We want fraternity to be bold, memorable, exciting and significant, but we also believe that we need not lose the quirks and traditions that make fraternity fun.
In a post not too long ago, I mentioned that fraternities may have been the gears beneath some, many or every movement in America (read here). Toward the end of that article it is mentioned that hipsters ripped their love for powerful pants from our clutches.
Due to our desire to compete with hipsters at every turn (the hipster/fraternity hybrid is likely the most advanced species in the world), we began to overcompensate in our efforts to peacock. For those of you who don’t know:
-Fraternity Man Dictionary
It is imperative that we recapture this lost art form from the hipsters who have tainted it with their indifference toward society. It is equally urgent that we scold with authority those within our ranks who dress like clowns in the name of fraternity and sorority.
First, a little background:
I was a first year student at Stetson University, coming off of a successful high school run during which I wore nothing but pajama pants. Seriously, ask my friends; I only wore pajama pants.
– Something I assume others said of me in high school
In preparing for college I had gathered the strength to make a few style-oriented purchases: some chinos, some polos, some shorts and my interpretation of “dress shoes” at the time.
A fraternity brother of mine was the epitome of peacock fashion. He always impressed, kept his hair impeccable, and maintained a “I’m cooler than my outfit” vibe throughout college. I soon fell to the attractiveness of the golden fleece (Brooks Brothers) and their powerful, bright, short shorts. It was a new era, one where I’d be known for color, not for pajamas.
Eventually the lust for attention got to me. During my first year as a recruiter on Delta Sigma Phi’s staff I was a hearty advocate for peacocking and bow ties. I mixed and matched so obnoxiously that I resembled the collage on a 16 year-old’s bedroom door. Most of those I worked with and most of the students I recruited recognized my uncanny ability to wear clothes that would embarrass almost anyone else.
The issue? I was not cooler than my clothes and therefore not fit to consider this art a lifestyle; I was a fashion terrorist, adding ridiculousness to an otherwise orderly world.
The higher I climbed into the world of kaleidoscopes, the more dangerous my wake-up call became.
I was in to my second year of staff and started to get annoyed. I am the ultimate cat, and being showered with attention as the guy who peacocks was getting on my nerves in much the same way a cat only likes to be pet when it likes to be pet.
Slowly but surely I started to notice how peacocky everyone was around me. It became some sort of sick competition to see who could wear the most ridiculous clothes to work.
Could I have brought this inferno upon myself? A hole of pity opened in my heart any time a student, even a well-dressed student, commented that I in some way affected their sense of style. I promised a world of glorious fashion, but offered a sad world in which I competed with the sun for attention.
It had to stop. . . at least for a year or two.
I gave up on peacocking. The art so carefully introduced into my closet obtained a mind of its own and infested every conversation and interaction. I could feel the judgement weighing upon me; this wasn’t fun anymore.
The time I took was well spent to study the distinction between fashion and style. The former is fresh and exciting, but short lived. The latter is consistent and smooth; it lasts through generations. Any fashion decisions moving forward would need to incorporate a pinch of fashion into an otherwise style-driven, classic and consistent wardrobe.
I now pass to ye who reads this 5 Rules of Peacocking so that you may be bold, memorable, exciting and significant. Most importantly, you may be all of these things without secretly being an embarrassment to yourself.
Rule 1: Choose a Palette Before You Buy
The issue with having shirts and pants in every color and none of them in the same color is that your options for matching clothes get absurd after one or two outfits. Red pants with a yellow shirt, or vice versa, is always ketchup and mustard and never peacocking.
Pick 3-4 colors and stick to those colors. Earth-tones (browns, greys, and other things the color of earth) do not count; they work with almost anything. This is simply a way to define a personal brand. Remember: 3-4 colors, not 1-2 and not 5-6
Most of us can tell a drink is from Starbucks when we see a green straw or spill guard. If you think it isn’t truly peacocky to limit the colors of clothes that you buy then stop reading this post; you are a lost cause.
