Dressing For Maximum Impact

By Tan France
10 June 2019
Tan France, Style, Met Gala
Michael Hoeweler
Tan France asks you to put the uniform away and embrace your inner style rebel again

Last month’s Met Gala: it was as chic and impactful a style event as you’d have hoped it to be. Across the Metropolitan Museum’s steps in New York, celebrities from the world over were living, breathing fashion exhibits.

The only thing letting down this brash, modern style vision? Some of the men.

Now, the Met Gala is something to go wild with. Its themes are built-out like a blank canvas, ready to interpret – a style challenge laid down at the feet of the world’s most famous, fashionable and beautiful people. (And by the way, if you’re going to go to the Met Gala, you’d better embrace the theme – or Anna Wintour won’t be inviting you back.)

So, knowing this, it was interesting to see so few men embrace this year’s theme. Men, of course, can worry about seeming too effeminate. It was troubling to see because, despite the strides masculinity has taken forward, it seems as though toxic masculinity can still rear its ugly head – and that, without naming names, some of the world’s coolest, most stylish men couldn’t break free of it.

Those at the Met who embraced the theme – from Harry Styles to Jared Leto – were still perceived as men. They were still able to “protect” their masculinity, while honouring the tone of the night.

At no point am I suggesting that a man who has always worn conservative clothes should go to work in, say, a tutu –  I wouldn’t do that. But there are ways of expressing yourself through your style, and these should never be dismissed as feminine.

And really, these didn’t have to be dramatic overhauls. Switching out a seen-it-a-million-times black tux with a sharp, all-white number? It’s enough to make an impact, even on one of the fashion world’s biggest nights.

Really, it comes back to that ancient style struggle: men thinking, wrongly, that they have to stick to a prescribed, conservative uniform. The code that says “don’t stand out from the crowd”, “blend in”, and “fashion is not important” – and it often goes back to protecting this outdated notion of what makes a man, a man.

Here’s the truth of it: a stronger man, a braver man, is a man who expresses himself through his clothes. One who’s strong enough to say, “This is me, and I’m feeling it.” Style should be an extension of your truest self – less about an armour to shield you, and more a microphone to dial-up who you are, in every room.

Now, maybe you’re a guy who adores rakish navy suits and crisp white shirts. That doesn’t mean you couldn’t (or shouldn’t) add a layer that’s more experimental or creative. It can be as simple as colour, a silhouette, an accessory you’ve always wanted to try. Keep everything else you’ve grown to love, and add a punch of something fresh. Maybe it’s swapping out that crisp white shirt for a peach one that plays off your navy suit perfectly. Or something as small as a lapel pin with personality. Maybe it’s a Salvatore Ferragamo belt that has a statement buckle.

It’s about easing into it, and accepting the fact that you don’t have to dress in a masculine ‘uniform’ to stay masculine.

In fact, the idea of a uniform is the perfect way to unpack this. Think back to your teenage years. Maybe, like me, you went to a school that had a head-to-toe uniform policy. If you did, you’ll inevitably remember those who took that uniform, and changed it just enough to make it their own. I was so desperate to get out of the confines of the simple, utilitarian uniform – I wanted to express myself. And really, almost everyone I knew at school found a way to do that: untuck a shirt, roll-up a sleeve, tie your tie a little differently, or have an undershirt poking through coolly.

Yes, we were still technically wearing that uniform, but there was a nod to who we were as individuals.

So, get your curiosity back – get your style rebellion back. Because, after all, what’s more masculine than rebellion?