Whenever I see Norris Ford or Quentin Thrash, I have to stop and look them over.
What these LA stylists known as Norris x Thrash pull off seems improbable when you take apart the details—beads, espadrilles, starched pocket squares—but they have a serious and singular knack for putting things together.
There’s clearly a vision involved. Otherwise, I don’t know how you could throw so many different colors, textures and concepts into the blender, and make the final product look just so. Their work is a sort of alchemy, where the sum is greater than its parts and whatever or whomever’s been styled by them looks good—smooth, masculine and creative.
Even when the look is tame, stylists Norris X Thrash add a bit of something…
If you’ve ever talked to me about male style for even a second, you know my lament…too many American guys suffer from a serious deficit of dressing knowing-how. There are far too many guys who are hiding their fine selves under baggy sweatshirts and other horrors—okay fine—such as:droopy basketball shorts, shapeless pants with too much fabric in the seat, and anything that remotely looks like a puffy sweatshirt. Why? Because they don’t know another way.
But any guy can look fantastic, even if he’s headed to his job at RadioShack or walking to the diner on Sunday morning for waffles. A lot has to do with his demeanor, granted, but the accoutrements—grooming, clothes, shoes—matter.
So, in the interest of publicizing the fundamentals of everyday dressing, I cornered style maestros Norris X Thrash at an event and asked them for their top tips.
Norris x Thrash Basic Dressing Dos’ for Guys
Fit. Find a good tailor. The way that things fit is key.
Proportion. Everything has to be in proportion with your body.
Color. Know what colors work best for you. Color is really big.
Frame your Face. You always want your outfit to compliment your face. You want your clothes to be the frame that leads to your face. That’s always the focal point.
Norris, Me, Thrash
These male style tips may seem basic, but the execution can be complex. Lucky for you, chap, there is only one person you have to dress, and his name is I.
So take these four golden rules of dressing and apply them to everything you currently own—and are considering owning in the future. Don’t be afraid of getting rid of dead weight in your closet. Better you own a handful of items that fit your perfectly, visually balance your physique, flatter your skin-hair-eye combo and bring attention to your face—than a closet full of nothing.
If you a woman who happens to be reading this because you want to help a guy in revealing his hotness to the world— Congratulations! Now go preach the good word to him!
Parting note: Aside from their work as stylists, Norris X Thrash are doing an incredible job of shining a light on design talent in LA. They are a huge part of LA Men’s Fashion Week and also do consulting for brands. Find them here: www.norrisxthrash.com.
You’re a dude. You’re out on the beach, on the streets, in a park or so forth. Maybe you’re with a girl; maybe you’re not.
You spot a stray piece of trash, a stray bottle or runaway plastic bag. Increase your desirability in two seconds by picking it up and tossing it in the trash. If it’s covered with grodiness, look for a leaf or something to cover your hand first, or just pass go on the move for the moment.
This Cool Male Move is effective on so many levels they’re hard to count.
The move publicly communicates that you give a rat’s behind about keeping our fair Earth nice. It demonstrates dignity and a community consciousness. It sets you up as an Independent Man of Action with a certain protectiveness that the ladies are particularly keen on these day. (Scarcity principle, you see.)
I could go on, but you get the message.
Most important, this Cool Male Move will actually make you feel good. Removing a stray eyesore from your path will bring a small boost to your sense of self-efficiacy. Which is to say, it will increase the feeling that you have the power to change something in your life, in your environment. Each positive action you take in your life, no matter how small, contributes to this feeling, which is similarly called (don’t cringe, fellas) empowerment.
Finally, you might have to beat back the ladies after executing this Cool Male Move.
Caveat (I love that word)
This Cool Male Move is not a suggestion that you become the world’s garbage man, or that you pick up after the drunks on the town square every night.
Origin of This Move
I like to run in the evening, usually after the sun has set. I like to run the stairs near where I live. They are typically empty at this time, so I can zip up and down them without maneuvering like I’m on the freeway.