Peacocks aren’t a random assortment of the rainbow, they are gold, blue, purple and green. You may get a few pieces that fight the norm for special occasions, but maintain the impression that you have a palette at all costs.
Bonus: Those moments in which you do break, even slightly, from your palette are even more impressive when people are used to seeing you in a certain set of colors.
Rule 2: Mind The Rules of the Road
Ugly sweaters are made for ugly sweater parties, which happen during winter-holiday months. Anyone who throws an ugly sweater party in June is Canadian or American but confused. You should never lose your peacocking spirit, but dial down the brightness during the winter months.
Bright Colors, White, Seersucker, Cotton Ties – You’ll be good from Easter until the first day of fall.
Dark Colors, Corduroy, Knitted Ties – Fall and Winter
Do these follow the exact fashion rules? No, but you’ll be in line with everyone else and it’s easy to remember.
Limit your shine during the fall or winter months. Rely on textures, patterns and accessories to peacock.
ALERT ALERT ALERT: When in Florida wear whatever you want. No one goes to Florida to be judged, they go to get away from something.
Rule 3: Don’t Over-Pattern, Think Texture Too.
There’s a theme here; I’m pushing for modesty with a dash of boldness. It makes zero sense to “match” a bright pair of shoes, plaid golfing pants, a belt with boats on it, a madras shirt and a striped bow-tie into an outfit.
Textures are a neat way to peacock without looking like traffic cone. A pair of navy corduroy pants, for example, provide stability to a patterned shirt while peacocking in its own right. Trading in stripes for stripes in seersucker makes you look less like an ice cream man and more like someone formally dressed to enjoy the beach.
Consider patterns that require a close-up. Herringbone patterns make brown, black and grey special and are not off-putting from afar when matched with a more visible pattern.
In summary: rather than matching two visually stimulating items, combine one visually stimulating item with one item of a unique texture or grain if you simply cannot revert to solid colored shirts, chinos, skirts and jackets.
Rule 4: Light Shines Brighter at Night: Contrast
Remember in 1st Grade when you were given watercolor paint and experimented with the idea of a super color by mixing all of the colors together? It became brown didn’t it?
Although your clothes wont blend together into an unsightly brown jumpsuit, wearing too many colors and too much in color is ill-advised. The outfit in my photo posted above wasn’t necessarily a catastrophe in matching as much as it was paying too little attention to contrast.
Darkening the clothes around your centerpiece (or lightening with a solid white or pale yellow) will allow them to stand out. Think of a tuxedo: the black jacket and black tie are made more visible by the white shirt between them.
Want to master the art of contrast? Be sure to hang out near someone who is also peacocking, but in the wrong way. You’ll look measured and even more charming by comparison.
Rule 5: Surprise With Subtlety
It is only one item that needs to be noticed. By limiting your overall wardrobe, dressing correctly for the time of year, navigating pattern jungles and matching powerful colors with duller accent colors, you happen upon the fifth and final rule: subtlety gets noticed.
Odd as that may sound, the way to memorably stand out is to consistently fashion yourself with one stand-out item. Muting your suit and shirt allow your bow-tie to make an impact. It is the small dog on the belt or the bright pocket square that will earn you praise, not, “Well, you certainly stand out.”
A peacock is always beautiful; it’s that brief flash of magnificence that has given it its reputation. Allow yourself to be known for a moment of magnificence, anything more will be overkill. People should leave your presence wanting more, not thinking they’ve had enough.
Don’t make the same mistakes that I made. Being bold does not mean eschewing caution. If anything, it requires that you pay far more attention to the impression you’d like to leave and the methods you take to get there.
Disclaimer: It was only by pulling away from my peacocking that I was able to see my failures. I’m too scared now to consider myself a peacock; it’s been ruined for me, but there is still hope for many of you. Any quote from this post that sound remotely cool were inspired by Robert Greene, an author on our reading list.