Men’s fashion: Sure, I regret the banana coat, but who hasn’t made a style mistake or two?

I might have known something was wrong sooner, but such is the case with regrets: I thought I looked great. It was coming on winter, and I knew I was unprepared, so I headed to my local Mountain Equipment Co-op to sort myself out.

I wasn’t inclined to spend top dollar, but I found something down-filled in my price range that had both a hood and insulated pockets, key features for blizzard season. It was also reasonably stylish: a standardcut parka in a colour that made a statement. Toting it home I felt both pleased with myself and prepared for the worst winter could do.

At home I texted a picture of myself in my new coat to my parents who had been concerned that I wouldn’t be warm enough this season. “Lovely!” my mom texted back, followed by, “It’s very bright, isn’t it?” My mother doesn’t understand fashion, so I hadn’t expected her to grasp the coat’s appeal. It was very bright, though, and puffy, and while its shade was more akin to golden yellow than hazard-sign, her comment prompted me to have a fleeting doubt about my purchase.

In practical terms the coat was terrific. No matter what I wore underneath, its copious down kept me warm on the coldest days, whether trudging to work over icy sidewalks or waiting for a late-night streetcar. Sure, it was eye-catching, but I liked the statement it made: “Bring it on, winter! I’m ready for ya.”

Then, walking up my street one bright winter morning I passed a boy and his mother out shovelling snow. “Mom, that man looks like a banana!” the child said. I was a couple of houses down by this point, but his voice carried as cleanly as February wind chill through a pair of cheap cotton slacks. His words cut deep because the little boy spoke the truth. I looked ridiculous.

Who among us has not made a fashion mistake or two? I have likely made more than that, but the tale of the banana coat is the worst because I should have known better. I do know better now: There are ways, I have since discovered, to avoid buyer’s remorse altogether.

“It happens to me all the time,” says Ethan Song, co-founder and creative director of Montreal-based men’s-wear brand Frank & Oak. “I get excited about things, and then I realize it’s something that doesn’t fit with my personality, or was just a trend I wanted to buy into.” Song describes the pair of pricey Nike Jordans he bought on a whim that have been gathering dust in his closet ever since. “I’m a big fan of Jordans. I wanted to buy into it, but it’s just not part of my aesthetic.”

Song advises buying things like denim, sweaters and outerwear in navy, grey or black as part of a foundation of simple basics – a heather grey merino sweater, a couple pairs of dark jeans, white oxford shirts, a topcoat – and then adding more fashion-forward pieces to the mix. “I think the recipe for most guys is maybe 70 per cent timeless and 30 per cent what’s in season.”

That was all sensible advice, but the problem now was that I didn’t trust my instincts. I had paid good money for a coat that made me look like a piece of tropical fruit. “Just look at men who are known for timeless style and get inspired by that to put together your look,” says Song, citing Bob Dylan and Steve McQueen as good examples. McQueen would never have worn the yellow parka. For more dire cases Song advises retaining the services of stylist.

“I once bought this hideous Adidas David Beckham track-suit jacket,” says Leo Petaccia, owner of Two Dudes Shopping Co., a men’s personal styling agency. Petaccia adds that this incident took place a decade before he shopped for clients professionally. “I was such an idiot, not to mention a sucker for marketing.”

Petaccia describes an awful-sounding warm-up jacket with dragon embroidery and metallic appliques. It was a valuable learning experience, he says, teaching him to see past marketing gimmicks and to consider new purchases through the lens of his overall look. “Picturing if it suits the rest of my wardrobe has paid dividends,” he says.

I was able to get through this past season by layering various sweaters, down vests and technical shells, but I know the time will come when I’ll have to head out again in search of new outerwear. The value of mistakes is what we learn from them and I’ve learned several things from this one: Think of McQueen, consider the rest of my wardrobe and, most importantly, don’t buy a parka that’s not grey, black or navy.

Also on The Globe and Mail

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(The Globe and Mail)

Courtesy: The Globe And Mail

6 comments on “Men’s fashion: Sure, I regret the banana coat, but who hasn’t made a style mistake or two?
  1. mike_from_enderby says:

    As long as you can’t get arrested for it who cares what you wear?

  2. CoalMineCanary12 says:

    My wife never lets me live down my Dijon-coloured Tommy Hilfiger khakis from 1999!

  3. SaySomething2 says:

    Nothing is worse than the new jackets that look like quilts. Going back the padded shoulders of the eighties tips the ugly scale. Worst thing on TV Hockey Night in Canada’s George Stroumboulopoul­os over tight undersized hipster suits complete with the flood pants and the goofiest poses in television.

  4. from Toronto says:

    Andrew Giggle. If you don’t try to be fashionable, you won’t commit fashion mistakes.

  5. Third Concession says:

    A couple of years ago, I bought myself a proper little-old-lady winter coat, a discreet dark blue. And was walking towards my supermarket in the supermarket parking lot at dusk, when a driver stopped at a stop sign decided to back up instead, and I was right behind the car. I shrieked and the driver braked, and I didn’t get squashed. But just as soon as I arrived home, I went onto the L.L.Bean website and bought myself a vivid grass-green shiny Michelin-man-ty­pe down-stuffed long jacket. It’s a traffic-stopper­. People stare and their jaws slacken and then they quickly look away. But nobody’s run over me yet.

  6. Luigi53 says:

    A child mocked your coat so you decided you made a mistake in buying it. Are you an adult yet? Have some confidence in yourself. Why dress to conform: So boring. So bland. I dress for myself. I wear what I like. I don’t care what anyone else thinks. In a country where most people dress like war refugees (have a look at what people are wearing on the subway) or as if they have no self respect at all, who are they to judge. In Paris people would love your coat. Live in a Paris of the mind. And the wardrobe. Those who want to be Slobbovians are welcome to it. There is only one life. Live it in technicolor!

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