Here’s the thing. Particularly during summer months there are a lot of people who come to the beach, where these stairs are located. Some of these people are straight-up widgets, in that they stuff empty water bottles in the tops of these nice driftwood columns situated at the base of the stairs.
Garbage tossed in nature is downright blasphemous in my book. I used to cringe when I saw those littered driftwood columns. One day I had a brilliant idea: “By George I’ll just get rid of that trash myself.”
Problem solved. The driftwood gets its dignity back, and I can run in the peaceful and civilized oceanfront atmosphere to which I’ve become accustomed.
In short, I started doing this move for me. Okay, and the driftwood, too. Too bad there are never any hot babes around to see it.
Want to land with your fine booty still in the saddle? Play pretend.
Horses are sensitive creatures. They are also big and tend to speed off in unexpected and unplanned directions when scared. Therefore, when your 100-plus-pound self is riding on its one-ton frame, it’s imperative to stay calm and controlled and confident. One day I was riding, and feeling squirrelly too, while headed off on a serpentine jumping course.
I did not feel things would end well in my current state. I tried a bunch of pleas with Kate the riding instructor to avoid completing the course. She responded with a “Yeah, you’re not getting off that horse until you finish that course.” She was also holding a riding crop.
I looked up at the empty stands that circled the riding ring. I pretended it was show day. I pretended the stands were filled with supporters and friends, all cheering me on and smiling their familiar smiles. I pretended I was on a winning streak and nothing could go wrong.
I smiled, straightened up on the horse and focused.
Since horses feel everything, my four-hooved buddy took notice and started gliding in a more amenable, attentive way. After all, we had a ribbon to win! We buzzed through the course and by its end, I had actually begun to enjoy myself.
It built a new history of jumping for me. One of exhilaration, not fear. I built on this baseline of confidence in subsequent sessions.
What does this have to do with you?
● Use a bit of pretend the next time you are out and about, and feeling squirmy or dorky or seriously not up to the task at hand.
● Pretend you are calm and confident and completely in control. Feel it and believe it.
● Breathe it in and smile. Lift your shoulders. Your friends are all around you. They love you! They think you’re great! They are cheering you on!
Try this. It works. (At the very worst, it will keep your anxiety from deepening.) At best, well, you’ll fly around the ring with ease and a big ole’ smile on your face.
The other option, of course, is to be hurled into a muddy paddock.
[Related note, kind of: I loved riding the horse that’s in the above picture. He was championship-level and smooth as vermouth in the ring. What I call a point-and-click horse.]
Gentlemen, here is the proper way to enter a dining room, ballroom, party or any other social situation where you are escorting a lady.
Question: Who goes first—you or your date?
Answer: If there is a hostess or maître d’ on duty, then he or she leads the way for your date. You follow. If there is no hostess or maitre de on duty, then you act as de facto host. You lead the way. Your date follows.
Sometimes you have to be Captain Stubing
Hey Ladies! If you reading this, it is possible your date will not know this point of etiquette. He may politely usher you past him with his arm and say “After you.” If this happens, smile and stride forward into the room, Miss Captain Stubing.
An alternate scenario. Ladies, let’s say that you arrive later than your date. He is already seated. The restaurant is a fine one. Announce yourself at the front desk. If there is a host or maître d’ on duty, he will probably initiate escorting you to your table. If not, feel free to ask.
The idea behind all of the above is to reduce any social discomfort a lady may feel walking into an unfamiliar room of people solo. And, of course, get you to the right table.
Follow these table conversation guidelines when it comes to discussing politics or you’ll wish it were here you are dining
Q. Shouldn’t I be free to express my political beliefs at the table with family and relatives?
A. One should be free to express their political beliefs with their relatives and, particularly if you are politically engaged, you might find it impossible not to. Religion and politics are lumped together precisely because, in addition to involving deeply held personal beliefs, they reveal to others who you are right now.
And it’s hard to have a tight relationship with someone who doesn’t know what you think, feel or believe!
The cost of engaging in what is called “cross-cutting political communication” at the dinner table, though, comes with the high probability of egging on conflict and making others uncomfortable in a setting designed for people to come together and enjoy each other’s company.
