Men are funny when it comes to fashion. Let me rephrase that: Most men are more concerned with style than fashion. Fashion is a moment, a trend that you indulge in then drop it before it’s dead in the water, which is different than personal style. Style is a look, an attitude and, most importantly, a way to present oneself – and good first impressions are indeed important. Think about when you go to the grocery store to buy a box of cereal. Would you believe something is healthy if it had pictures of cartoon characters chomping down on chocolate puffs? The type of clothes you wear speaks volumes about what kind of man you are.

When it comes down to it there are there are two types of guys. There are the guys that could care less about style, the kind that let their partners pick out their clothes for them and will never delineate from a tried-and-true formula. If you’ve never branched out from what you wore in your high school or college days, chances are you’re guilty of this.

Then you have the guys who care a lot, who range from gentlemen who want the best things that money can buy to creative types who crave individualized looks and satisfy their needs by hitting up secondhand stores and boutiques instead of roaming the mall in search of the newest thing. So what if you’re tired of relying on the same style of pants year after year and long for something new? You don’t have to go from looking like a slob to looking like a fashion victim; there’s some middle ground. For men, dressing well is really keeping your look simple yet relying on the details to pull it all together.  Your outfit should be cohesive yet feel effortless, like you just happened to wake up and roll out of bed without deliberating for 20 minutes whether you should wear your monk strap or oxford shoes with your slim-fitting chinos. Easier said than done? Maybe, but just like anything worth doing, practice makes perfect.

Details make or break an outfit and no one is going to believe that your lace-ups cost $300 if you’re sporting ratty socks. Elijah Bradshaw, a trainer at secondhand store Buffalo Exchange, reiterates the importance of these seemingly small touches. “I realize that you might be thinking ‘Socks? Really?’ but I assure you it’s necessary. It is an understated piece.” But what if brogues that cost three bills aren’t in your budget? As a secondhand professional, Bradshaw really knows how to shop smart – however, just because that high-end sports coat is a steal doesn’t mean you should necessarily buy it. “You never know what you’ll be able to find when you’re shopping secondhand and at times it can be overwhelming,” Bradshaw explains. “When I’m thrifting, I ask myself, ‘Will this enhance my collection or deter it?’ Meaning, is it going to be anything like what I have in my closet already? If the answer is ‘yes,’ then move on. No need for repeats.”

Brennan Manuel, designer of the local clothing line Camrich Mann and a 2011 Tulane University law school graduate, suggests straight-leg pants as a cornerstone of a wearable wardrobe, as they look good on just about everyone. However, be careful with slimmer cuts; just because they’re currently the big trend doesn’t mean they’ll work on every body type.

Aside from the obvious suit and sports coat, Manuel suggests that a great basic wardrobe starts with a pair of good quality corduroy pants (keep the wale small for a flattering look), a dressed-down button-down and casual trouser pants in a cotton canvas fabric. Stock up on a few nice plaid shirts, a utility jacket in a neutral color and dark-wash jeans and you’ll have a solid foundation with which to work. Keeping a repertoire of stylish, well cut plain tees, preferably in heathered grey or plain solid colors, is a great casual option as well – but leave the graphic tees at the door.

Often guys will see celebrities and sports figures and try to emulate them. If it looks good on the male cast of “True Blood” then it’s going to look good on you, right? But those guys have abs of steel (not saying you don’t) and what works on one man won’t necessarily work on everyone. Do not let other people dress you; take inspiration from others, but don’t just be a copycat or you’ll end up in something that doesn’t suit you at all. Instead, take cues from some locals that are actively working towards changing the style scene in New Orleans.

One person helping bring back classic New Orleans apparel is Jonah Langenbeck of Department of Changes. Langenbeck’s project is an homage to a time when looking good didn’t mean a rhinestone-studded T-shirt and gratuitous hair gel. Scouring the city for vintage New Orleans brands and defunct men’s stores, he resells his finds at Avante Garden (a semi-annual market) and at the new Defend New Orleans store. Jonah originally sought out these wares for his own personal collection, but now he generously helps other gentlemen who want to contribute aesthetically to our “cosmopolitan Creole heritage.” “There’s a tendency for younger men to dress better right now,” Langenbeck says. The craft cocktail movement, old restaurants and the locavore mentality – it all goes hand in hand.

Another individual with an appreciation for an old-fashioned style that suddenly feels fresh is Ben Azevedo, a Tulane University medical school student with a handmade line of bowties called NOLA Bowties. “I’d rather look dapper than fashionable,” he states, looking classic yet comfortable on a Saturday afternoon in a clean white oxford shirt and navy blue flat-front shorts. There is an artisan appeal to his designs; a sense of craftsmanship goes into each one and the wearer can see the real worth of it by the finishing touches. Azevedo sources his fine silks from the places to which he travels, such as Thailand and London. Each bowtie takes an hour to make by hand and while you could pick up something inexpensive from a department store, why not make a strong style statement and support a local guy at the same time?

So men of New Orleans, give that flip-flops-and-gym-shorts combination a rest and show your personality through your clothing choices. When you look good you feel even better about yourself and confidence is the best accessory a man can wear.

Christy Lorio is a freelance writer and founder of SlowSouthernStyle.com. She can be reached at nolagurl@gmail.com.

Getting Dressed With Ease
New Orleans menswear designer Brennan Manuel shares a few tips:

On shopping: First off you need to go shopping without your significant other and ask the salesperson what they think. Suggestions from neutral parties can be your best mirrors.

On finding inspiration: Ignore what entertainers are wearing in their videos if you can’t decipher the good from the bad. Style, specifically a man’s, is very much an individual thing and not so much about trends. The key is to find what works for you and a big part of that is silhouette.

On how it should fit: Fit is tricky, but with a little patience a man can find one that works for him. Find something that’s “trim”; clothing that glides over your body but doesn’t hug it. You also don’t want to hide behind big clothing either. Discovering what works for you takes time.