Three Steps to Building Your Individual Style

by Antonio on November 11, 2008 · 29 comments

in Dress & Grooming, Featured, Style

Every man is unique, and every man has his own individual style.I say this to every one of my clients because it’s very important to understand this simple concept. We live in a world where we are constantly bombarded with marketing messages trying to tell us who we should want to be, how buying this will make us cool, how sporting this brand will improve our looks. My goal here to give you a foundation from which to make your own personal style decisions. This article seeks to create a hunger within you to discover your individual style.

The Whimsical Winds of Fashion

Many men are confused by fashion trends, and for good reason.Unlike baseball or engineering, there seems to be no logic or set of ground rules as to how it operates.What’s fashionable today may not be “in” next week, and what looks good on that tall tan athletic male model doesn’t seem to compliment you or most the men you know.

My advice: do not chase the whimsical winds of fashion.Doing this is like trying to catch a shadow; the faster you move, the faster it evades you.Instead seek to understand what styles, colors, patterns, and fit best compliment you. Armed with this information, you will save yourself time and money by immediately eliminating 90% of the clothing out there and focusing on the 10% that highlights your strengths. You will ensure that the contents in your wardrobe are timeless, and that your appearance is the best it can be.

A man’s personal style should be influenced by three things:1) his physical characteristics, 2) the environment in which he finds himself, and 3) his personal preferences.I will address each of these separately.

1. The Foundation of your Personal Style – Your Physical Characteristics

Men come in all shapes and colors; some are light skinned, short, and thin as a rail while others are dark, tall, and heavy set.And just as every combination of physical attributes yields a unique appearance, every physical combination has a set of style combinations that best enhances it.Aesthetically speaking, there are certain colors, patterns, and clothing silhouette combinations that best compliment each and every one of us.Let me give you an example.

Tom is 6’4” and weighs 200 pounds.Of Northern European decent, he has both light colored skin and hair.Tom faces a number of challenges; he doesn’t want his clothing to make him look lanky, and he would prefer that his clothing’s colors enhance his complexion rather than overpower it.

Consequently, Tom wears clothing that downplays his height and gives him a bit more weight – he loves cuffs on his trousers along with a ticket pocket on his jackets.On single breasted jackets he has his lapel’s notch slightly lowered (to de-emphasize his height). Yet his favorite jackets are his double breasted ones whose extra buttons and details give him a bit more girth.As for the choice of fabric, Tom prefers heavier weaves that add weight to his thin frame.He chooses patterns such as checks, whose horizontal lines cut him down to size, and coordinates his colors so that there are no stark contrasts.Contrasts between dark and light colors draw attention to themselves, and Tom smartly keeps these distractions to a minimum.

Mike is physically the opposite of Tom.At 5′ 4” and weighing 200 pounds, he is of North African decent and has both dark colored skin and hair.Although Mike’s dressing obstacles appear to be very different from Tom’s, his goal is the same; he wants to look proportional and downplay certain physical features.

In order to minimize his girth, Mike chooses clothing that gives him the appearance of increased height.His wardrobe is full of 2-button jackets that fit him comfortably and are without vents.He doesn’t try to force a tapered waist, but instead allows an eloquent loose drape to mask his heavy middle.Mike has rediscovered suspenders and wears his pants at his natural waist (think right below the belly button); in addition to making him look taller by lengthening the appearance of his legs, he also finds they are more comfortable.When it comes to fabric selection, Mike seeks out contrast as it accentuates his dark complexion.He utilizes the elongating effect of stripes, and owns two black suits because of that color’s ability to slim down the wearer.

2.Your Environment – Further Refining your Personal Style

The second factor in determining your personal style is your environment. A banker in Orlando, Florida is going to have very different needs than a teacher in Chicago, Illinois.Both men want to look professional, but each has different environmental and professional factors that affect their choices.Using our same gentlemen, let’s further illustrate this point with two examples.

