We have a uniform, yes this is true. There are a few rules and there are also suggestions, guidelines, good ideas and bad ideas. There are walls and barriers when it comes to our style. They aren't too close, not too tight but they do exist. There is also a fair amount of territory within the walls. There is room to breathe, room to roam. There is room for personal style. It is certainly possible to allow your personality, taste and general spirit to come through. It may be impossible to keep it from coming through. Someone's personal style may not be clear based on simply one outfit. When it comes to only one day, one fit, forming an idea-image of someone's personal style within our style world isn't so possible or accurate. In our style world, one's personal style tends to become clear and understandable only over multiple outfits, many days.
This is the case partly due to the walls that do exist. Our style is not too restrictive, but it is also not total anarchy. We all do operate in a shared territory. For this reason more often than not, one's style comes through in subtle ways rather than obvious ways. A more clear image appears over the sum of many different outfits. It is subtle. It is a language. It is delicate and nuanced. This is something more mature than the extreme whiplash and entirely repulsive "fashion" we are subjected to viewing on a daily basis.
Something that happens often is men allow themselves to become so possessed by a host of secondary trivial motivations that they end up putting on a false costume rather than manifesting a true personal style which is authentically true to themselves. Whether it is outfits that are too busy, outfits that are too flashy, or a sort of materialistic want to "show off", many men who are "into clothes" fall prey to these tendencies. When you suffer under these tendencies you end up not dressing as something which is authentic to who you are, your station in life, your lifestyle and who you want to be, but rather you simply end up dressing as a mish-mash of someone else being pulled in 100 schizophrenic directions.
How to understand, develop and hone your personal style is a large discussion and one which ultimately depends on each individual. It is a personal discussion, it is specific and each man is different. A general solution for all is not possible ultimately. For the general, there are guiding lights and reminders which I think help us stay focused in the right direction and not led off to somewhere we clearly do not belong.
I could write 1000s of words on my own personal style but if I was to try to boil it down as much as possible I would boil it down to being a style characterized most by simplicity, sustainability, everyman-ism. Compared to many men, I tend to dress on the more simplistic side. My approach day in, day out is sustainable - not in the green energy way, but in the maintainable over long periods of time way. The outfits I wear are outfits I will be able to wear in 5, 10, 20, 30 years and they will all still look appropriate. I aim for a steady style which is possible to maintain in most any scenario or circumstance of life and it is a style which is achievable by the overwhelming majority of modern men - this is the everyman-ism. It doesn't feel like I created my own personal style, it feels rather more like I went through a process of discovering it, developing it and bringing it to a place of honed understanding. In a way it feels like allowing what pre-exists as natural to myself to manifest and come to the face within the style territory.
The problem of unnatural styles and illogical aesthetic approaches is not new. I will close with a quote from Degeneration by Max Nordau. This book was written in 1895, my personal edition from which I took this quote is from 1913.
"The common feature in all these male specimens is that they do not express their real idiosyncrasies, but try to present something that they are not. They are not content to show their natural figure, nor even to supplement it by legitimate accessories, in harmony with the type to which they approximate, but they seek to model themselves after some artistic pattern which has no affinity with their own nature, or is even antithetical to it. Nor do they for the most part limit themselves to one pattern, but copy several at once, which jar one with another . Thus we get heads set on shoulders not belonging to them, costumes the elements of which are as disconnected as though they belonged to a dream, colors that seem to have been matched in the dark. The impression is that of a masked festival, where all are in disguises, and with heads too in character. There are several occasions, such as the varnishing day at the Paris Champs de Mars salon, or the opening of the Exhibition of the Royal Academy in London, where this impression is so weirdly intensified, that one seems to be moving amongst dummies patched together at haphazard, in a mythical mortuary, from fragments of bodies, heads, trunks, limbs, just as they came to hand, and which the designer, in heedless pell-mell, clothed at random in the garments of all epochs and countries. Every single figure strives visibly by some singularity in outline, set, cut, or color, to startle attention violently, and imperiously to detain it. Each one wishes to create a strong nervous excitement, no matter where agreeably or disagreeably. The fixed idea is to produce an effect at any price."