I get a lot of playful jabs at the office and other places because I like to wear suits. “There’s Benj in his fancy suits again. Benj, do you spend all of your money on fancy suits?” The funny thing about this is that I became attracted to style as a young man because I did not have to have money to be stylish. Similar to sports, I saw it as a great equalizer of people. Style is energy, swagger, imagination, creativity, and effort. And those traits do not cost a dime. Basically, I don’t care how much money you have, you can’t buy style. You can hire a stylist. You can buy expensive clothes. But you can’t buy style. And coming from a middle-class, rural upbringing, that was very attractive to me. I have been surrounded by all different levels of the economic spectrum in my life, and it intrigues me so much that there can be folks with limited resources who are super stylish, and people with all of the money in the world, and no style or taste. It’s like that movie The Italian Job where Ed Norton steals all of the gold, moves to LA, and spends it on items that all of his ex-friends wanted. Money coming out his eyeballs, yet no imagination. No creativity. No style.
To build my current wardrobe, I do have some high-end pieces, but also plenty of just regular and bargain items. For me, you have to put some money into certain things such as shoes and suits. I do not skimp there. However, I have no issue with most of my casual items being rather basic and inexpensive. My personal vice is accessories such as ties, jewelry, pocket squares, hats, and watches. I like them high quality, and I like that they each have a story to tell. My featured outfit last week was rather pricey. However, my outfit this week is super affordable. I love the shirt, and it cost $12.99 at H&M. And to me, neither outfit is any better than the other. Good style does not have a price tag, and I have found the best way to keep it interesting is to have a good mix of high and low-end items. In the past 3 months, I have gotten as excited to shop at the Marshalls on Rea Road in Charlotte as I did on Rodeo Drive in LA. The pieces I got in LA are super high quality, have a great story, but are rather expensive. The items from Marshalls are lower quality, no story really, but look great and didn’t cost a fortune. I like to maintain this high-low mix because it helps me adapt to people across so many walks of life. If I need to be at Quail Hollow for an event, I can feel comfortable and interact easily there. If I need to head to my hometown of Wingate, I can fit right in. It’s like I said last week about watching David Beckham and how he can adapt to any situation. I can do the Ritz all day, but I also love Taco Bell.
Every week, one of my goals of this blog is to have something not just about men’s style, but that will also make you think. Since we are talking about money today, I thought I’d give my two cents (no pun intended) to possibly spark some thought. Money, to me, is simply freedom to be who you really are and do what you really want. Not status. Not anything else. I have been so lucky in my life and career to be surrounded by people who view money differently, and who have been willing to share these viewpoints with me. It has helped me shape my opinion, and here is basically how I look at it. After the bills are paid, I have four options for the extra money: Save it. Spend it on things. Spend it on experiences. Give it. I am most happy in my life when those four buckets are balanced. It’s no different than work-life balance except we are talking about money. I’ve seen people save a ton, but forget to experience life. I’ve seen people spend ‘til they were blue in the face, yet couldn’t sleep at night because they had nothing saved. I have no desire to tell anyone what to do with their hard-earned money, nor do I know what is important to you. However, if you have never thought about this, it is an interesting exercise. As a simple example, if I have $100 left over each month, I would save $25, maybe buy a new shirt for $25, put $25 away for a trip, and give $25 to The Humane Society. Keeps me very balanced.
My challenge this week is twofold. There are so many aspects of style that cost nothing. Smile more. Stand a little taller. Make eye contact. It costs $0. Try it. However, for those things that you want to do that do have a price tag, maybe the thought process above will help you get a little closer to doing those things that are important to you.
Have a great week.-Benj