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The ups and downs of dressing up and down (part 2)

Ahead of London’s Men’s Fashion Week, in part 1 CALM Ambassador RKZ asks faces from across the fashion industry why dressing good can make you feel good. In Part 2, he looks more closely at some of the not-so-nice sides of the industry and how to tackle them… 

With all of its ups, there are always downs. The pressure to appease the demands of the materialistic elements of the industry – be it through fashion trends, keeping up appearances or having to post consistent content on social media.

Timothy James – Architect and Model

In Timothy James’s (@ThisIsTimothy) case, the architect-turned-model needed a break to go offline and re-centre, following an overly exhausting schedule. “It was whilst on vacation that I realised I had gained a fair bit of weight over the last twelve months. I had focused on growing my business and I had succeeded in doing so, which was helped immensely by the addition of my partner, Lauren. But this was our first business together and our clients are international, so time zones were difficult. That in turn lead us to not working anything that resembled normal hours. We focused on building the business to generate a steady income for the two of us, as well as on projects where we could employ our friends and utilise their skill sets.

My suits literally became my armour, as I knew I could keep my jacket on and no one would notice.

I had forgotten to take care of myself mentally and physically, and all of a sudden it hit me. I didn’t feel myself anymore. I felt out of shape and would use my suits to hide (what I thought was a multitude of sins). My suits literally became my armour, as I knew I could keep my jacket on and no one would notice. This was a new feeling for me, as was anxiety. The thought of coming back to Europe and shooting fashion imagery for brands was terrifying me. I knew I wasn’t ready, and looking at my friends and peers on social media didn’t help one bit. I had fallen into that dangerous trap that can catch the best of us at anytime.”

Journalist and founder of Hand Cut Radio, Aleks Cvetkovic remarks, “I love what I do, and I’m passionate about clothes, but I find elements of the industry upsettingly two-faced and narcissistic – there’s a lot of ego in fashion – and a lot of individuals who enjoy critiquing and ‘bringing down’ other industry figures. I ignore it, and won’t let it bother me, but I know it goes on and I think it’s a great shame. Fashion is not a friendly industry to be in.”

Following the meet up, I took to my Instagram once more to ask people their thoughts on the positives and negatives of dressing up. In a series of polls completed by 126 people, most of whom had some relationship with the fashion industry, 84% said they suffered with a form of mental illness. 48% used dressing up as a coping mechanism with 92% of that segment saying that it had a positive impact on their lives; making them feel more confident. 48% also said it made them feel more self-conscious, though 63% found the process of picking outfits therapeutic on the whole.

48% used dressing up as a coping mechanism with 92% of that segment saying that it had a positive impact on their lives; making them feel more confident.

Chirag Patel – Art Director

Chirag Patel (@ThePoorHomme) explained how his wardrobe was used as a means of positive association, and how he refers to it now as a reminder of his accomplishments, “I learned to associate positive moods and milestones in my life with the contents of wardrobe, and began to make more conscious decisions about my purchases. Whenever my mood wanes or the anxiety about the future creeps back in, I’ll put on that pair of Margiela sneakers I purchased to celebrate a new job after a tumultuous year and remind myself of how I felt that day. Or I’ll confidently wear that one particular pair of swathing wide leg trousers with a tucked in t-shirt to dramatise a silhouette that, in the past, I was made to feel ashamed of.”

Whenever my mood wanes or the anxiety about the future creeps back in, I’ll put on that pair of Margiela sneakers I purchased to celebrate a new job after a tumultuous year and remind myself of how I felt that day.

Daisy Knatchbull (@DaisyKna), founder of the Deck London, a London-based tailoring house exclusively for women, highlighted that sometimes retail really is the best therapy when struggling with body image, “I will go shopping and find things I know I look good in. At The Deck, one expression we gravitate towards is ‘dress for who you want to be, not how you feel’. A suit can often highlight and accentuate parts of your body you want to, and also provide an exterior of comfort. A suit as they say, is modern day armour.”

Daisy Knatchbull – Founder The Deck London

For Benedict Browne (@Benedict_Browne) of The Rake Magazine, dressing well “says a lot about your personality and character before you even open your mouth. It shows you care. Self-care is important and we should all pay a little bit more attention to that.” Taking control of your narrative, has been a key factor of dressing well to Jake, who said “to dress for yourself allows you to expose all of you in whatever way you want. That control and that power is so affirming and inspiring that it often can instinctively alter your mood. The right raincoat can turn a fairly bleak day into a Gene Kelly musical, or the right tailored suit can give you the confidence to make that merger, or acquire that job. The possibilities are truly endless!”