Tom teaches high school in a large midwestern city with mild summers and freezing winters.His job doesn’t call for suits, but does require him to look professional.Paying attention to his environment, he wears sports jackets paired with jeans, along with check shirts.In the winter he layers up with heavy tweeds, sweaters, and a classic wool overcoat.He occasionally wears a suit if he has a meeting but never dons a tie as he doesn’t want to appear stuffy.

Mike, on the other hand, works at a bank in one of the hottest and most humid cities in the US.His job requires a suit and tie everyday.In order to stay comfortable, most of Mike’s clothing is made from cotton, whose properties allow it to pass heat and moisture away from the body efficiently, and lightweight tropical wools.Even though the mood of the bank is distinctly conservative, he does flash a bit of color in the stripes he chooses for his clothing and in his choice of ties.

Each man has made choices based off of his environment.If they were to switch places, both would have to alter their wardrobes.But in their respective locations, both Tom and Mike have made solid clothing decisions.

3.Your Wants and Desires – Completing your Individual Style

Finally, the most important factors in determining your personal style are your wants and desires.How do you want to appear to others?Creative, intelligent, a team player, authoritative – all of these are possible.Although at this point we have narrowed down the range of clothing at your disposal, we have by no means stifled your choices.No, there is still an endless array of accessories, colors, patterns, and details that will take the menswear that best compliments you and make it yours.Once again, let us use Tom and Mike as examples.

Tom considers himself an outgoing and creative person; although he teaches mathematics, he isn’t in the least bit formulaic.To liven up his appearance and help it reflect who he his, Tom always throws a pocket square into his jackets, uses knot cufflinks in his shirt cuffs, and wears dressy but slightly offbeat shoes (think burgundy oxfords).Three small things, perhaps not employed simultaneously, but whose effect on the overall ensemble is to make it unmistakably unique.

Mike manages the staff at his bank and likes to subtly signal to patrons who’s running the show.Wearing a conservatively patterned red tie with point collars to elongate his face, Mike never takes off his jacket as its short cut, smooth appearance, and lack of horizontal detail creates the illusion of height.As a retired Air Force man, he pays homage to his service by wearing light blue shirts with dark blue stripes and has a pair of cufflinks with the Air Force Seal. So despite wearing a suit daily, Mike never becomes one.

Final Thoughts

You can wear whatever you want, whenever you want, however you want; my intention here is lay out a thought process so that you can dress yourself in a professional manner no matter who you are and where you may find yourself.While not perfect, I have found it useful in helping hundreds of men look and feel better about their appearance.

Please note: I will devote an entire article to what styles, fabrics, colors, patterns, and fit compliment each body types and complexion.

Written by
Antonio Centeno
Quality Custom Clothing & Sound Style Advice

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{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Will November 11, 2008 at 9:59 pm

A very nice introduction to the basics of individual style and why it matters. I’m looking forward to the next article.

2 Oracle989 November 11, 2008 at 10:17 pm

Excellent article, and I look forward to the rest of the series, especially because I decided a few weeks ago to redo my wardrobe, as my current style is a bit lacking.

3 shoeshine November 11, 2008 at 10:28 pm

Are you planning on writing an article on completing outfits? I get very confused when cufflinks and shoe color comes into the picture.

4 Justin Luddington November 11, 2008 at 11:21 pm

Excellent starting points. I hestitate to recommend black suits, however. Black looks cheap under artificial light, and is still thought by some to be an inappropriate colour for daytime wear. A solid dark navy or charcoal suit accomplishes the same effect as a black suit, while being a bit more interesting and generally working well with shirt and tie colours without overpowering them, as black often can. Further, I don’t see how gentlemen seeking to emphasize height ought to have ventless jackets — side vents preserve the sleek lines of a ventless jacket while providing functionality. Indeed, I would even suggest that the vertical lines of in the two vents tend to draw the eyes upward, elongating the torso; perhaps more so than a pure ventless.

