I guarantee that a considerable number of people read the title of this article and thought ‘What? Style? A post about fashion on a site supposed to be talking about danger and adventure? What is this bullshit?’ Bear with me.
Opinion on what exactly constitutes ‘adventure style’ is highly divided. A lot of people would argue that adventure travel has absolutely nothing to do with how you dress. Others have done the opposite, and dress to identify themselves as travellers or adventurers through the clothing they wear. They have tried to define an ‘adventure fashion’ that displays how worldly, well-travelled and adventurous a person is.
Many other people would suggest that the most important factor for the 21st Century Adventurer would be pure practicality and convenience for a life of extreme travel. These people would perhaps expect a hardened adventurer to wear North Face, Karrimor and other travel branded clothing. Practical clothing for practical people. The problem is that this is only a tiny aspect of the adventure lifestyle in the 21st Century.
Too many people assume that ‘adventure’ equals outdoor extreme sports and sponsored expeditions through the wilderness. They hear ‘adventure style’ and imagine someone kitted out in all the latest, high-tech travel gear, prepared for any eventuality with their wind-proof, weatherproof, triple-thermal underwear.
I disagree with both of these views. There is no such thing as ‘adventure style”.
If you Google ‘adventure style’, this is what comes up.
Are you fucking kidding me? Calvin Klein shorts and an Armani blazer? Fuck you. That is not what adventure is about.
Adventure style is not about brands, whether they be Calvin Klein or Karrimor. For me, that is the exact opposite of the true adventurer’s style. Society has forced upon us the wrong idea about what exactly adventure consists of.
Adventure in the 21st Century is not about just climbing up mountains or trekking through jungles. Yet nor is adventure about wearing clothing that is branded as being ‘for active men who like adventure’.
Real adventure cannot be branded, cannot be advertised, cannot be packaged and cannot be sold. Adventure is tough, dangerous and exhilarating. It is about doing what most people fear to do. More than anything else, adventure is about experiencing the fast life, with danger, gambling, excitement and risk.
Adventure can be walking into the dingy bar at 2am, wearing jeans, boots and a weathered leather jacket, lighting up a smoke and seducing the sultry brunette leading against the counter, then escaping with her into the night before her mobster boyfriend notices that she is gone.
Adventure can mean sitting around a hookah pipe in a Middle-Eastern bazaar, wearing a white thobe and headdress not only to protect yourself from the scorching desert sun but in order to blend in with the masses of people around you and not draw unwanted attention to yourself.
Adventure can mean sitting back looking like a million-dollars in a tailored suit, smoking a cigar in the Havana Club café, your arms around two beautiful latinas whilst watching Buena Vista Social Club play live on the stage.
Adventure can be climbing down a waterfall in the jungle, at dusk, in nothing but a pair of shorts and a seven-year old backpack.
Adventure is about experiencing the real world. Not the comfortable, predictable, sterile, pre-packaged, health and safety certified, regulated and organised world of the masses. Not the protective bubble of the coddled western world. No, we are talking about the world out there beyond those horizons. The real places in this world. So what we are really talking about here, is dangerous style. Real style.
There is only one site on the internet that provides real, accurate style advice for men. Tanner from Masculine-Style wrote a very interesting series in which he attempts to outline three categories of masculine style, divided into Rugged, Rakish and Refined. Of the three, I’d say that the ‘Rakish’ man is the closest thing to the adventurer mindset and attitude towards life. He describes ‘The Rake’ as being:
“a man who is socially masculine. He influences individual people to his will by means of his attitude, his charisma, and his disdain for following the rules of society and being beholden to another man. While he is capable of using direct elements to accomplish his goals, he lives largely in a subtle world and is always thinking two or three steps ahead of the people around him. He is constantly adapting to new situations and thrives in his ability to do so. He is the playboy, the rock star, the outlaw, and the vigilante. […] He has no concern for money, nature, or other men unless they hamper or improve his ability to travel where he wants, bed whom he wants, or experience what he wants.”
Tanner highlights what he believes to be the key aspects to ‘Rakish fashion’, writing;
Learn to wear jewelry. You don’t have to adorn yourself with stacked bracelets, multiple necklaces, and a ring on each finger, but embracing jewelry and the masculinity it expresses in non-Western cultures will make you appear well-travelled, slightly rebellious, and nebulously masculine.
Show some skin. Ditch all of your crewneck T’s for deep V-necks and henleys. I normally advocate leaving two buttons undone on button-up shirts but Rakes can get away with three or more.
Repair instead of replacing old and worn out clothing. Clothing scars are almost as interesting and compelling as those on your skin. They will imply stories of adventures and conquests that other people will want you to tell them.
As a whole, his style advice is spot-on. If your average guy follows his advice, he will without a doubt improve his appearance and appear more stylish. If he were to follow the above advice on how to dress in the ‘Rakish’ style, he might indeed appear more adventurous, rebellious and masculine.
However, note my emphasis on the word appear. It’s just an illusion. A smoke-screen. You cannot fake real style. That is the key point that Tanner misses, the same point that the entire fashion industry misses on a massive scale.
Even the most perfectly designed outfit means jack shit if the person wearing it is not really able to wear it. As in, really wear it. Own it. Make it theirs.
See, here’s the crux of it: clothes alone cannot grant a man true style.
Take any of those examples given in Tanner’s article. Would an outlaw or an international playboy give two fucks about the brand of clothing that he wears? Branding is not important. The clothes themselves are not important. The man who wears the clothes is.
Your attitude defines your style. A true adventurer could make a white shirt and jeans look dangerous and exciting just as much as he could a custom-tailored suit. The man makes the clothes, the clothes do not make the man.
And that’s the hard part. You have to make that man. You need edge. You need a past. You need scars, you need stories, and your clothes will be part of those stories. Or perhaps I should say, your stories become part of your clothes.
This isn’t something you can buy in a store, nor something that you can order from a glossy fashion magazine. There are no short-cuts. There is no quick-route to real style. Real style comes from living a real life, a life that writes its stories on you.