Japanese friends have introduced me to a great saying, “TPO,” which stands for “time, place and occasion.” This serves as a great social compass, a consciousness of one’s environment that is the soul of etiquette—which is the practice of positive regard for the places you go and the people you encounter.
Q. How do you keep yourself from joining the fracas when you hear something that arouses your political buttons?
A. Remembering my role and goal can keep me from jumping in the fray. Host duties come with the responsibility of being a referee, if not the outright peacemaker, in the interest of captaining an enjoyable event. And being a guest means bringing positivity, or at the very least, not bringing conflict to a party.
This doesn’t mean that you are agreeing or endorsing opposing political views, either, it means you are choosing a higher goal at the moment. The success of the saying, “We’ll have to agree to disagree,” has to do with the fact that it acknowledges that differences do exist while simultaneously conceding to bury the hatchet, at least for the moment.
Though you might not always be successful in keeping the environment as smooth as vermouth, you will have no regrets for having tried. By joining in, not matter how justified or right it might feel at the time, I am simply adding more noise to the conflict. I’m sorry to say I’ve been there, and it never felt good afterward.
Q. What do I do when I’m the odd man out at a table of people who share the same political identity—and my party or candidate is the verbal piñata?
A. If silence in this situation is, for you, suffering then I recommend you suffer no more. You have options, such as politely asking that the subject be changed or even making a joke, perhaps something along the lines of, “Well, I am happy to see diversity is alive and well in our family” or “I see the apple has fallen far from the tree. Okay, it’s in a different orchard.”
If the hint is not taken, and the bashing persists, along with the rise of your inner ire, you can restate your request that the subject be changed or suggest that another time might be more appropriate for the discussion. If you feel the situation is becoming one of harassment or even verbal abuse, you are well within your rights to excuse yourself or leave the situation altogether.
Q. What option do I have if I’m a guest and the host wants to have a spirited political debate at the table?
A. Spirited political debates among folks holding opposing political ideologies are about as common as seeing the Easter Bunny moonwalk down Seventh Avenue. I am thinking you’re referring to those saucy table debates that have little chance of blooming into full-scale fighting words because they occur among those who share political premises, such as collectivism or individualism, but differ on aspects of similar policies or support candidates from the same party.
Assuming that politics does not bore you to spinnakers, there is usually no harm in such debates, because the probability of negative conflict is low. If, on the other hand, your host is fond of seeing his friends brawl, then I suggest a reassessment of the relationship and pressing pause on the acceptance of further invitations.
If you happen to be caught on the sidelines, a silent bystander of a debate that has gone from spirited to mean-spirited, you have the option of excusing yourself from the table. Hopefully by the time you return, the topic will have become more palatable and the room full of good cheer.
An emergency measure remarkably effective at achieving verbal cease-fires is to firmly remind everyone at the table that you care about them more than you will ever care about any politician.
A little while ago I was visiting a friend’s house for the day. I rung the bell. He answered it. We said our hellos and within a step or two of walking onto his property he had smoothly slid his hand in the handles of my large, beach-ish bag and said with a smile, “Let me get that for you.”
“Why, thank you,” said I.
Why is this a Cool Male Move? It is courteous, yes. It is also friendly and thoughtful—and it clearly distinguishes the move-maker as a man and a gentleman at that. One who wants to make his lady visitor feel comfortable and at home. And guys, there is no muscle minimum needed to make this move.
A few pointers:
Smoothness is key. Unhand the lady’s bag naturally, and without tugging, like you’ve done this a million times. The best etiquette moves are those that appear as they are second nature to you.
Even if the bag contains a ton of bricks, don’t appear like it’s a hardship for you physically or that you are put out in anyway.
Do so with a friendly smile and lock eyes at the same time with a “Hello” in your heart.
This move is relationship-neutral, and can be used with charming effect on any lady from your grandmother to your buddy’s wife or to a girl whom you’d like to have spend the night in your very bedchamber, sire!
After you say good bye to a girl or woman, make sure they get on their way safely before taking off.
