The Devil Wears Prada: Refine Your Personal Style

“Fellas, leave the tight pants to the ladies. If I can count the coins in your pocket, you better use ’em to call a tailor.” — The Most Interesting Man in the World

Yesterday I was writing a chapter on fashion and grooming for my men’s dating e-course, and it occurred to me that it would be a good idea to throw together a blog post for a bit more detail on some of the concepts I touched on, just as a point of reference for that chapter.

In the article, I mentioned that no matter what your personal “look,” you should still make an effort to keep it up to date and coordinated. Believe it or not, you’re not a total original, and at some point the fashion industry organized the look you have now. They are aware of it so they do keep it up to date. So should you.

Refining one’s personal style doesn’t mean rebuilding the wardrobe from the ground up. Nor does it necessarily mean spending a fortune on new clothes. In fact, stores that cater to young men’s fashion are quite adept at producing exceptional looks for very low prices, so if you’re worried about spending $150 on Tommy Hilfiger jeans, know that you can get the same tailored cut (with an obviously lower structural quality) from someplace like Bluenotes or Garage. The point is to put some time and effort into making sure that what you’re wearing both reflects you and your command and presence in the world.

If you haven’t seen the movie The Devil Wears Prada, you’re missing out. First of all it’s a decent flick. Second (and more importantly) every woman in the world has seen this movie. You must?understand that what makes this movie (and of course the book) such a hit is that it’s cultural. It’s about high fashion, and it’s about a young woman’s understanding of the fashion industry. Naturally what it’s about is her growth as an individual and her acceptance of a wider world beyond the myopic scope of her young professional existence. But what makes it cultural is that women love fashion. It’s true, so get used to the idea. And in the world we move through, fashion is more than an industry. It dictates the style in which people live their lives.

Now, I wouldn’t normally have watched this movie either. However, once upon a time I was married to a fashionista, so being the attentive husband I sat through it and watched it as objectively as I could, with a writer’s interest in the character development (of course). And in one scene, the intrinsic core value of fashionism?came out in full force. It’s a speech by Miranda Priestly (Meryl Streep) to Andy Sachs (Anne Hathaway) that explains the core cultural value of fashion and why, while we men walk around with our heads firmly embedded in our rectums over this issue, women are affected by it on an almost instinctual level.

I couldn’t find a video, but here’s a transcript. It’s the kind of speech we writers wish we could write to explain the value of art in society. Maybe we should work a little harder…

Andy: Both those belts look exactly the same to me. You know, I’m still learning about all this stuff.

Miranda: This…stuff’? Oh…ok. I see. You think this has nothing to do with you. You go to your closet and you select out, oh I don’t know, that lumpy blue sweater for instance, because you’re trying to tell the world that you take yourself too seriously to care about what you put on your back. But what you don’t know is that that sweater is not just blue, it’s not turquoise, it’s not lapis, it’s actually cerulean. You’re also blithely unaware of the fact that in 2002, Oscar De La Renta did a collection of cerulean gowns. And then I think it was Yves St Laurent, wasn’t it, who showed cerulean military jackets? I think we need a jacket here. And then cerulean quickly showed up in the collections of 8 different designers. Then it filtered down through the department stores and then trickled on down into some tragic casual corner where you, no doubt, fished it out of some clearance bin. However, that blue represents millions of dollars and countless jobs and so it’s sort of comical how you think that you’ve made a choice that exempts you from the fashion industry when, in fact, you’re wearing the sweater that was selected for you by the people in this room. From a pile of stuff.?

Get it?

So, aside from the fact that women everywhere have watched and worshiped this movie — which is a value feature in itself, as I always suggest being literate to some degree on the entertainment that actually engages the women you’re trying to date — it does contain some enlightening information about one of the most significant areas of interest for most women.

But there’s one more level to this film that bears attention, and it’s in reference to personal style. I mentioned in the email chapter that no matter your personal style, you can still keep it up to date and in line with current trends. The thing to keep in mind with movies is that costume designers go to great lengths to put together coordinated looks for the characters. They do a ton of research into what that character’s type is, and how they would dress in real life. Then they tailor the look to make the actors look their best. The net result is that you get to view personal styles based on character personalities, but polished and completed looks to give the actor and the film the best look possible.

There are two male leads in The Devil Wears Prada, who represent a sort of archetype spectrum when it comes to the kinds of guys women find attractive.

One is Andy’s boyfriend Nate (Adrian Grenier). Nate is a chef, and a casual sort of hip New York guy. He doesn’t shave, and he doesn’t care about fashion or high finance. He wears plain white Hanes V-necks and jeans at home (although I’m pretty sure they’re Tommy jeans…you have to pay for casual too I guess). He has a disdain for artifice and fakery, and is the sort of guy you’d expect to see checking out the local indie music scene while passing out leaflets on recycled paper for some cause or other. Even though he’s a chef at a trendy New York restaurant he’d like you to believe he’s broke, because his principles and the love of a good woman are all the nourishment he needs.

Here’s Nate’s “hangin’ out at the bar” style:

Henley shirt (unbuttoned to stress “cool”), stubble, cocky smirk. You can’t see them, but he’s probably got jeans on (it’s all he wears in the movie). Relaxed fit, of course.

And here’s Nate’s “I know it’s sort of formal, but I’m too cool to care” look:

Collared shirt (black, of course), with a retro and heavily distressed leather jacket, no doubt selected to give the impression that it; and he; has been through a lifetime of exciting motorcycle-related adventures. And stubble.

Contrast Nate with Christian (Simon Baker). Christian is a writer for The New Yorker. He’s worldly, travelled, hangs out with celebrities. Bearing in mind that both these men are cultured, the circles through which Christian moves are circles of power. He’s been down and dirty in the trenches for his job, but when he cleans up he hangs out at fashion parties and photography exhibits. His mission is the search for the perfect story, but he has no delusions of changing the world through protest. He does it by wielding a pen. He is, in fact, the most interesting man in the world (in microcosm).

Here’s Christian’s “hanging out at a chill loft party” look:

Corduroy jacket. Scarf. I’m pretty sure the shirt is Calvin Klein (but you can’t see it here). Casual outside the house still means buttons on the whole front of the shirt. We don’t see him hanging out at home or walking the dog in this movie, but like most guys he’s probably got a drawer full of Hanes V-necks.

And here’s Christian’s formal annual event look:

Tuxedo. Black tuxedo shirt. Shocking red pocket square. No tie whatsoever (to show he’s got “edge”). Notice he’s clean-shaven in both pictures. And he uses hair product, which of course Nate couldn’t be bothered with.

What’s interesting is that both of these men capture Andy’s attention. She’s got a bad boy with an intellectual streak, and an intellectual with a bad boy streak. And they’re both fashionable and trendy within the scope of their personal style. That’s not why?she likes them, but they do provide some excellent insight into how one’s personal style can be refined and kept up-to-date without sacrificing one’s image.

If you’re ever uncertain as to how your style can be updated, you have two avenues: find a female friend or co-worker to go shopping with you (this is a great “day date” by the way…just as a side note). They’ll know your style, and can get you into some great looks that still complement your personality. Or find a movie character you relate to (even if you have to [gulp]?get a few chick flicks to do it). See what they’re wearing, and poke around the web a little bit to find some store sites or look books that match up with it. Either way, know that what you wear on the outside really does reflect who you are and how you feel on the inside. Taking good care of that presentation isn’t just a matter of covering up with artifice. It shows you’re in control, in command, that you know your shit.

No matter how insignificant “this stuff” might seem to you.


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