The difference; style vs fashion

When you look at pictures of people from decades past, you might have one of these two reactions; people sure knew how to dress back then or people looked ridiculous back then. It doesn’t matter if the pictures are from the 90:s, 80:s, 70:s or older.

That difference, my friends, is the different between style and fashion.

While style – contrary to the old saying – is never truly timeless (just look at how the way clothes are cut differ with every age), there are definitely some timeless qualities that people with style possess.

Nobody can question the style of James Dean, in jeans and a white t-shirt, even though you probably wouldn’t wear that cut of jeans today. That doesn’t matter, the style is timeless.

The same goes for style icons such as Cary Grant, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr, Humphrey Bogart, Karl Lagerfeldt. Or more contemporary, Ryan Gosling and David Beckham.

Style is something that you have.

You can buy the latest, trendiest, coolest fashion. As long as you have money, you can easily be the most fashionable guy that you know.

All you need is a credit card and an issue of the latest men’s magazine of choice, and they will point out the exact outfits to wear this week and the upcoming weekend.

Style, on the other hand, is much more personal. It’s something that comes from within. It isn’t an answer to the expectations from the people around you. It’s a statement of who you are and how you see yourself. What you like and what you stand for.

“Fashion can be bought. Style one must possess.” – Edna Woolman Chase, editor in chief of Vogue magazine from 1914-1952

I lived for many years in a small town of about eighty thousand people. It was probably the most fashionable place I have ever seen. Everywhere you looked, you saw people that looked like they cane straight out of a fashion magazine.

They were wearing the latest brands, the coolest shoes and the acessories that were most in at the moment.

They flocked to the newest and trendiest bars, cafes and restaurants to the point where most bars and restaurants never survived for more half a year to a year. Crowded the first month, and slowly emptier and emptier until they weren’t fashionable anymore.

Only a handful places survived and thrived in this town year after year. They didn’t survive because they had the best drinks, food or service. They survived because instead of trying to chase after the newest and coolest, they had their own style. When people had tried out that newest and coolest place, they returned.

I think this goes for people as well. If you strive to be fashionable, you have to constantly play catch-up. You need to put a lot of effort into knowing and owning the latest and greatest, because when you don’t have the energy to do so anymore, you will feel empty. And you might be afraid of getting looks of disapproval instead of constant compliments from the people around you.

“Fashion is about dressing according to what’s fashionable. Style is more about being yourself.” — Oscar de la Renta

On the other hand, if you develop your own style, you don’t have to play catch-up anymore. You’re not the expectations of others. You’re you. Genuinely you.

The real fashion victims

Fashion is not sustainable. Especially since the arrival of fast fashion, when what is in and out doesn’t just change every season, but with every shipment of cheap, throw-away garments from China.

It’s not sustainable for the ones who are constantly chasing the latest trends, but it is even worse for the real fashion victims – our planet, the climate and those who work in the sweatshops that produce them.

There’s little hard research on how often people generally wear their clothes, but one survey of 2,000 women in the UK found respondents on average wore an item seven times.

Think about it. Seven times. For something that took hundreds of liters of water to grow, many processes to enrich, and a long transport from East Asia to wherever you live.

Fast fashion is not sustainable. Even a garment that was made in the worst possible way, but worn 100 times, is better for the planet, the climate and the workers of the factory than anything that is worn just seven times, no matter how organic and “sustainable” the production methods are.

And even if it costs ten times as much, it’s cheaper per use.

How do I develop my own style?

The easiest way to start digging is to dig where you stand. If your wardrobe is filled with the coolest designer jeans and the latest t-shirts, you are probably a jeans and t-shirt guy, so start there.

The next step is to cancel the subscription for that trendy man’s magazine, and instead direct your attention to other sources.

Look at older magazines, image google, look at art and photography with people of different ages and from different times.

Make a list if you’re so inclined, but keep track of what you like and what you don’t. Then try to figure out what it is about them that you like or don’t like.

Types of garment. Colors. Materials.

Go to a men’s store that cater to timeless style rather than fashion. Try things on, but don’t just look. Also touch and feel the materials.

In what ways does wool, cotton and linen feel different? Which do you like? How does different weave types feel?

Bring a female or gay friend to the store. No, I’m not stereotyping here. Not all women or gay men have a better sense of style than straight men. Most do, though, but that’s beside the point. What matters is that they probably look at other men in a different way than straight guys do.


A gentleman’s guide to Harris Tweed

What is Tweed

Tweed is a rough, woolen fabric, usually woven with a plain weave, twill or herringbone structure. Tweeds are an icon of traditional Scottish and Irish clothing, being desirable for informal outerwear, due to the moisture-resistant and durable properties of the material. They are made to withstand harsh climates and are commonly worn for outdoor activities such as shooting and hunting, in both Ireland and Scotland.

