By now you know I am not a big fan of conformity, fashion rules and yes, in most cases any kind of uniform… I mean my company is based on the concept of creating your own unique brand. I like to look at fashion and the world in general as a blank canvas that each individual has a chance to paint using whatever colors inspire them, so it was really interesting to me when I met someone who changed my view ever so slightly…
One of my new clients basically wears the same thing every day. He is one of the most exceptional and creative people I have ever met, so he is a true artist when it comes to the world he creates around him…however, he chooses just one color to paint himself. This of course got me thinking about the concept of conformity and the idea of a uniform and how there are certain times when wearing the same clothes as your friends or colleagues or wearing the same basic outfit every day actually makes a powerful personal branding statement.
Lets start by looking the “fashion dos” and the “fashion don’ts” of wearing a uniform… Clearly, the military is our most visible point of reference. We all love a man in uniform!! In this case the uniform is used to convey solidarity and strength. Although every man or woman in the military is required to look the same, when you see each person on an individual basis, they obviously stand out from the crowd and make a powerful personal branding statement. This is why the military uniform continues to serve as the one of the most trend-inspiring resources in fashion.
My favorite military-inspired styles for women this season came from Wunderkind, Gryphon on Net-A-Porter and Gary Graham, available on my favorite eCommerce site, La Garconne. For my “low” ladies, Topshop is the best bet. For men, military is easy to find. Marc by Marc Jacobs offers a great military jacket for about $350, available at Barneys and the military boot was a major shoe statement for Fall. Barney’s Co-op Label offers a really wearable lace-up version for $300. Of course, when it comes to military, the best are the most authentic pieces, so go to any Army/Navy store…you can’t miss!
Now, I can’t do a story on uniforms without mentioning my view of the never-changing male work uniform, the navy suit-white or blue shirt-basic micro-pattern tie-look. Even though you have to wear these basic elements to work every day, please have some fun with your wardrobe! Use interesting shirt-tie combinations to add personality to your style, experiment with more modern fitting suits and please use shoes, belts, tie bars and pocket squares to make a statement. To me, failing to mix up your work wardrobe is a major “fashion don’t”!!
There is only one place in the world, where I think total conformity is actually the most powerful statement of individualism…. You are probably wondering how, since conformity and individualism obviously are contradictory. Have you ever been to Tokyo? I had the good fortune of being sent for work during my Donna Karan days. I spent a blurry total of 48 hours there and was probably in every single retail store in the city. I can barely remember one from the other… That being said I had lunch in the Harajuku district and witnessed first hand the most amazing spectacle of “cloned” style I have ever seen. The youth culture sets global fashion trends here and they do it in force! From a distance, every person looks identical, but when you get up close, the amount of personalization is unbelievable. It is sort of like the Gossip Girl phenomenon…they all have to wear the exact same uniform to school but each character still manages to paint their own unique picture. The key here isn’t that you should dress like the Harajuku youth, it is that if you must conform, figure out how infuse your own personal flare.
OK, the last point I want to make is that if you do wear choose to make a uniform your statement, do so in a way that is unmistakably yours. My inspiration for this story wears a polo shirt (he has them altered to fit his physique), a pair of cords, khakis or jeans and some version of a Timberland-type work boot every day. In my world, I would normally say “yawn”, but for some reason it just works. He owns it, he believes it, so it becomes and integral part of who he is and you can’t help but love it! Another friend of mine adopted a controversial daily work wardrobe. He took work casual to a whole new level, wearing some type of military pant, cut-off tee shirts and a Sammy Hagar inspired hairdo in a fairly corporate fashion environment. Whether or not you think he looks appropriate, he has never let his personal brand wane and it continues to make him one of the more consistently interesting figures in the fashion business.
OK, I admit…my style-view has shifted a bit to allow for the possibility of a uniform way of dressing…so go ahead and paint by numbers and proudly display whatever uniform you are required to wear or you choose to create for yourself. Believe it…love it…own it and others will as well!!!!