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Men’s fashion decoded: How to emulate Tim Gunn’s signature style

Here's how to become the Tim Gunn of your group and embody the Socialite style archetype

As with all style archetypes, it’s less about the clothes you wear and more about how you wear them. The Socialite archetype on the Venn Diagram is a person who has heard things like “you could charm the bark off a tree” from the time they were young. Every person in their life is drawn to them because they know how to read others; they know how to make people feel comfortable and relaxed. Tim Gunn from Making the Cut and Project Runway is an excellent example of someone who commands a room with his ability to be sharp and charming.

The Socialite has never followed the rules or gone with the crowd. You stand out because you blaze your own path through society. Your style is an outward expression of your inner self-image. For the Socialites, their style is an extension of their charm, and they find their image to be one of the most critical aspects of their success.

If you believe you’re a Socialite in mentality but haven’t figured out how to tie your wardrobe into the image, take your lead from the king of Socialites, Tim Gunn.

Tim Gunn

Colors and patterns are important

One thing Tim Gunn understands better than most is the importance of color. Men don’t discuss it much, mainly because we don’t prioritize shopping. We remember when our mothers, partners, or someone we respect once told us blue looked good on us, and we’ve worn it ever since.

The basics of color for men’s fashion is that if you have cool-toned skin, blue is your undertone, which in turn means that you’ll look best in blues and its complementary colors. If you’re warm toned, you have red, orange, or yellow undertones, which are the best colors for you to play with. If you don’t know which you are (welcome to the club, guys; most of us don’t), another easy trick is to determine if silver or gold jewelry looks better on you. If it’s silver, you’re probably cool toned. If it’s gold, you’re probably warm toned. If you’re one the lucky ones that can rock either color, that probably means you have a neutral skin tone that looks good in just about any color.

If none of that works, then doing a simple color analysis can help you figure it all out. Stick to the colors that look best on you and you’ll always stand out.

Now that you’ve figured out the colors that look best on you, move on to patterns. Wearing solid colors is the easiest and most basic way to look good all the time in men’s apparel, but that doesn’t help you stand out. When you perfect wearing the right patterns and combining different ones, your outfits will pop and eyes will be drawn to you. If you look at Gunn, he often wears linear patterns like checks and stripes with non-linear patterns like paisley and dots.

Tim Gunn

Details matter

People are drawn to you because you notice things. You know the right thing to say because you’re in tune with their feelings. You also notice when their drinks are getting low and refill them without being asked. This behavior is what people see as charming and magnetic. Take the same approach to your wardrobe, and you’ll instantly step up your style game.

Get chummy with a tailor. A good one can alter your suits, slacks, dress shirts, and even your T-shirts and jeans to fit you like a glove. Most of the time, the latter are easy enough to find in different brands to fit better, but the point is that you can always take something that works well and make it fit perfectly.

Details don’t end with the fit. They also extend to those finishing touches that help make an outfit complete. Take, for instance, Tim Gunn’s ability to find just the right pocket square to complete his look. Of course, the suit, shirt, and tie combination would look great on its own, but the pocket square pulls it all together and gives it that complete look, something that sets him apart from everyone else and makes him a true men’s style icon.

Tim Gunn

Stay up to date on trends

Have you ever heard the phrase “X is the new black,” with “X” being whatever word you can imagine? No, we’re not talking about the series on Netflix. Every year brings us a new color that’s the talk of the season among the fashion forward. Why do they compare them to black? Because black is always in style. Last year it was illuminating yellow and set sail champagne contrasted with ultimate grey. The yellow and champagne colors represented optimism against the grey color representing the tumultuous year of 2020. 

Now, any amount of research can tell you what color is in style right now, but that’s just following trends, which anyone can do. But a Socialite archetype like Tim Gunn is ahead of the curve. People look to him and copy his style. For you to stay ahead of the color trends, Pantone is a great resource that can help you predict what’s coming. 

Finally, read. We’re not saying that you need to pick up every issue of Gentleman’s Quarterly or Men’s Health to see what they say is in style (although that would help), but at the change of seasons every three months or so, take a look at what styles are coming up and see how you can upgrade. 

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Mark D. McKee
Mark is a full-time freelance writer and men's coach. He spent time as a style consultant and bespoke suit salesman before…
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