5 Granata November 12, 2008 at 6:05 am

Fantastic article! I look forwarding to seeing the next one. The case studies were interesting.

6 Tony November 12, 2008 at 6:17 am

@Justin Luddington – Justin, you make two excellent points.

Black is a great choice for many, such as high contrast men and those with black hair. Yes, many people associate it with weddings or funerals, but wearing a black suit without a tie and with a pocket square can make the garment appear less formal. Tom Ford pulls this off all the time (although he may be a bit too flashy for most!) I’ll dedicate an entire article to colors here soon.

As to jacket vents, pundits on both argue that for the short man double vents / no vents are the best option. I think both can work, but the double vent has to fit properly (especially on a short/stout man) else it will flair out and look like a tail. Ventless jackets aren’t as versatile (no putting your hands in your pockets) but they are the most-slimming vent choice.

Best regards,


7 Justin Luddington November 12, 2008 at 7:38 am


I agree about the double vents — they definitely need to be well fitted. I’ve seen a few men wearing double vented suits that were poorly fitted and flew out like a tail. Perhaps it’s more of a matter of personal opinion, though; I’d always take two vents over none (or one, for that matter).

Certainly there is a place for black suits. I still think that guys have better options during the day time, but maybe I’m just being stodgy. In any case, everybody’s wearing them, so I probably protest in vain!

Thanks for the comments,


8 Mike November 12, 2008 at 8:54 am

This is a great article and one that everyone who wants to dress for success should see. I’m really looking forward to seeing the article with details of fabric and color to compliment body types and complexion.

9 Jack November 12, 2008 at 10:56 am

My girlfriend watches “What Not to Wear” on TLC and its really great. They show them exactly what is mentioned in this article. Knowing your body type and using clothing to highlight your best features is something that is learned on the show. And of course the mixing of certain colors and neutrals to give a professional look with some actual pizazz to it.

They never have guys on the show though. Which sucks because it means I can’t really apply what is learned on the show and stet up my style like my girlfriend has. Shes leaving me in the dust!

Anyway, I look forward to future articles on this subject as I am eager to look good for me and my girl.

10 Jack November 12, 2008 at 11:00 am

Erg, sorry for the double post, but Mr. Centeno, will you be doing articles also based on age? I’m 20 and a lot of people here are in their 30′s and 40′s so I could be in a pickle when these articles start hitting.

11 Santa November 12, 2008 at 12:12 pm

I rather just be naked wearing white socks.

12 Jake November 12, 2008 at 2:10 pm

Bravo! Fabulous article. As Americans, we’re among the worst dressers on the planet. Please try to devote some space to how articles should fit since 90% of U.S. males wear stuff they would need another 20-30 pounds to actually fill out. Cheers!

13 alex November 12, 2008 at 2:40 pm

need more of these articles, i am inept at dressing myself well but would certainly like to learn

14 John November 12, 2008 at 2:40 pm


I agree with Jack. I am in my early 20′s and not working in a job where a suit is required. I like the ideas for the jackets and stuff, but they aren’t practical for a college student. Will your article have some focus on the younger crowd? Thanks for your article, I look forward to the next one!

15 Tony November 12, 2008 at 3:10 pm

@John & @Jack – I have an article in the works for issues the young man faces – as you already know, there are certain expectations and social beliefs when it comes to how a man under the age of 25 should dress. We’ll explore this topic here soon. If anyone has stories related to this topic please visit my website and contact me – I’d love to hear them and incorporate them into the piece.

Best regards,


16 Elliott Hulse November 12, 2008 at 3:51 pm

I am RUGGED… i look rugged, i act rugged and enjoy rugged clothing and things. my car has big wheels and dirt all over it, my cell phone looks like a brick and my gym is located in a warehouse.

dressing up for me consists of jeans and boots! i think i was a cowboy in my last life.


17 Dave November 12, 2008 at 4:30 pm

Great article!

