While most of the fashion in Utah is focused on women's clothing and designs, there's still a hefty niche of men looking for something new in their own style. --- And while there are a few shops in town that can help them out, the percentage of local websites and blogs focused on men's fashion pales in comparison to those dedicated to purses alone.
One of the local few sites making headway in men's fashion is Masculine Style, a blog dedicated to the latest trends coming through, while also offering advice on style and giving a philosophy and services on how to dress properly for any given occasion. Today, I chat with the blog's founder, Tanner Guzy, about the site and the work he's doing for local men's style. (All pictures courtesy of Masculine Style.)
Gavin: Hey, Tanner. First thing, tell us a little bit about yourself.
Tanner: Born in American Fork and grew up in Sandy. Married, with a daughter and a son on the way. I work for Beckett and Robb -- whom you've featured recently -- and write about men's style.
Gavin: What first got you interested in personal fashion growing up?
Tanner: I wasn't all that interested in it growing up. In junior high and high school I was much more concerned with not looking like a preppy kid and ensuring that I had on T-shirts with the right logos from BMX companies or my favorite punk bands. Obviously, I was still image conscious, but it was more about being part of the counter-culture than being involved with style or fashion.
Gavin: What would you say was the catalyst that made you switch things up and start looking more toward menswear and suits?
Tanner: My hobby with men's style didn't get started until I was in my mid 20s. My brother had an issue of GQ on him one day and I was hooked after seeing how cool all the suits looked. I served an LDS mission and remember being incredibly irritated at how poorly all my suits fit. I remember dragging my mom around to every suit shop in the state, trying to find something that even resembled a slim fit. This was 2003, so there was no way it was possible to find something like that in Utah. I couldn't even find a tailor who was willing to do it for me. So, after seeing that issue of GQ and learning what potential a suit had, I got a subscription and my interest continued to expand from there.
Gavin: What was it about wearing a suit for you that made you feel more comfortable compared to traditional comfortable clothing?
Tanner: Part of it is the fact that I've worn one almost every day for 10 years. I'm as at home in a suit as most guys are in a T-shirt and cargo shorts. That being said, there's a level of social power and respect that comes with wearing a well-fitting suit. Both men and women respond to me differently when I'm in a suit than when I'm in jeans and a T. For a man who's trying to make his mark in the world, there's really no excuse to not use such an effective tool.
Gavin: How did you get involved with fashion maintenance and helping men find out what they like?
Tanner: I got my degree from the University of Utah in broadcast journalism. My original goal was to go into political talk radio. I've always been an opinionated person, and a big part of building myself up to that point was cutting my teeth in the media world through blogging. I wrote for and contributed to a number of different political blogs for a couple of years. The downside to that world is how frustrating, depressing and tiresome it can all be. A little over two years ago, I wanted to step back from it all. The writing bug was still there, though, so I decided to write about something more lighthearted and enjoyable. Masculine Style was originally intended as a release, and it's become far more successful than any previous venture.
Gavin: What was it like for you learning the secrets behind the industry and finding ways to make men look good?
Tanner: It was fun for me. I'm the type of man who likes to understand things. I ask "why" almost as often as a stereotypical 3-year-old girl. I like it when the world makes sense, and I try to facilitate that as much as possible. As I started to learn more about suits and other aspects of men's clothing, it was only natural that I dive in deeper to things like the history, science and philosophy that goes into dressing well. Most men would be surprised to learn that men's clothing has a rich history that spans all time and cultures, a logical and easily understandable science, and a deep philosophy that incorporates things like masculinity, group dynamics and laws of power.
Gavin: How did the idea come about to start Masculine Style, and why a blog format rather than a formal website?
Tanner: Blogging was what I knew. It was also free and much easier. The blogging aspect of Masculine Style has always taken precedent over the consultation side. That balance may shift in the future, but it started as a blog and then developed into a business -- not the other way around.
Gavin: What was it like for you starting it and posting content on a regular basis?
Tanner: The first two months were really easy. I had a whole bank of topics I'd never addressed and it was fun to be writing about something I enjoyed. As time went on, though, it became easier and easier to skip days or weeks worth of posts. As my readership grew, I knew I'd have to stop treating it like a hobby and start treating it like a business if I really wanted to see it go somewhere.
Gavin: What was the reaction like from people when you first started, and how frequently did you start receiving questions?
Tanner: The hard thing about getting traction with any blog is finding readers. I had a few friends or family who were as interested in the topic as I was, and there is an extremely large and active community of men who write about men's style. I wanted to stand out from the basic "how to"-type bloggers and decided to approach the topic from a different angle. Most of the bloggers in the menswear world take for granted the fact that their readers want to dress well. Obviously, they're writing to their audience, but what's the incentive for a man who doesn't dress well to learn how to do so? What is it that makes a well-dressed man? How is clothing used to express aspects of masculinity, and how does that differ from the idea of just following trends or being fashionable? Why were our grandparents' generation so much better dressed, while still being seen as so much more manly than we are today? Questions like these are fun for me to think about and they've really resonated with my readers. I don't write for the guy who already sees dressing well as a hobby. I write for the guy who wants to improve every aspect of his life, and my goal is to teach him how dressing well can help him do that.
Gavin: How do you go about deciding what you're going to cover, and how do you approach each topic?
