Today I thought it would be fun to talk about men’s style, and particularly the style of men in the Bay Area, especially Silicon Valley. We have a reputation here as being the slacker look/hoodie epicenter of the planet. Mark Zuckerberg may get some of the blame, but many men will make minimal effort in the appearance department if they can get away with it. I know of what I speak. As I’m married to a high tech guy and mother to two young men, I often find myself battling to get them appropriately attired! I’m not even talking about every day. I am talking about weddings, graduations, funerals and other special events. Men need to make more of an effort. Ties do not kill, nor do suit jackets. I think we don’t realize how endemic this is until you leave our bubble and travel to places like the East Coast or London (the suits!!) or even the American South to see there are places where men still take pride in dressing well.
Yet I think there is hope. Some young men seem to be bucking the trend. The same time I began seeing more men dressing well of late, and many exerting some sartorial flair, I ran into a dear friend who is working on broadening our perspectives on men’s style and dressing right here in Silicon Valley. Paul Gallo and I were friends while working during college. Even then he was one of the coolest guys with not only style, but talent- making custom wood furniture and road biking on the side. I was so surprised when I found him at a J.Crew also checking out the latest and I knew his voice and snide sense of humor right away. Paul looks the same, just closer to a George Clooney look alike now. Damn men and their aging. They just seem to get more rugged movie star!
Paul is now a style consultant, but also a blogger and amazing photographer. His blog’s focus is on the Bay Area where he knows where to shop, find the hidden gems to seek out, and finds some wonderful subjects he snaps on the street! He gives me hope there is style yet here and maybe we just need to know where to look for it and perhaps encourage guys to think out of the box. I asked Paul to do a little question and answer here regarding Silicon Valley men’s style in particular…
Paul, there are many guys who wear the Silicon Valley uniform- the younger guys a hoodie, T and jeans (on good days), and the older men a blue button-up and tan slacks. It’s rare to see someone who steps out of the mold or has some flair. One example would be Andy Poupart- who works in tech, with a great Instagram and style, but he is an anomaly. I rarely see a man in a jacket -even a casual one. You seem to be born with an innate style. How did you get interested in clothes and learn to put it all together?
I have always been aware of my appearance and interested in clothes as a means of personal expression. I think my love of dressing up or wearing suits originated began in the 80’s while working at Macy’s. Men had to wear suits or at least sport coats, that was the uniform, so to speak. As an art-school guy, I saw the suit as artistic expression. Because I was in college at the time and didn’t have much money, I bought a lot of thrift store clothing and mixed it with the few new pieces I could afford.
What would you recommend to the guy who claims he doesn’t care or doesn’t have time for this?
When people truly don’t care what they look like, nobody can force them to make the effort. However, in my experience, Most guys do care about their clothing and their appearance, to some extent. The real problem is that they hate not knowing what they need and having to go shopping to find it. Luckily for those guys, there are all kinds of on line clothing brands or shopping services that try to eliminate the act of shopping at the mall. My favorite is J. Hilburn because they do “Made to Measure” clothing so, in the end, they help you know what you need and everything fits perfectly because they measure you before the clothes are made.
So would you recommend some investment pieces and begin there?
There are a few things everyone needs. The obvious one is a good suit. Everyone should have a good suit that is less than 10 years old and fits properly. It should be either solid Navy Blue or Charcoal Grey. Aside from that it would depend on an individual’s lifestyle and work needs.
Why is it worth getting some things custom fitted to you? Frankly, one of the biggest things that bugs me is men wearing shirts and jackets that are way too big on them. Same with pants that are too long- and dated. It’s like those mom jeans on some men. They are clueless and they need help.
Proper fit is paramount. It is the single biggest issue plaguing men’s style today. All clothing needs to be adjusted in some way to fit correctly. You can either do this after the fact, by having a good tailor fit everything to your body, after you purchase it. Or before the fact, by buying Made to Measure clothing. Again, I recommend Made to Measure as there are more adjustments that can be made to the fit of the garment before it is manufactured than after. Ultimately your clothing will fit better and you will have eliminated all the extra effort required for getting your new purchases tailored. With regard to the mom jeans, all I can say is there are 2 reasons clothing becomes unwearable: 1. it is worn out and falling apart, 2. It is out of style. Any adult should be able to tell if their clothing is falling apart, just by looking at it. To determine if your clothing needs to be replaced because it is out of style, you may need a trusted salesperson or personal stylist to help you.