-Don’t just drop them off and roar off – stay around and watch them get in their car, turn on the ignition and head out.
-If you are returning a girl to her home, your relationship status should determine whether or not you accompany her to the door to say good night or good bye.
-Whether you walk her to the door or not, make sure she gets to the front door, unlocks and walks through it.
This is a very thoughtful move. It communicates to a girl, friend or otherwise, that you care about them. That you are a gentleman who was raised well, or smart enough to independently adapt such moves.
One of my guy friends in college did this regularly after dropping me off at my car on campus. He was a great guy, a nice guy whose mother had raised him very right. Side bar: I noticed that a lot of Philadelphia guys of Italian ancestry are A+ in the manners department, and they put the bar high for other guys.
There was nothing between Steven and I on the romance front, but I always held him in high regard because he was always pulling gentlemanly moves like this. Even if I didn’t know it consciously, I knew he was a good guy with positive regard for women, and me in particular.
PS. If I haven’t said it lately: Nice men, we women love you!
A few years ago, Hayden was doing what millions of other twenty-something Millennials are doing: Scraping by on a series of minimum wage jobs and wanting more.
With no shop or office space, he learned how to fix iPhones and started making house calls, ending up at construction sites and doctors’ offices where he’d fix customers’ phones on the fly while they kept working.
With an innate entrepreneurial fire stoked, Hayden continued to grow his business (myibroke.com), which led him to start another business centered on websites and online marketing.
The confidence of achievement, particularly one that’s on your own terms, has a certain affect on a man or woman. A good one.
Dawes, who previously felt the nerves while in plush, traditional office quarters, has altered little of his personal style in the face of his growing success. It’s a brand of uncontrived hipness telegraphed with a steady gaze, polished, mostly denim ensembles, and unhurried speaking style tinged with pure Virginian, despite his time in South Florida.
So I grilled him for some tips on how to keep one’s personal presentation its most authentic and attractive no matter what rung you might be on your personal success ladder.
In his earliest days: “It was nerve wracking. I had never worked in any kind of setting as a professional. I did not have nice dress clothes. I was showing up at big, baller executive suites. They would be standing over my shoulder watching me do something I had done for, maybe, the third time in my life.”
“I don’t feel uncomfortable around ‘professionals’ anymore. I don’t look like your typical business executive. I have a beard and a laidback wardrobe. In the past I felt uncomfortable but now I’m okay with this because it’s working for me.”
His ‘work uniform’: “A collared shirt and denims. A collared shirt projects professionalism.”
Dressing up: “I’ll add a seersucker suit jacket over a collared shirt if I feel like peacocking. I love seersucker.”
Favorite jeans: “Levi red tag, button-fly 501s. Original cut.”
Beard maintenance: “People think beards are this low-maintenance look. Actually, you have to take care of your beard. They are high-maintenance. I use Pantene Pro-V Brunette Expressions to shampoo it, and Herbal Essence conditioner.”
On cultivating individual style: “When people try to look hip they often end up looking weird. Don’t go out and buy jeans that look worn. Buy a pair of jeans and wear them.”
Shopping tips: “Flea markets, consignment and thrift shops. I like clothes that have a classic or older-era look to them, so these are good places for me. Even if you have the cash for it, a man doesn’t need to spend a ton of cash to have great clothes. I recently scored an Oscar de la Renta sport jacket at a thrift shop that fits me perfectly.”
Motivation tip: “Take $300 dollars out of your account, put it in your wallet–and leave it there. It will motivate you and you will carry yourself differently.”
The best part of success so far….“Not living for other people. Not living in fear.”
When walking on the street, the man always walks on the side closest to the street and its traffic. I believe the origins of this have something to do with shielding a lady’s skirts from mud kicked up by passing carriages, and that it makes the linking of arms easier. There are no more carriages around, but the protocol remains, and it’s a male-female nicety that works no matter your relationship.
Many males know about this arrangement, either by instruction or instinct, and will automatically take this position when walking with a woman–or make the switch to reverse places.
