Life&Style writer Yatin Arora spoke to UoB students about their men’s style icons
Style. Four consonants, one vowel, but what does it really mean? The Oxford Dictionary defines style as ‘a distinctive appearance, typically determined by the principles according to which something is designed’, but one might wonder, what exactly are those principles? Given that Milan and Paris Women’s Fashion Weeks are just around the corner, I decided to do some research to see what really makes a man stylish in 2017, so, in traditional Redbrick ‘style’, I asked some of Birmingham’s handsome male occupants what pressures they believe men are under to look a certain way, and who they believe their style inspirations to be.
‘Women dictate our style’ says Hamza, a first year computer science student. ‘Any sociologist will tell you that reproduction is a key function of society; in order for us to be deemed attractive (and eventually fulfil our social function), how we look must match up to a woman’s image of being stylish’, he chuckled. Upon being asked to define a stylish man, he stated that ‘gone are the days when tall, dark, handsome…and hairy…were regarded as the aspiration; now it is all about male grooming, being clean and lean’. Pointing to Alpha M as his style icon, he stated that ‘being stylish allows one to compensate for any short-fallings such as height. Alpha M is 5 foot 6, but the way he carries himself elevates him. Being stylish gives you a confidence boost; it makes you feel special’.
When asked about the pressures that men are under, third year history and political science student Navraj stated that ‘men are concerned with being up to date with fashion. Some are obviously more self-conscious than others, it all depends upon the individual’. Given that these arbitrary aesthetic values stem from the media and celebrity culture, I asked Navraj what he defines as being stylish and who his style inspiration is. ‘It is not necessary to have particular icons or outlets that inspire style, it’s rather just keeping up to with what is popular in our current generation. Acknowledging his Punjabi background, he added that ‘my cultural roots have inspired me to dress a particular way in a certain environment – sticking to roots is important to me’.
Second year law student Suraj took a different view, stating that ‘style is empowering’. ‘Stylish people have an easier time’. I asked Suraj what he meant by life being ‘easier’; ‘the world is more open to those who are stylish. If you walk into a job interview suited and booted with a nice watch, nice cufflinks, nice shoes, and a nice tie, you already have a competitive edge over anyone with an ill-fitted suit, untucked shirt and poorly groomed facial hair’. Having acknowledged that first impressions are part and parcel of survival of the fittest, he stated that ‘musicians, actors and fitness instructors’ all ‘set the bar high’ for men. ‘I am inspired by Maluma, Sean O’Pry, Colton Haynes, and Ed Westwick’. I wouldn’t call it pressure, but they do spur me to take care of my skin and hair’.
From what we have seen, it appears that the lack of the letter ‘I’ in the world ‘style’ is hardly ironic; individual taste and free will has taken a backseat when determining what, and how, men conduct themselves, with factors such as fashion, love, and first impressions gaining primacy. My mother always says that ‘style is hard to define, but easy to see’, so maybe the next time you see a man who you deem to be ‘stylish’, have a think about why he is dressed or behaving in a particular way; his style may not truly be his own.