Specifically, I'm thinking of this month's issue of Men's Health (the one with Jet Li on the cover). I used to subscribe to the magazine once upon a time, but there are only so many times you can read "ROCK-HARD ABS NOW! FAT-KILLER FOODS MAKE YOUR METABOLISM A RAGING INFERNO! THE TECHNIQUE SHE'LL BEG FOR IN BED!" before it becomes more than a little tiresome.
Nevertheless, I do every now and again dip back into it if an issue manages to actually have something else to say for a change; this particular issue I bought mostly for the Jet Li interview, but I was pleasantly surprised to find their periodic "Style review" section tacked onto the back as an inverse "second magazine."
I don't hold any illusions about the content of the section ... it's a guys' window-shopping trip disguised as articles. The big tipoff is the fact that every photo has a caption identifying not only who the guy in the picture is, but what shirt, pants, belt, shoes, and wristwatch he's wearing and who the maker is. A paid advertisement in sheep's clothing, as it were, or at least a lamb's wool sweater.
With that in mind, I'm going to write down some of the better quotes from the section on the subject of style. After all, if it's a matter that's of import to someone with a brain like Jeeves, surely there must be something in it for an airhead such as myself. :)
Of particular note: it's interesting to think about how these ideas apply to characters in fiction as well.
"The question isn't what is style, but what is it made of? ...we've distilled style into eight founding principles: strength, intrigue, mischief, defiance, poise, confidence, smarts, and command. Of course, it would be great to actually have these traits. But, no worries. Even working on them will make you look good.
Strong need not mean big and muscled -- though we're all for lean beef. Strong need not mean aggressive, though we think that boldness is underrated these days. ... Strong means walking with shoulders back and head high, as though you have power you might deploy at any moment on behalf of your team. Strong knows that even being a mouse means going forth and being a mighty one.
Style is at once superficial and deep. Sure, it's about appearances, about fabric and color and proportion and texture. But style is also the seductiveness of things unseen. The stylish man appears to know something the rest of us don't. He seems to come stocked with answers, where the rest of us just have questions. But he's not a know-it-all, because he doesn't always feel the need to share; that's part of the power of knowing. He hums with promise and embraces his own ambiguity. Style calls us forward, to seek the wisdom it withholds.
Mischief (My personal favorite!)
Stylish men are entitled to have more fun than everybody else. Often seen with a glint in his eye, a mischief maker is never content with the mundane, but aspires to polish up even the plain moments -- just a bit. He won't surrender in line at the DMV, but cocks his head in search of the angle that saves the day, that turns everything into play. He's a glass of champagne -- dignified, but effervescent. Remember the wisdom of Sebastian the Crab in The Little Mermaid: "Life is de bubbles."
Charm doesn't have any intellectual content ... charm requires only joy -- in two things. First, your own life. No bragging allowed, but charming people are enthused about their lives. And second, joy in the plans/wit/whatever of other people. All of them. So forgo all clever swipes at the new Kevin Smith film or the aging power grid -- just be happy to be here, and make sure your manner and bearing communicate that joy to all witnesses. Charm is understated ebullience. Yeah, we know that's a contradiction. That's why charm is so rare and so great.
Like all things artful, style requires balance -- in this case, between respecting the rules and blowing them off. Style believes in principles of color and cut, but would betray them in a flash to claim the room. And there's a reason why this is especially true of men's style: We become most exciting when we set our own course. When Fred Astaire used a necktie as a belt, he knew it wasn't done, except for the fact that he did it. Style requires both a sense of custom and a sense of "screw you."
Style can't be rattled. It treats both triumph and disaster as what they are: parts of the great story. In darkness, style finds its way. In a flood, style swims. In a drought, it recalls the taste of cool, clear water. Style doesn't shout, except when nothing softer will suffice. Style knows that he who rules others has power, but he who rules himself is mighty.
Only a fool is never afraid of looking like one. Overcome nerves though confidence in your message. Careers (and lives) can get made by not much -- a forceful (usually contrarian) few sentences said with savvy and strength at just the right moment, in front of just the right person. To wow him or her, don't try to say three things that just might be true or could be true under certain circumstances. Prefer instead to utter one thing you know for dead solid to be right, whether the subject is courtship or quarterly earnings. Say it with straightforward language; its rightness is your shield. "I do" works. "This deal stinks" does, too.
...Style knows life is bursting with opportunity, that there's plenty to go around. Sure, you want this deal. And you'll work to get it. But guess what? Style doesn't need this particular deal. There's always another one. Something even better, perhaps. Confidence is born of faith.
How to Take a Room by Storm (or Let It Storm You)
A crowded business cocktail party, and you don't know a soul. Looking lost is for losers. So, head up, shoulders back, your eyes scan the room. Important: They're bright with anticipation. Your vibe says that this room is an opportunity for you -- which it actually is, my brother. From here, there are two ways to go. Spot easy prey and head straight over and introduce yourself. Or grab a drink and let the game come to you. Both methods work, with the right attitude.
Style doesn't exhaust itself choosing clothes, but has other projects -- business ventures, work-free enthusiasms -- in mind. Style needs grist for the mill between its ears. It's curious about the world. So the notion that wheels are turning works for a stylish man. He's not accepting things at face value. Rather, he's drawing conclusions, altering his life -- maybe history, even -- with the power of his thought. That quality can make him irresistible -- a puzzle that everyone wants to solve.
Style is in charge, even if it's not the boss. Its authority isn't hierarchical but gravitational. Objects fall into orbit around it. Its force derives from impeccable taste and an imperturbable sense of direction. ... Style doesn't wobble, but has clear eyes. Find this clarity ... and they'll salute the man, not the rank.
How to Declare an End to an Evening
A familiar awkward moment: It's clearly time to leave -- either the restaurant or their home -- but nobody knows how to bring the night to closure. Don't fret that being the first to break up the party will hurt feelings. It won't. In fact, it could save the memories. When the deadly moment arrives, jump into the silence. "This has been just great! Let's get together again soon." Reference something smart somebody said during dinner, push back your chair, place your napkin on your table, and say, "Thanks so much for your company. What a pleasure!"
...And I can't think of a better way to end the post, myself. Good night, everyone!