I’ve become so used to walking this way, on the inside, that if I happen to be waltzing down the street with a guy it will automatically not feel right if I’m on the outside. To correct positions I’ll usually do a little two-step to switch positions and not say a word.
An adaptation to the "psychological tic in their machinery."
A big difference between the girls and the guys, responsible for many an awkward, uncomfortable (or worse) moment among strangers in public, has to do with what a female does–and what a male thinks she means when she does.
You the girl, you the woman, are in public. You happen to gaze somewhere, thinking of nothing in particular. You may or may not have a pleasant look on your face, or even a full-blown smile. Alas, you happened to look in the direction of a stranger who happens to be male. You look away, quickly. The next thing you know, you are being cruised, heavily. The stranger is staring at you with saucy, hopeful eyes.
“Oh no,” you think. “I didn’t mean that.”
Variants of this scenario happen all over the place, and the one mentioned above happens to be one of the more benign variety. Maybe you politely responded to a stranger’s “hello” in a line at a coffee shop, or his request for directions or the time or whatever. The next thing you know, the dude has pulled up a chair, is telling you the story of his life, asking for your phone number. In short, a stranger is imposing an awkward social burden on you that you neither asked for nor want.
If you are a woman, this has most likely happened to you on more than one occasion, prompting you to ask yourself or others: “How does that mean I’m interested?”
"It's obvious, she totally wants me." (Sexual overperception bias in action.)
Sexual overperception bias
Pulling from evolutionary theory gives us a possible explanation on this, something called sexual overperception bias, or why, way too often, guys think that a woman is hitting on them when she is merely being friendly, or even quasi-cordial. Or human. Or just looking in their general direction at nothing and no one in particular. Or breathing.
Evolutionary psychologist David Buss explains that men are more likely to infer sexual interest when there is none due to “the costs of failing to pick up on a potential mating opportunity.”¹ Today’s men, the descendants of men who successfully picked up on a mating opportunity, have a hardwired desire, evolved over time, to do the same, resulting in a higher likelihood of assuming much about nothing at all.
According to Buss: “For males it is better to err on the side of over-inferring sexual interest, even if you’re going to be wrong some time, then in under-inferring it and missing out on potential sexual opportunities.”² These men will make mistakes, but they will also maximize successfully acting on sexual opportunities that do exist.
According to Buss, this is not a conscious calculation in the male mind. Rather, he describes it as “a psychological tic in their machinery.”³ A tic that has settled in over deep evolutionary time.
Men: Evolving past the tic
This explanation for why men are prone to making this social miscalculation does not let guys off the hook.
Knowing about this tic means that a male can pause and use reason to override it as needed. In other words, an awareness of this aspect of your mating psychology gives you an advantage, to change behavior that doesn’t serve your life and might be annoying as hell to others.
You want your mating efforts to be directed at women who are interested. And an innate tendency to over-perceive sexual interest when none exists means that you are going to be off sometimes. Okay, some of you will be off more than some of the time. Thinking a gal has designs on you when she really just asked you the time because she forgot her watch and you happen to be standing next to her on the street. Thinking that a casual smile means “Let’s hit the hay.” And so forth.
Battle the tic by trying, to the best of your ability, to objectively assess a male-female scenario for what it is. If it helps, imagine watching the situation as a detached observer and decode it to the best of your ability. If you feel your social judgement in this area is wanting, improve it by seeking the advice of women and men whose judgement and insight you think is solid.
I’d hate for this to be construed to mean that a man should not make any social overtures toward the opposite sex whatsoever, particularly since several fine gentlemen friends have informed me that uncertainty about a woman’s interest, or the threat of appearing foolish or embarrassing or offensive has kept them from striking up or continuing conversations, or even approaching a woman who they thought was interested. My advice is that such a social miscalculation will never be a big deal provided the approach is polite and low-key.
Women: Adapting to the tic
Women, knowing that sexual overperception bias exists, must unfortunately adapt to the fact that males may misinterpret mere politeness or civility. (I don’t think I actually had to tell you that.)