I shop for my husband who works in tech and try to help him. He is a total computer nerd and would be happy with matching color-coded clothes if he could! He appreciates looking nice, but honestly can’t be bothered, that is why I started helping him. He is in a managerial position so I think he needs to step it up. I really wonder if some guy’s sloppiness could be preventing them from being respected at work. Do you think the old adage, ‘Dress for the job you want, not the one you have,’ applies even in Silicon Valley?
Yes, I do. The Silicon Valley’s casual dress code is not an excuse to be sloppy. I believe that proper fitting and well maintained clothing does fall under the category of professionalism. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t wear jeans to the office, or that denim is somehow unprofessional. Quite the opposite! The problem is wearing sloppy jeans that do not fit and are worn out. A great pair of jeans with a beautiful shirt and sports coat can look both stylish and professional. We are lucky, here on the West Coast. We can wear so many different styles to the office and still be viewed as taking our jobs seriously. I think more guys need to embrace this, because everyone likes to look nice.
Now I am also mom to two young men, one is 19 and the other 16. I want them to take some care about their appearances because first impressions are what they present to the world. I do try to buy them the odd nice item here and there so they appreciate better things and encourage them to take care of their hair and shoes, but one always reverts to shorts and flip-flops. Any other ways to get them to care a bit more about being stylish and enjoying clothes?
I don’t think you can or should force someone to “dress nice” if they don’t want to. It’s a personal preference that sometimes comes only with age. Also, lead by example.
I am trying! My dad and his dad as well cared a lot about looking nice. My dad still does.
How important is grooming to your whole look? My husband has been lucky to have a great hair person he has gone to for over 20 years who keeps him looking nice and I appreciate it. So many friends say their husband will go to any barber or Supercuts. It’s nice to have a go-to person isn’t it and worth paying for someone good?
Yes. Barber, tailor, cobbler, car mechanic and plumber. All worth their weight in gold. I’ll add Men’s stylist to that list, as well.
Let’s switch gears now and talk about your new blog and Instagram. You seem to be getting quite a bit of attention lately on both of those platforms. Tell me what they are about and what inspired you to join the online community.
Thanks for the compliment! It’s amazing how much traffic they are getting in such a short time. The blog, “Silicon Valley Style,” is really taking off. The inspiration behind the blog is the diversity of style I see in the Bay Area. I want to celebrate, through photographs, people in the Bay Area defining their own, unique style.
I’m also inspired by some boutiques and small retailers in the Bay Area that I think people should visit, because, in my opinion, they are doing something unique and beneficial for style minded people. Finally, I’m really inspired by the incredible diversity of people here in the Bay Area. So many of us are from other places and we travel for both work and pleasure. So, I am going to highlight the style and some great stores in cities throughout the US and Europe. The first big city will be London, this June.
That sounds like something we need more of. I love that idea. What made you decide to do a blog?
The whole thing has kind of grown organically over the past 6 months. First I wanted to chronicle the style of the Bay Area in all its forms through photographs. Then I decided I should also highlight the local independent stores because I love to search them out, learn about their stories, the clothing they carry, and their approach to style. Finally I wanted to extend it to other towns and cities I travel to because we live in a very affluent area and people travel quite a bit. If they are into clothing like me, maybe they would like to know what people are wearing in, let’s say London, or maybe some cool stores to go visit when they are in that particular city. So, A blog seemed like the best way to chronicle and celebrate this uniquely Bay Area style.
Wonderful! Paul thanks for being here and giving us a male perspective on style here in the Bay Area. I especially appreciate you sharing your fantastic photography on here. That is another thing that makes your blog so compelling! I hope we can do an event in the future with men and women as we both enjoy sharing great style and also unique places to find it.
Photographs courtesy of Paulgallostyle.net and sole property of the photographer.