The right raincoat can turn a fairly bleak day into a Gene Kelly musical, or the right tailored suit can give you the confidence to make that merger, or acquire that job. The possibilities are truly endless!

Benedict Browne – Associate Style Editor, The Rake

As with most things, taking the first step is often the most important one, says production director Nafeesa Yousuf, “Getting up and putting on a good outfit sets a positive tone for the rest of the day.” Alexander Dickinson(@Lord_Alexander), a bespoke tailor for Henry Herbert, elaborates on the first step, and emphasises the importance of routine for the morning routine, “It’s important to have a routine when trying to battle anxiety and for me, getting dressed in the morning allows time to focus.”

Alexander Dickinson – Bespoke Tailor

Videographer and creative Husam Al-Deen (@ha.me) highlighted the importance of dress being as important as exercise, “There are many things in life that are overlooked, that contribute to better wellbeing, mentally and physically. Physical exercise, the quality and source of the food you consume and the people and the energy of the people you surround yourself with. Dressing well sits alongside these contributing factors to help build your confidence, uplift your mood and help you feel content. My personal style is a creative outlet and helps me communicate what I represent.”

Husam Al-Deen – Videographer and Creative 

I’ve always considered my style imperative to who I am, but I’ve always felt very conscious of how much attention me paying attention to my outfit, gets. The biggest misconception, above all else, is that people think it’s all very superficial—but it couldn’t be further from the truth. I dress up because it helps me feel good. It makes me feel like I’m giving this world (and myself) some form of purpose and reason. I deserve to be here, I deserve to feel confident. I deserve to be heard. I deserve to be seen.

It also has a lot to do with my upbringing. From a young age, I was taught that looking my best showed respect to the people I’m with. The same way I wouldn’t want to curb my etiquette or manners, I wouldn’t want to discredit myself or others by dressing like I don’t care. I love seeing people take pride in what they’re wearing – no matter what it is. If it makes YOU feel comfortable and good about yourself, that’s what matters.

The purpose of this post, is in hope that people within the fashion industry read it and understand it’s okay to share emotions, feelings, because the people around you are almost certainly going through similar things. Building connections is imperative. Something that Aleks mentioned on the relationship element of it all stuck with me, “Dressing well helps me to feel like the best version of myself. I can be feeling low, or tired, or stressed, and putting a look together helps to pick me up again. My passion for clothes also helps me to connect with like-minded individuals and build relationships within the industry.”

“Dressing well helps me to feel like the best version of myself. I can be feeling low, or tired, or stressed, and putting a look together helps to pick me up again.

Reflecting on his time offline, Timothy highlighted the importance of communication with like-minded peers, “I confided in a friend in the industry (not an easy task when it’s a competitive, cutthroat world at times) and although he wasn’t in the best of places himself, we helped each other through. I meet people all the time and talk with thousands of people every day via social media, but to actually sit and have a real conversation with someone, without either of us checking our phone or having anywhere else to run off to, was refreshing. We talked through everything. It’s amazing how liberating it can be
when you realise others around you are going through the same internal wars you yourself may be battling.”

The second takeaway is for those suffering that are yet to consider dressing up as a form of self-love. It’s important. It can act as a distraction tactic, too, as well as a coping mechanism to get you through the day.

Take some time this evening to think about what you want to wear tomorrow, have it ready and ironed tonight, to be worn in the morning. Shine your shoes (or clean your sneakers). Wake up early, take a longer shower, spend more time grooming. Pay attention to your outfit, and how each piece works together. Wear the fancy fragrance. Layer your scents. Step outside and take on the world. After all, it’s often the smallest of actions that make the biggest impact.

RKZ is a photographer, menswear writer and CALM Ambassador. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram. 

Photography by Hannah Miles.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article or in the comments below, are not those held by CALM or its Trustees unless stated, and liability cannot be accepted for such comments. We encourage friendly and constructive debate, but please don't share personal contact details when commenting and exercise caution when considering any advice offered by others. We don’t allow abusive, offensive or inappropriate comments or comments that could be interpreted as libellous, defamatory or commercial and we will remove these without warning as and when we find them.

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