Wouldn't it be perfect if everything you needed to know about men's style was right here at Real Men Real Style?
Seriously, why has Antonio only written a couple thousand articles on style and produced only 700 videos explaining the basics of men's fashion. Somebody tell that guy to stop sleeping and start working 24 hour days!
No – try as we might here at Real Men Real Style we have a lot of ground to cover!
In the meantime, there's a ton of good style information out there on the web about . A ton. Way more info than anyone could sort through in their lifetime.
Just Google your style issue du jour and see. “How do I tie a bow tie” — about 36,100,000 results in 0.11 seconds.
A lot of this male style advice is tied up in forums.
So how does a man find the best answer for his needs in a forum? Where to start?
Sorting the good from the well-intentioned but misleading from the outright scams can be tricky – especially on forums that are not well moderated.
The key to finding solid information on a men's style forum is to first have a men's fashion foundation that you can build from.
Think of it like growing a crystal in a jar of solution. Remember this experiment? You have to have a seed crystal – from this nucleus you could literally grow the crystal 1000X larger!
The same is true of men's style – with no saturated solution required.
I recommend you buy at least one men's style book published within the last 25 years by a reputable publisher. In addition – online style guides who the author is clearly identified (and you can read their credentials) are a great source for style basics as well.
That's not to say you need a pedigree to write about style – most of us are self taught here at Real Men Real Style. But seeing that someone takes ownership and stands behind their writing is a good indicator that it's solid.
Avoid articles written by content aggregation sites such as eHow, ezinearticles, wisegeek, etc – often they are made up of info scraped from across the internet with little regard if it's correct – rather they seek only to draw visitors and make money of ad revenue. Which sounds harsh – but having contributed to them and having seen the standards they abide by I can say this without feeling too bad.
An Introduction to Forums
Forums are as old as the internet – they were a natural congregation of minds online where information was freely shared and opinions were debated. They received a rough reputation thanks to a few rogue hackers and being the starting point of more than one virus – but y far their contribution to the web is extremely positive.
As of this writing, style forums are still a popular source of information. They provide a crowd-sourced and often anonymous answer to style questions. You may be receiving tips from a 13 year old – or a 89 year old retired tailor. And the amazing thing is you often can't tell the difference.
There are a couple of big men's fashion discussion boards, and countless smaller ones — www.styleforum.net, www.thefedoralounge.com and www.askandyaboutclothes.com are just a few of the long-standing staples, and you'll undoubtedly find lots of others that cater to your specific needs if you look around a bit. May sites that weren't specifically established as message boards also have sub-pages for discussion, such as www.theartofmanliness.com‘s “Community” page.
Whether you're on a massive board with a subscription base in the hundreds of thousands or a very small and specific one, there are a few steps you want to take to get the information you need.
1. Post Your Specific Menswear Question
An easy beginner's mistake is to be shy of posting a question – often because they feel it will be perceived as being stupid. I feel there are no stupid question – there are just stupid ways of asking:)
The key to getting a solid response is to ask a strong question that sets the stage (who you are and why you are asking) and what you are looking for (even if you are unsure – be clear what you are not looking for).
If you ask a general question – don't be surprised to receive a response that's just as general if you receive one at all.
If you have a specific question you'll always be better off asking it in a new thread. Attend to the responses given – giving thanks where thanks is due and ask for clarification quickly if you seek it. Most forums will notify the thread answer/followers of the response and you are best served to engage the other person while they have interest in helping you. If you're just interested in general tips and advice, of course, browsing through a forum is a fine way to go about it!
2. Learn to Navigate the Sub-Folders
Most message boards have general “main” folders, where the most unfocused chat takes place. If you have a really specific question these may not be the best places for you. Look for a header that describes your area of interest. Take the main page listing at styleforum.net, for example:
A man looking for information on the spread of his collar is probably going to be fine in the first (and largest) subsection of the forums — “Men's Clothing” — circled in red here. But if his question is about how to trim his beard shape relative to his collar spread, the folder circled in green — “Health & Body” may actually be a better pick, since it's specifically designated as the folder for questions of grooming.
3. Learn to Identify Good Posters — and Bad Ones
The strength of large, public forums is also their weakness: thousands and thousands of people put information up on them.
Some of these people are professionals in the fashion industry, some are very able dressers with no professional experience, and some are complete and utter lunatics.
The latter will probably jump out (references to products that cure conditions you've never heard of or wills from Nigerian princesses are good give-aways), but sorting out the reasonable-sounding but wrong advice from the real stuff can be harder.
Make it easy on yourself: for your first step, start skimming or skipping outright anything that's written in a big block of unbroken text, that lacks punctuation and capital letters, or that relies heavily on internet-slang acronyms. Here's an excerpt from a recent post on one of the major style forums:
This guy's not a scammer or a tinfoil-hat-wearer. He's also not someone I would want to take style advice from.
There may well be people out there with fantastic advice who don't bother to type things out neatly. But you have the whole internet to search through, and most professionals giving well-meant advice will take the time to present it in a clear, well-formatted manner, usually with links to other resources.
At the end of the day this is the price you'll pay for using a free forum – expect to spend a lot of time separating the wheat from the chaff .
4. Check Your Fashion Facts
The easiest way to tell if a post is good advice or not is to check it against a couple other sources. Look at the discussion in the forum thread and the different opinions there, but also visit websites that aren't open to general public submissions. Ask Andy, which we've already mentioned, has a good library of permanant articles, as does the Style Guide over at www.atailoredsuit.com.
These are places where you can see what some professionals are saying and compare it with the advice you're getting on style forums.
Whatever your fashion needs, the odds are that the internet has all the information you need — and much, much more. Learning to quickly sort the good advice from the bad will save you a lot of time and indecision.
Do you find menswear-focused discussion boards useful? Drop us a comment and let us know where you've been finding your good advice!