Personal Style: Vestis Virum Facit

Michael Satterfield The Gentleman Racer

by Michael Satterfield

"Vestis virum facit" is Latin for "clothes makes the man" is attributed to the fifteenth-century didactic poem 'Peter Idley's instructions to his son.' 

The saying "Dress for the job you want, not the job you have" by Austin Kleon has a second part which is often left off "and you have to start doing the work you want to be doing.” The same is true with life, dress for the lifestyle you want and then you have to start living the life you want to live. Obviously, you can't simply start wearing expensive clothing and high-end watches unless you have the means to, but that doesn't mean you can't define your personal style and start curating your clothing and accessories collection to reflect the look and lifestyle you hope to achieve.

It is more about the mindset than the clothing itself, like making your bed every morning sets the tone for the day, so does dressing well, it bolsters your confidence and projects your personality and values. Dressing well doesn't mean you need to be wearing a three-piece suit, it is dressing with intention and for the environment. It is about forgetting about fashion and focusing on style. Style is very personal, but here are some basic tips to help you define your style and to dress for the life you want every day.

Focus on fit not labels: 

A poor-fitting $450 Purple Label dress shirt is always going to look worse than a $39 sale rack Banana Republic dress shirt that fits properly. Focus on the feel of the fabric, the cut of garments, sleeve length, and the break of the pant more so than the name brands. Clothing that fits correctly is transformative no matter what your body type and shows that you put effort into how you look. This can be said for everything from a nice suit, to your work chinos for a retail sales job. 

Dressing appropriately: 

I have personally seen people take the "dress for the job you want" advice a little too literally, showing up dressed like a bank manager might not be the best fit for a classic car restoration shop. Just as showing up to a nice restaurant in your mechanics coveralls isn't appropriate, you shouldn't overdress in an attempt to stand out. The bulk of your wardrobe will fall into the business casual catagory for most of us, but that doesn't mean for everything. Going for a weekend drive in your sports car throw on some retro Suixtil race pants and your favorite light sweater, headed to a vineyard for wine tasting, chinos and a button-up, would be more appropriate. Unfortunately far too many guys fall into a rut and simply wear the same outfit regardless of what they are doing that day or where they are going. 

Create a capsule wardrobe: 

I have written a lot about the value of a capsule wardrobe and how it can streamline your style decisions and make your daily routine much easier. Picking a few defining colors, a great collection of basics, and a few statement pieces give you more options on how to wear the items you have. Your collection could be as simple as a few pairs of trousers, four or five shirts, a nice pair of jeans, a sports coat, three pairs f shoes, and some fun statement pieces like a classic cable knit sweater or vintage jacket. The same philosophy can be applied to streetwear, workwear, or any other personal style you choose to adopt, think about your closet as a collection.


Accessories, less is more:

Flexing is all the rage these days, but the real flex isn't quantity it is quality. Over accessorizing distracts from your clothing and may not be appropriate for all occasions. Obviously, there are items you can wear everywhere like your wedding band, class ring, or watch. You should also have a nice pen, pocket squares, appropriate belts, gloves, ties, and hats as part of your closet. I think we can all agree that there isn't a place for leather cuffs and wooden bead bracelets unless you are a YouTuber that makes pickup artist videos.

Your watch says a lot: 

The kind of watch you wear speaks to what you value and for generations has been a symbol of achievement or status. While for my grandfather and father a watch might have been a gift for a graduation or retirement, in the era of smartphones, fewer people choose to wear watches. For those that do the rise of the "fashion watch" has launched hundreds of brands producing watches at all price points, sadly many of them not worth their asking price. If you do decide that a watch is going to part of your daily style, I recommend reading as much as you can on Hodinkee before investing in a timepiece. 

While many are quick to tell you that "cheap" watches will not impress anyone, true style isn't about impressing anyone. While I have some very nice watches in my collection, one of my favorites is a quartz movement TSOVET that retailed for $229 when new. A classic field watch with a rubber strap, rugged construction, and 200-meter depth rating it seemed like a great watch for my adventures across Asia and Central America. It is special because it traveled all over the world with me, it has a story, and it is a timeless design. 

Finding a watch that reflects your style is far more important than having a Rolex on your wrist. Personally, I would avoid fast fashion watches like MVMT or Vincero, from my experience they are not well made and don't hold up over time. Look at brands like Seiko, Bulova, Citizen, and Timex that offer great value and quality and are a great place to start. Besides James Bond wore more Seiko watches than he did Rolex. 


Fair or not, men are judged on how well we maintain our possessions, from taking pride in keeping your car clean to having the perfect lawn, maintenance is often the reflection of a man. The same can be said for your clothing, shoes, and accessories. Now, much of this you can do yourself, like using shoe trees or a fabric shaver, but some of it will have to go to professionals, like having a watch serviced and cleaned correctly. Remember... what you have isn't as important as how you treat it.

Curate your life:

As your personal style is developed start looking at your home, car, and other aspects of your life and make sure they also project the same image. Do your furniture and art reflect the lifestyle you want to live? Start looking at the things you use and the stuff that is just clutter and as you replace items, buy with purpose, not just to shop or have something new.

Does your car or motorcycle reflect the lifestyle you want to live? Again it isn't about price point or brand, a classic MG or Fiat can be purchased for less than a slightly used Kia Rio and if well maintained can prove to be reliable and a far better investment. As someone who drove a classic 124, MGB, and Austin Mini Cooper as daily drivers, it can be done and is much more fun.