Inspiration and The Pleasure of Unexpected Menswear Combinations

Sometimes, despite having lived with the contents of our wardrobes for years (or months, for some of our more enthusiastic members), we happen to stumble upon a combination of garments we’ve never worn together before. Sometimes, if the stars have truly aligned, that combination may even be a great combination. I’m not just talking about this constant, social-media-fueled drive to separate ourselves from other, lesser wearers of clothing by sporting nonsensical mixes of stuff. Rather, I’m talking about considered combinations that you just haven’t considered before.

Some of these may come to you as real “Duh” moments – such as realizing that the green grenadine tie you rarely wear actually goes quite well with your brown suit, or what the plain white oxford you forgot you owned goes with just about everything you wear. Other combinations may come from randomly putting a jacket over a shirt and deciding you like the way you look. Still other types of inspiration may smack you in the face while you’re getting into bed, and you’ll think something like, as I recently did, “How come I never wear those beautiful loafers on my shoe shelf?” and pretty soon you’re running over possible combinations in your head.

My fear, as both a reader and writer interested in men’s clothing, is that we very easily get conditioned into safe clothing combinations. This can happen in many ways. On Styleforum, for example, we see it happen when a well-regarded poster shares an outfit in a WAYWT thread, and soon after other posters are attempting something similar until we reach a point when we all think we desperately need the same pair of linen socks for summer.

In the same way, certain combinations are so over-shared by other menswear outlets – every man “needs” a pair of snuff-suede double-monks to wear with worn jeans and a tailored jacket – that pretty soon every item in our wardrobes become part of a set that can’t be broken up. We start to think things such as “I wear these trousers with this jacket and this tie and this shirt, and these jeans with these boots and this jacket and sweater.” Of course, this isn’t always a bad thing. Over time, we all develop favorite combinations that we return to over and over again. However, it can still be a relief to break out of a habit and stumble upon some inspiration.

Many of the people I think of as stylish, both on the forum and in real life, not only dress very well, but dress in a way that makes me think “huh.” Sometimes this comes from unexpected color combinations, sometimes from unexpected or well-done silhouettes I’ve never tried, and sometimes for well-considered details. Especially since this is the time of year when we’re all going through our closets, wondering what we can get rid of, I’d encourage you to take another look at what’s actually hanging inside. If you’re feeling really plucky, you might even lay out some garments on the kitchen table. If you’re lucky, you might even stumble upon a new favorite.