I am a small-business owner who generally doesn’t give much thought to my wardrobe. Carhartt is my default. Recently, however, I realized that my clothes are all in drab Pacific Northwest earth tones. How do you make the style transition from “head down at work, trying to survive” to “Hello! Look at me! I might be occupied now, but I’m available for a date this evening?” — Read, Port Townsend, Wash.
It should not be news to you, but if Carhartt is your default, you are way ahead of the game. Carhartt is, by pretty much any measure, cool these days. Or maybe hot is a better word? Public figures including Senator John Fetterman and ASAP Rocky are fans, and brands like Marni and Junya Watanabe are jumping at the chance for a collaboration.
That said, it’s always good to shake yourself out of any sort of comfort zone, even if it’s just your closet. Pushing your wardrobe boundaries is an effective, easy way to start to push all sorts of boundaries. It frames your day in a new way, which has the result of changing, ever so slightly, your point of view.
So what to do?
Start with Carhartt itself, which figured out it could be fashionable back in 1989, 100 years after the company itself was founded, and started Carhartt W.I.P., the design-forward arm of the business. (W.I.P. stands for “work in progress,” which is all of us!) This is the division that collaborates with runway names, among other creative types, and dips its toes into all sorts of unexpected colors and prints.
From there, Wes Gordon, the designer of Carolina Herrera, and a notably well-dressed man, suggested that the easiest hack is adding a touch of color to your outfit via a T-shirt or a knit — even if it’s just a waffle knit undershirt. Wear your usual Carhartt workshirt on top, but let a pop of turquoise, emerald, yellow, red or pink show through.
Indeed, pink may well be the color of the summer, thanks to the “Barbie” movie. The co-star, and cinematic Ken, Ryan Gosling (himself a fan of Carhartt) has been making the promotional rounds in pretty much all varieties of the shade.
Mr. Gordon wasn’t suggesting you go that far, but he said think of it as the “10 percent solution.” Stay true to who you are, but change 10 percent. (He also advised staying away from colored socks, which can come across as a gimmick.)
David Farber, the men’s fashion director of T magazine, had another idea: Invest in a “well-tailored, two-button, single-breasted suit in a lightweight wool fabric, perhaps with a bit of stretch for added comfort in a mid-tone gray color.” Then start to deconstruct it.
Wear the jacket like a blazer with your Carhartt jeans and a T-shirt. Wear the pants with a sweater. Wear the whole thing if you really want to get dressed up. You’ll end up with multiple looks for the price of one. Also, it will make you see what’s already in your wardrobe in a whole new way. And that’s one way to change how others see you.
Your Style Questions, Answered
Every week on Open Thread, Vanessa will answer a reader’s fashion-related question, which you can send to her anytime via email or Twitter. Questions are edited and condensed.
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