Tanner: When I write about how to wear a specific piece of clothing or the origination of a particular style, or the science behind colors, I'm really just elaborating on something I've learned for myself and benefited from. I read a lot of other sites and books and will pull ideas from other men who know more than I do. When I do more philosophical posts, it's because I've had an idea or a question buzzing around in my head for a while. A lot of the time, I'm developing the philosophy as I write it down. Eventually, I go back and flesh out my ideas more and try to back them up with research, but a lot of what I write about is just a vocalization of my own forays into the world of men's clothing.
Gavin: You've been running the blog for more than two years now. What have you learned in that time, and what have you personally done to improve both your content and writing style?
Tanner: I've developed a lot of sympathy for bloggers who choose to abandon style-oriented posts in the name of fashion. Style is timeless and fashion is ever-changing; this mercurial nature of fashion makes it much easier to write about. A blogger will never run out of content, ideas or people if he chooses to focus on the latest shows, designers and pop-ups. Those few authors who can keep a continual focus on style are the real guys worth reading. They know their stuff and they write in a way that communicates that. I've also learned that there are a lot of guys out there who really just don't even know where or why to start. We're a rare generation in that many of us weren't raised by well-dressed dads who wanted to pass on that tradition. The Baby Boomers see their lack of dressing up as an indicator of success -- it means they've climbed high enough up the ladder that they no longer have to wear the corporate uniform to impress anyone. What they've lost, though, is the inherent self respect and composure that comes from dressing up a notch or two. Most Gen X and Gen Y men may know when to wear a suit, but they have no idea what makes the difference between an appropriate suit and a great one.
Gavin: Part of the website offers several consultations. What made you decide to start offering those, and what services do you provide?
Tanner: As my traffic grew, I started getting more and more personalized request: "How do I know how wide my lapels should be?" "Are these pants too long on me?" "My girlfriend says I should avoid wearing red but I can't figure out why." The more questions I got, the more similar they were. I realized pretty quickly that there was a market to provide a service to men who were wanting to improve their style but didn't know where to start. My consultations are broken down into a few different categories. The Basic Consultation is one in which I provide a reader with his Style Profile. I have him submit basic information, like his height, weight, skin tone, hair color, eye color, etc. From there, I'm able to give him all of the details necessary to ensure he dresses to his build, coloring and contrast type in the best way possible. Then, I expand into helping men select different pieces of clothing. My Online, Event, and In-Person Consultations are all pretty self-explanatory. I can work with men for specific events, like weddings, graduations, holiday parties, etc. For my clients who are out-of-state, I'll use online-shopping resources to help them find the clothes that work best within their Style Profile and their budget. For guys in the area who want to do an In-Person consultation, we'll spend a few hours at the mall, local shops and custom houses, finding the best items and ensuring they fit the way they're supposed to. It's kind of like Ryan Reynolds taking Steve Carrel out shopping in Crazy Stupid Love.
Gavin: Are there any plans to change things or expand, or are you comfortable with how the blog has progressed to this point?
Tanner: No real plans to change anything up. Beckett & Robb is a full-time gig for me, and being a family man means not much of my time away from work is my own anymore. If I had an extra 40 hours in the week, I could really expand into all sorts of new venues with Masculine Style. For now, I'm content to just make needed improvements with my writing, site design, traffic, consultation reach and overall image. I'm more interested in growing at a natural pace than trying to become the next big thing.
Gavin: Going local, what's your take on the fashion scene, both good and bad?
Tanner: Salt Lake City is growing up in a lot of ways. We're a whole different town than we were five years ago, and we're even more different than we were 10 years ago. I see more and more stylish men downtown every day. Their clothes are fitting better, they're wearing more flattering colors, and they're even getting bolder with things like patterns and loud colors. We're certainly not at the level of a city like New York or San Francisco, but it's really cool to see our town come into her own.
Gavin: What are some things you believe could be done to make it more prominent?
Tanner: The biggest thing I can think of is changing the whole mentality that goes into men dressing better. That's already happening, but there are still too many guys who see dressing well as gay, metr, or a waste of time. They conflate their aesthetic apathy with effortlessness and think that claiming to not care about how they look is an expression of their masculinity. If I could convince guys that their appearance matters to both the men and women they interact with each day, there'd be an overnight improvement in the way all of us dress.
Gavin: Who are some local designers you believe people should be checking out?
Tanner: Beckett & Robb for custom suits. Koben for selvedge denim. Zuriick for shoes. Stock & Barrel for leather goods, and Declan for pocket squares. I'm always happy to learn about new clothing start-ups in Utah, though, so I'm sure there are plenty of great shops that I just haven't heard of yet.
Gavin: On the male fashion end of things, what do you believe Utah needs to do to break from the the box-store suits?
Tanner: Utah needs to learn that there is a world of difference between dressing appropriately and dressing well. Mr. Mac can sell a guy a dark suit and it will be appropriate for a job interview, church meetings or a day at the office, but that's all it will ever be. Big-box suits are the style equivalent of Chili's, elevator music and hotel art. If a man wants to really make an impression he needs to learn that there's as much difference between a well-made, well-designed custom suit and one from Men's Warehouse as there is between a Ferrari and a minivan.
Gavin: What's your take on the fashion events in town and the work they do to promote local designers?
Tanner: I'm not too involved in them, actually. I'd be happy to do more with it, but, again, my focus is more on style than fashion.
Gavin: What can we expect from both yourself and Masculine Style over the rest of the year and going into next?
Tanner: I'm in the process of a new site layout -- something that will keep the minimalism of the existing look but allow for for content and better navigation. I've also received quite a few requests to write a book about the relationship between masculinity and style, so that's in the works, too.
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