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Kings Mountain, North Carolina, United States
"A mind lively and at ease" is a blog by a first-generation Russian-Ukrainian immigrant Maria K. (Maria Igorevna Kuroshchepova). An engineer by education, an analyst by trade, as well as a writer, photographer, artist and amateur model, Maria brings her talent for weaving an engaging narrative to stories of life, fashion and style advice, book and movie reviews, and common-sense and to-the-point essays on politics and economy.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Look book - The Well-Dressed Men Series - Casual

I debated from which end of clothing formality scale to begin and decided to yield to the modern times and start with casual. That said, do not expect me to be nice - I shall have no mercy upon your sweats, cargo shorts, baggy t-shirts and stinky sneakers.

While casual style of dressing may seem pretty obvious, there is actually a variety of ways to do it, if you want to look cool and not boring. Sure, everyone knows how to put on a pair of jeans and a t-shirt. But how many people wear jeans of the wrong size and cut, with the waist band sitting in the wrong place? How many people wear lame t-shirts they got free at some business conference, or promotional event, or bought while in college? T-shirts, whose fit or color flatter you about as much as a burlap sack? T-shirts that make you a walking talking billboard, looking ridiculous and not even getting compensated for it?

One of my favorite casual guys is Gerard Butler. He is another one of those men who can absolutely rock a suit or a tux, but we like him best when he is a bit rumpled and scruffy (kind of like in Lara Croft Tomb Raider: the Cradle of Life). That said, he is never baggy or shapeless. Mr. Butler has a fabulous figure and he is not ashamed to show it off. So, even in the most basic outfit of jeans, t-shirt and a leather jacket, all three garments are cut to work with his athletic figure. Let us also not forget that he does a lot of action movies, so being able to run, jump, fall and roll in those clothes is kind of important.

He also knows that just plain t-shirts can get blah, so he keeps them interesting with rocker tees (always a great way to pull off a casual look), casual button shirts, and textured henleys (a henley is a t-shirt with a placket and buttons on top from the middle of the neckline to the middle of your chest). The same goes for his leather jackets - he has them in black, gray and different shades of brown, shiny, textured and broken-in.

I realize that not everyone has Gerard Butler's looks and salary. However, one good leather jacket is a something good to have - there are so many ways you can use it, and if you buy quality, it improves with age. You may find it counter-intuitive, but if you had to splurge on a leather jacket, don't buy black. Go for a soft brown instead - it works with a lot more things than black.

Will Smith is another actor who knows how to get the most of his casual togs. His theme is layering - working in components in the same color group, but different shades and textures, and sometimes punctuating the outfit with one "pop" item, like a bright tie or those over-the-edge Converse sneakers with their dazzling white soles and laces he wore in I, Robot. He also clearly knows how to balance the cut of his garments. For example, his leather jacket or coat might be loose, but his t-shirt is fitted. His jeans might be relaxed cut, but not so much as to conceal the fact that he has a waist and a very nice tush. Of course the bad-ass attitude he perfected doesn't hurt either.

For a softer, gentler casual style, I would like to point you toward the movie Practical Magic. Yes, it is a girly girl movie. Deal with it. It won't kill you to watch it once, and I have a feeling the fact that Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman are both in it just might relieve your suffering. Aidan Quinn who plays the delicious Officer Gary Hallet, has a nice understated casual wardrobe in this movie, down to that epitome of casual wear - the cowboy shirt.

His classic medium blue jeans, his soft suede jacket, his comfy-looking (but not baggy) plaid shirts, combined with his tousled hair and overall gentleman-like demeanor practically scream, "This is a nice guy! Grab him now and hang on for dear life!" He even manages to look good in a denim shirt - and I despise denim shirts.

There is a casual category I like to refer to as classy casual. It is not particularly flashy or anything, but it has an understated elegance to it. People who wear classy casual on ... well... casual occasions are also the ones who don't consider dressing up a chore. They feel equally comfortable in jeans and a beach shirt, a perfectly-tailored three-piece suit or a tuxedo.

The best example of classy casual is Pierce Brosnan in Thomas Crown Affair. Even in a relaxed beach outfit or in his golf togs, he still projects the swagger of a man who owns the world and intends to keep it so. If that movie doesn't make you want to be filthy rich, I don't know what does. No, seriously - I watch it regularly for the eye candy, for some fantastic style and for vision setting.

Few men epitomize the words "rugged" and "manly" the way Hugh Jackman does. Yes, he is prodigiously talented, and I have no wish to shamelessly sexualize a deep and profound actor of stage and screen, as well as a damn good dancer and singer. And yet...

Australia was an ok movie. The scenery was fabulous, the costumes were to die for, but somehow, despite the star-studded cast, it just did not pan out. Nevertheless, I advise you to watch it if only for the purpose of watching Hugh Jackman swing the rugged casual wardrobe. Plus, you get to see him kiss Nicole Kidman soaking wet in the rain.

While all these different casual sub-categories may seem very different, they have a lot in common. The tops are always comfortable, but never baggy. They are either fitted or drape in a way that does not appear baggy. The bottoms are all properly sized, with waistbands sitting at proper levels. They allow for plenty of movement, but they are not slouchy or baggy or dumpy.

The last but not the least is posture. All these men maintain a good posture. Not the military ramrod straight - no. A god posture need not be rigid. But, their shoulders are rolled back, their necks are straight, and chins held high. It is incredible, really, how a bad posture can ruin your entire look. If you try to walk all shriveled into yourself, with your chin tucked into your chest, it doesn't matter if you are wearing an Armani suit - you'll look like crap.

Watch these guys, gentlemen, to learn the art of swagger. It does matter. And for the ladies, here is a parting shot (for this installment) - Gerard Butler in his casual best, and Hugh Jackman in relaxed business I call semi-casual, which, incidentally allows us to cross over nicely into the next post in the series.

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