In the early months 2009, I was wrapping up my final semester as a member of a fraternity at the University of Texas. Over the course of the previous six semesters, I had stuffed my closet with as much Brooks Brothers, Vineyard Vines, and Ralph Lauren as I possibly could. I had accumulated at least 12 different colors of the same Tommy Bahama pocket tee. I had drawers stuffed with neon tank tops. On sunny days, I rotated between a pair of Costa del Mar Brines and polarized tortoiseshell Ray Ban Wayfarers. I wore grey New Balance 991s or Sperry Topsider deck shoes. I had truly mastered the art of dressing like a fraternity guy, and for a while, I really loved it.
I can’t remember exactly how I caught the style bug later on that year, but it went something like this: One day, perusing the magazine section at the pharmacy or grocery store, I picked up a copy of GQ. I was especially drawn to the sharper silhouettes of modern tailoring, and it dawned on me that when I was going out, whether to class or to Sixth Street, I looked exactly the same as approximately 75 other dudes in the immediate vicinity.
I am 5’8”. I am not fabulously wealthy, nor do I have an old money pedigree. I do not possess such supreme confidence that I can pick up chicks at bars Tucker Max-style. I needed a way to set myself apart from the pack, and eight years later, my reputation for style frequently precedes me and is probably the thing I’m most well known for.
Duda is right to a large degree. You will look like a lot of other dudes if you wear jeans and a button-up out to the bar, so if your goal is to meet girls or impress people or make any type of impression at all, you’ll need something else going for you. Maybe you’re the funniest guy in the world. Maybe you are the king of making cheesy pickup lines work. Maybe you are 6’3”. Maybe you are the richest dude at the bar. Maybe you look like Ryan Gosling. Maybe you are Ryan Gosling. If any of these qualities happen to be defining attributes for you, great; jeans and a button down is probably a decent look for you, but if you’re a JAG and looking for a way to stand out, being dressed differently is a good place to start.
Here’s where Duda and I disagree though. Duda practices what we call “peacocking,” made famous in the 2005 how-to-pick-up-chicks book, The Game, by Neil Strauss. From the get-go, I knew that his outrageous style choices were meant to be shocking. When he came in the office with sweatpants tucked into Ugg boots, I knew that was meant to incite a reaction from people. I understood that wearing wool socks with Birkenstocks in the middle of our dreadfully hot summer was intentionally done to elicit those WTF snaps from the rest of the team. I get it: Build the Brand, but I had hoped that Duda really did just have a unique sense of what he thought looked cool, even if being noticed by girls was a by-product of it. Hearing him admit that it’s just a gimmick to Engage in the Chase was disappointing.
Style icons like Jared Leto and Kanye West are notorious for putting on outfits designed to make the general public ask themselves, “What the hell is that?” Pushing boundaries is the name of the game. Demna Gvasalia, the transcendent creative director at Vetements and Balenciaga, is currently trolling the entire fashion industry by making clothes that are absurdly proportioned, completely unwearable, and criminally expensive. It’s a cultural statement. Wearing a goofy-ass ensemble for a night out just to have a conversation starter with girls, on the other hand, is a little transparent.
Still, I don’t disagree with Duda’s general sentiment, so here’s my advice: Dress well, not ridiculously. Make sure your jeans aren’t pooling around your ankles, and don’t pick a style or a wash that your doofus dad would. Please don’t wear a classic fit button-up that muffin tops out of your jeans, and for the love of god, if you’re going to leave a shirt untucked, make sure the tail of the shirt doesn’t cover the entirety of your ass. If you do want to branch out, take baby steps. Wear shirts that are meant to be casual and not worn with a suit. Try a light wash pair of jeans. Go for a tropical print on a short sleeve button-up. Buy a pair of expensive sneakers to swap out for those deal sleds. Then go from there, because not everybody can immediately pull off the blazer, scoop tee, and 90s jeans combo.
Finally, if you choose to rebuke the idea that your style needs any upgrade at all, I’m sure both Johnny D and I will be perfectly okay with that too. After all, if I step up in the spot and there are other guys dressed fly as hell or if Duda comes through and there are three other peacocks rocking bolo ties in the joint, then we’re competing with y’all again. That severely diminishes the impact we can bring, and making that impact was the entire reason we chose to dress ourselves differently in the first place. .