While originally made for wearing in the country, as styles have become more casual, Tweeds made it’s ways into the city, and today, a Tweed suit or sports jacket is by many regarded as one of the most stylish, timeless and gentelmanly things to wear.

What sets Harris Tweed apart

Harris Tweed, often referred to as the king of Tweeds, is handwoven by islanders in their homes in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland. It is made from 100% pure virgin wool, which also must be dyed and spun in the Outer Hebrides.

The Harris Tweed certificate of authenticity in one of my Harris Tweed jackets.

The name and the characteristic Harris Tweed Orb is protected by the Harris Tweed Act of 1993 and protected by the Harris Tweed Authority.

The History of Harris Tweed

The islanders of Lewis and Harris, the Uists, Benbecula and Barra have woven cloth by hand for centuries. It was originally made for their own use, and surplus was traded as barter, eventually becoming a form of currency amongst the islanders, but eventually made it’s way to London through export.

Gearrannan, the Outer Hebrides, Scotland

The original name of the cloth was tweel, Scots for twill, due to it being woven in a teill weave.

According to legend, the name Twill came around 1830, when a London merchant received a letter from a Hawick firm about some tweels. The London merchant misinterpreted the handwriting, understanding it to be taken from the river Tweed that flows through the Scottish Borders. The goodes were adverstised as Tweed, and the name has been used ever since.

As the Industrial Revolution reached Scotland, mainland manufacturers had turned to industrialized weaving, but the traditional hand weaving was retained in the Outer Hebrides, and although the fabrics were known for their quality weaving, the cloth was still produced mainly for home use or for the local market until the middle of the 19th century.

Even as the export market grew, supplying the upper classes of London with high quality Tweeds, the traditional hand-woven home production remained, and it was eventually protected in the Harris Tweed Act of 1993.

Harris Tweed inspection stamp. Photo: Giftzwerg 88 CC BY-SA 3.0

Today, every 50 metres of Harris Tweed are checked by an inspector from the Harris Tweed Authority before being stamped, by hand, with the Orb Mark, which guarantees it’s authenticity.

How is Harris Tweed made?

The creation of Harris Tweed begins with fleeces of pure virgin wools which are shorn from Cheviot and Scottish Blackface sheep.

Although most of the wool is grown principally on the mainland, local sheep wool is also added to the mix. The two types of wool are blended together to gain the advantages of the unique qualities and characteristics of both.

Dyeing and spinning

Once shorn the wool is scoured before being delivered in large bales to the mills of the three main tweed producers where it is then dyed in a wide variety of colours for blending.

The freshly dyed coloured and white wools are weighed in predetermined proportions and then thoroughly blended by hand to exact recipes to obtain the correct hue. It is then carded between mechanical, toothed rollers which tease and mix the fibers thoroughly before it is separated into a fragile, embryonic yarn. This soft yarn then has a twist imparted to it as it is spun to give it maximum strength for weaving. The spun yarn is wound onto bobbins to provide the ingredients of weft (left-to-right threads) and warp (vertical threads) supplied to the weavers.

This vitally important process sees thousands of warp threads gathered in long hanks in very specific order and wound onto large beams ready to be delivered, together with yarn for the weft, to the weavers.


Tweed being handwoven on a traditional loom.

All Harris Tweed is hand woven on a treadle loom at each weaver’s home on a ‘double-width’ Bonas-Griffith rapier loom in the case of mill weavers, or normally an older ‘single width’ Hattersley loom in the case of independent weavers. The weaver will ‘tie in’ their warp by threading each end of yarn through the eyelets of their loom’s heddles in a specific order then begins to weave, fixing any mistakes or breakages that occur until completed.

Finishing and inspection

The tweed then returns to the mill in its ‘greasy state’ and here it passes through the hands of darners who correct any flaws.

Once ready the cloth is finished. Dirt, oil and other impurities are removed by washing and beating in soda and soapy water before it is dried, steamed, pressed and cropped.

The final process is the examination by the independent Harris Tweed Authority which visits the mills weekly, before application of their Orb Mark trademark which is ironed on to the fabric as a seal of authenticity.

Is Harris Tweed expensive?

No, surprisingly not. I would even go as far as saying that Tweed is currently grossly underpriced and a well-tailored Harris Tweed sports jacket can cost as little as $400 when bought in, or orderd from, Scotland. This is not much more than any other well made sports jacket from a reputable brand.

When factoring in the quality, longevity, history and hand made production, it’s a real bargain.