I fought against this reality for many moons. I’m inclined, with some editing, to look at a room full of strangers as a room full of friendly acquaintances whom I haven’t met, and by default am as friendly to male strangers as female strangers. Or, I was. I insisted on my gender-neutral social ways for too long, much to my own discomfort and detriment, time and again.
On the eve of lifting my white flag to reality, a male friend whose judgement I trust said one of those things that sticks with you because it squares so perfectly with a fresh mental verdict on an issue you’ve been wrestling with forever: “Constance, if you speak to a man you don’t know he will most likely think you are interested in him.”
Ding, ding. Lesson finally learned. These days, if I feel like beaming at a random stranger (not a bad practice to make viral) or engaging in a spot of conversation while waiting in a line, chances are the stranger will be a fellow member of the fairer sex.
At the heart of evolutionary theory is the idea of adaptation. That humans will continue to evolve, to change, in ways that bring them closer to pleasure and further from pain. Males adapting to the tic means relying on reason to suss out bonafide female interest. Women adapting to the tic means always negotiating that line between civility and a warding off of the social burden mentioned earlier.
Now, if this isn't a butch example of man-bag wearing I don't know what is
For the man, carrying a bag is tricky business. I’m not talking about standing on the sidewalk holding your lady friend’s purse while she dashes into another shop, either, I’m talking about dedicated daily man-bag wearing and accessorizing. The fear is, of course, you’ll look like a chick mincing about with a favorite and fabulous new tote!
Not to fear, male bag wearing has become so enmeshed in our culture that it is almost hard to look mincy while wearing one. The key, of course, is in your nonverbals: if you feel comfortable wearing a messenger bag, tote, satchel, briefcase bag or so forth, it follows that you’ll look entirely natural as well.
Here are some tips on selecting the professional man bag:
*Proportion is everything. Consider your physical size in relation to the prospective man bag. Choose one that is directly proportional to your overall physique. If you are a smaller man, a large man bag will make you appear even smaller. Ditto for the portly man with a princess-sized man bag.
It has to do with the contrast principle, and how the girl of your dreams appears that much more dreamy when standing in a crowd of folks who are not as easy on the eyes. Or how a miniature horse looks barely there when placed next to a strapping thoroughbred.
The Industrial Canvas Dipped York Brief by Jack Spade, which sounds like the name of a sandwich but is the name of this bag
*Your man bag should help communicate You. Man bags are no longer strictly boxy black or tan leather affairs. The dimensions, materials, finishes, fabrics and colors have busted out in a rainbow of twill, canvas, leather and even waxwear, a fine cotton canvas soaked in wax, the type originally developed for sails. In other words, man bags come in forms that insinuate you may be anything from very traditional to not.
Before going out in the world to shop for your man bag, think about what you want to look like. This will help you pre-determine the approximate shape and style you desire, and keep you from getting sidetracked by the many options out there.
*Quality counts. Like a cheesy suit that hangs clumsily off your body, a cheap man bag makes its presence known quickly and creates a bad impression. Don’t rely solely on a steep price or cache brand to cue you on whether a bag is quality: examine the leather, lining and stitching to determine its quality level.
On a practical level, a pricey-but-worth-it bag will pay dividends in terms of investment, outlasting a cheap bag by many years.
And, lastly, is very difficult to look like a serious grown-up with one of those great-outdoors-type backpacks, all mesh and straps and bright colors and Velcro, strapped to your shoulders unless you are on a mountaintop somewhere. It gives off a vibe similar to that of carrying a lunch box.
If you are male and at a dinner party, be a class act and follow this traditional point of etiquette: Remain standing in the dining area until the hostess takes her seat. While standing, if the woman or girl who will be seated to your right happens to comes to the table, you are correct in pulling out her chair and helping to seat her.
Unlike the men, women do no need to wait for the hostess to sit. But both sexes wait for the hostess to take her napkin and fold it in her lap before they do.
By the way, since not all men are familiar with this point of etiquette, don’t be surprised if you are one of the few, or the only one, standing. And don’t feel self conscious in the least about doing so.