How To Transition From East Coast To West Coast Style

If you’re moving from the east to the West Coast, you’re doing more than making a geographical move into a different time zone, you’re also making a cultural shift; many of the fashions that made you look like a celebrity back home will not work quite as well in your new stomping grounds.

While many of the things you enjoyed as a hip entrepreneur back home – the partying at exclusive nightclubs, driving luxury cars, and enjoying the finer things in life – won’t change, the West Coast version of dapper lifestyle will be uncomfortably different at first until you get used to it.

You will have to get a more casual wardrobe, and just keep your East Coast wear for when you go back to visit. Your goal now is to seamlessly achieve a laid-back professional blend and style. You can still retain a few elements that would work well in both worlds, like a Hex Tie, but you may have to change other things completely, like give up cashmere sweaters and starched shirts.

How To Transition From East Coast To West Coast Style

Fluctuating Scenarios

While you’re still working with professional corporate executives, you’re now working in Malibu and Venice, where young professional men like you like to surf before getting to the office in board shorts. Since you will probably also be part of the L.A. Hollywood crowd, it can be a little confusing going from surfer dude to corporate wear. One way to loosen up is to wear V-neck sweaters, jeans, Petite New Standard A.P.C. denims (black rather than blue), and Penny Loafers. If you’re not familiar with Penny Loafers, here’s a brief description from the Gentleman’s Gazette about why they are still quite the status symbols:

“In 1936 (some sources put the date as 1934), the G.H.Bass shoe company introduced its version of the loafer, and the company is known for it to this day. Their design included a distinctive strip of leather (the saddle) of the shoe with a diamond-shaped cut-out.”

How To Transition From East Coast To West Coast Style

No Rhyme or Reason

The West Coast style is not intuitive. If you’re a buttoned-up, sartorial easterner, you’ll be looking for logic, reason, and patterns for the right look. You’re used to preppy combos—oxford shirts with brogues, but in California, this would be classified as stiff and formal. The main thing you want to avoid is the subtle color coordination that you’ve been accustomed to for a long time. This will not work in your new environment. You are going to come across people wearing neon, and you will look far too overdressed with your subdued colors.

Since you won’t get far by using observation—as things are far too eclectic to come up with a uniform pattern to things, you should either get the help of a colleague to help you choose the right clothes, or if necessary, do a Google search to get some inspiration. The biggest danger you face is going to the other extreme…getting too casual, wearing graphic T-shirts and faded denim, under the impression that dressing casually is all about regressing to youthful standards. Your denim jacket, distressed jeans and blue sneakers will make you look like you have no idea how to dress well.

How To Transition From East Coast To West Coast Style

3 Helpful Pointers

So, how do you draw the line between formal and informal, casual and too casual?

It’s really an attitude thing. Here are some pointers:

  1. Choose an independent look that shows you have a sense of personal style. Seek a blend of your past and present closet selections. For instance, layering is fine, but you can retire your sweaters.
  2. Tees and camouflage prints work well, but roll your jeans up a few more times. While you can still wear dress shoes, boots are definitely overkill. When going casual, wear huaraches rather than dock shoes.
  3. Be patient. Cultural adjustments take time. The essentials of men’s fashion on the West Coast will slowly begin to make more sense.


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