoring not only as a means to communicate positive messages, but to inspire their fellow people and bring a sense of hope to their communities.
Take “The Sapeurs of the Congo, for example, who use dapper menswear as a means to bring joy to a community that has little to celebrate. Or “Mister Erbil“; the first Kurdish gentlemen's club, located in the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan. Their primary objective is to utilize menswear and style as a means to spread positive social change and give the world a new representation of their culture. “It’s not just about wearing suits…and fashion. We use fashion as a tool to deliver our message to the world…to represent our culture…and to show another side of our society… When people think Kurdistan, they think of war…unless they know us.”
The Joy of Dressing
Once you start to educate yourself about clothing, and feel in control of your style decisions, there begins to be a genuine joy or dressing. This is critical, in my opinion. We all have to get dressed. Every. Single. Day. If you can make this process something that you genuinely enjoy, then you will feel better about yourself and be just a little bit happier. Every. Single. Day.
Lastly; It’s Not Black or White
Lastly, it’s important to note that there are no pure “Drip” or “Drape” customers.
Fashion is an art, not a science. And like any art, it is not black and white. There are no “drip-only customers” (everybody wears a suit once in a while), just like there are no “drape-only customers” (even the most conservative dressers add modern elements and want to look “cool” or “updated”).
So if you’re looking to add a little “drip” to your “drape” game, I would say do it in a responsible way. If you’re looking to buy something trendy that you know you won’t use often, buy it second-hand (eBay, consignment, etc). Don’t spend a lot of money on trendy accent pieces that you won’t keep long-term, and try never to fuel the fast-fashion machine by never shopping at stores that are built using a fast-cycle business model.
Thanks, as always, for reading.
Yours in style,