There’s an awesome book on this topic titled “Dressing the Man- Mastering the Art of Permament Fashion” by Alan Flusser. Check it out at Amazon. It’s a weighty tome of good solid advice that will reap fantastic rewards over the years if you take the time to read it. I bought it a few years ago at the age of 16 and it has served me very well.

Also check out magazines like GQ. Reading the issues over the months will serve to give you a good idea of what to look for in clothes as well as identifying pieces of clothes that would work towards your own personal style.

Regards to all

18 Christopher Canova November 12, 2008 at 5:35 pm

Antonio, I live in the Northwest and the “environment” is a bigger factor than most other readers. Can you possibly include some NW style tips where rain is an everyday concern? I am style-stupid!

19 Tony November 13, 2008 at 12:09 pm

@Dave – Great advice here. Alan Flusser is the man, and at least one of his books should be owned by every man who seeks to be well dressed.

@Christopher Canova – Last night I watched an amazing movie, Le Samourai. The main character, played by Alain Delon, is an impeccably dressed hit-man prowling the rainy streets of Paris. Two things kept him stylish throughout the film despite the weather:

1. His trench coat fit perfectly – spend the resources to ensure your outerwear looks and feels great. You can balance functionality with style here, just make sure it fits in the torso and the sleeves/jacket itself are not too long.
2. He wore a hat vs. using an umbrella – invest in quality hat you’ll be happy with and which can protect you from the elements. I’m not saying spend a fortune here, but get something you are really happy with so that you actually want to wear it.

Good luck with the rainy weather!

20 Jason December 8, 2008 at 2:46 pm

I doubly agree with the Le Samourai comment. That movie is an inspiration or should be at least!

Another excellent film to watch, especially to see how to pull off double breasted suits, The Big Sleep with Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. Amazing!

21 eric March 12, 2010 at 4:49 am

i find looking into my past helps too i have a working class/ military back ground and im from alaska there are personal ideologies and social ones too that i draw upon so my casual style is reflective in that

22 Mark Paigen April 25, 2013 at 11:31 am

Right on. Personal style is about finding clothing and accessories that enhance your build, represent your aesthetic and fit well. It transcends formal and casual, young and old. I applaud gents who are contemporary, yet escape the uniformity of the latest trend. I look forward to future posts.

23 Rafael September 26, 2013 at 3:51 pm

Can I wear a shirt opened up or with a few buttons on, while showing another shirt ( a tee) beneath it? I like this style.

24 Kris November 16, 2013 at 7:04 pm

Very nice article, pretty much showed me the basics.
Tonight i was thinking that what i wear doesn’t show the world who i am. I’m 16 years old 5’9 skinny guy. I’m kinda rebelious and inteligent. I want to show it, as well as that i’m not poor. I’m looking for something sharp and edgy, very detailed, hard and wavy in the air. I like long coats (trench coats) with hoods. I also like red and black combination. As acessoiry i would like to have a sword but i can’t, so atleast a wavy chain-cloth-wire thingy on my hip (something like in cyberpunk).
The problem is… Where do i find what i want? It’s more of custom made suit, isn’t it? Where do i find such thing?

P.S. what do you think on my style?


25 Zech January 8, 2014 at 11:37 pm

I’m trying to branch out with my style a bit. I’ve already got new glasses on the way, but I need some style advice for the rest of my sorry carcass.

I’m 24, and about average height (5’9″), but I am overweight (200+)… I’ve rocked a goatee before I ever saw it in your “tips for big guys” article. I’m pretty pale, but I’ve got dark hair.

If you guys have any tips for what I should avoid and what I should steer for, let me know! I’m needing stuff for both casual and more dressy.

Thanks in advance!

26 Scott B. January 22, 2014 at 12:51 pm

I like these “how to dress” articles. I was looking through my closet the other day and thought to myself, ” I dress like a 13 year old kid and I’m 32!” I immediately started looking at men’s fashion because I have no idea how to do this right. all I know is I want to look good for my wife and for my work.

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