In the novel ‘High Fidelity’ protagonist Rob describes his appeal to women as based not on the traits he has, but those he lacks. He may not be a genius, rich, or extremely handsome. As he points out, however, he also does not have a drinking problem, anger issue, awful taste in music/movies, or any other outstandingly bad trait. So, his appeal lies in his lack of truly heinous turn-offs, the ones that serve as the real deal-breakers.
Personal style is often based on this same logic. Many times the people admired as having the best style simply know what trends to avoid.
Here is my own personal list of fashion deal-breakers. No matter how popular, how widespread, or who is seen wearing it, some looks simply should not be worn by the general population.
Legible Text – I could spend an hour going over the ultra-specific exceptions to this rule, but the bottom line is: if someone can read an article of clothing, get rid of it as soon as possible. Logos have been dead since the early nineties, and in their graves they should stay. I am skeptical that slogans have ever been stylish, and while they are fun at a Boise State kegger, worn anywhere else is pretty tragic. Beware the new trend of common texting abbreviations on clothing (such as WTF). Even in a nerd chic world that is style suicide.
Ripped T-Shirt – If you purchase a t-shirt that is pre-ripped, it’s time to take a long look in the mirror. This look has been the target of mockery since 1980s teen movies. The ripped effect is not completely hopeless, but for the love of all things holy (or unholy) just rip the shirt yourself. Trust me, it will yield a better result and you will save about ninety dollars.
Denim on Denim – To my shock and dismay, certain retailers are still trying to pass off the legendary ‘denim tuxedo’ as stylish. To put it bluntly: no. Don’t wear denim with denim. It isn’t worth pondering, just erase the very thought from your mind and move on. Even high fashion designers make mistakes, but do not be swayed by propaganda or glossy ads. Denim on top + denim jeans = tragic.
Round-toed Flat – I realize this shoe is quite popular, and I’m in no way condemning all flats. The bottom line is, if you are under 5’10” this shoe is simply not flattering (height is a notable exception here–the tall, thin and leggy can pull off the round toe flat). Let’s consider the options for how to wear this shoe. Wear a skinny pant and the shoe adds nothing. Wear a boot cut pant and the foot disappears under the fabric. Wear a skirt and you have effectively shortened your legs as much as modern fashion allows. Nearly any shoe is a better investment than this one. If you find yourself about to use the c-word (comfort) just stop. Do you want to be stylish or a soccer mom? Okay, then.
Ankle-length Skirt – Assuming you are not trying on a mermaid-style Yves Saint Laurent in a sleek knit, put that monstrosity back on the rack from whence it came. Can the long skirt be pulled off? Yes. Can it be done at Macy’s? No. If you must try it, the outfit absolutely must be monochromatic, fitted, and made with knits. Anything else makes a gal look like she should either be at a square dance or teleported to 1993.
Skinny Jean – First, allow me to clarify what I mean by ‘skinny jean.’ I do not mean a straight leg pant, a skinny cigarette pant, or even a legging. I am referring to the stretchy denim-esque garment masquerading as pants by virtue of a cosmetic zip-fly and occasional pocket, not narrowed by tailoring but sticking to the leg like flexible glue. A Frankenstein of lycra and cotton blend, ending at the ankle to ensure any attempt to lengthen the leg is thwarted. With enough guile one can cover these pants effectively enough to make them work in an outfit, even look good. But when the attractiveness of an article of clothing directly increases with the percentage of said garment that is hidden by another garment, accessory, bag, or boot, why bother in the first place? Ugly-on-purpose works in the Betsy Johnson tent at Fashion Week, but translated to everyday wear I deem this a fail.