Christopher Senekki shares his views on modern fashion and mental health

Mental health has become an increasingly topical concern in contemporary society, and there’s no denying that the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has brought it the forefront once again. How a person views themselves can have a significant long-term influence on their self-esteem, confidence and overall mental health. Indeed, this is why fashion has such a crucial role to play in encouraging positive mental health outcomes.

Christopher Senkki understands this fact about modern fashion better than most, having been an ardent follower of contemporary and traditional male fashion styles. More importantly, with a particular focus on gentleman’s style, Christopher Senekki believes that uplifting fashion standards can be the gateway into improving male confidence, acceptance and self-esteem.

Christopher was inspired by the fashion efforts of Tom Ford, whom he considers as a massive innovator in the field after he moved from Gucci as their lead designer. Indeed, Christopher remarks:

‘A turning point for me in the gentleman’s fashion direction was in 2006 when Tom Ford launched his own label after leaving Gucci as their lead designer.  His men’s collections reinvigorated the timeless qualities of the traditional gentleman’s fashion style and exposed it to the world again.’

Before Ford sought to revitalise the industry, Christopher admits to being let down by the same repetitive and monotonous fashion trends that dominated the ‘80s and ‘90s. More specifically, Christopher says:

‘The ’80s and ’90s were awful decades in terms of styling, and the only real gentleman’s fashion we were exposed to came through Bond movies and specific TV series such as The Saint.’

Every person gets involved in the world of fashion for a different reason. Some people love it; others have a keen eye for styles and trends. A tiny number of people have both. In terms of what fascinates him the most about modern fashion, Christopher says:

‘Gentleman’s fashion comes with a feeling which surpasses what our senses can see or touch.  It carries an etiquette.  You can say you behave like a gentleman, you act like a gentleman, but when you see someone wearing a dapper gentleman’s suit, a timeless double-breasted navy pinstripe, for example, you unconsciously feel a particular class or elegance when in their presence. It fascinates me that by looking the part, you can create the urge to be a full embodiment of a gentleman and that this simple transformation is accessible to all.’

Because of his love for the industry and his desire to see improvements in the industry, Christopher has become a passionate and robust ambassador for men’s mental health. In his eyes, the fashion world plays a critical role in redefining male stereotypes. More importantly, Christopher’s own experiences and struggles with mental health have played a significant role in his goals. He reflects that:

‘As an individual, I experienced many highs and lows with my family, my work and my relationships.  Sometimes all my lows came crashing down on me, which was very overwhelming and stressful.  I lost confidence and developed social anxiety, both of which led me into a deeper self-isolation.’

However, he soon found solace, knowing that others were going through what he was going through:

‘Upon research and trying to find solutions or remedies to my condition, I discovered that millions of men around the world suffer similarly.  Additionally, I understood, through reading actual accounts from men suffering from depression and social anxiety, that lack of confidence and belief in themselves was a primary culprit.’

However, Christopher maintains that therapy remains the best solution for all mental concerns. While a person’s fashion sense and clothing can help them express themselves, define their identity and feel confident in themselves, there is no replacement for therapy. Indeed, Christopher reminds his followers that:

‘Therapy is, of course, always recommended for anyone suffering from depression, and some specialists will, through support and guidance, provide a recovery plan.  Part of the process requires the man to express and expose to the therapist, his fears, discomforts, most profound thoughts, etc., as a means of release.  Often, therapists will then apply various forms of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy or Neuro-Linguistic Programming to reconfigure mental patterns. This will eventually lead to a more positive mindset via habits/actions which will improve a man’s ability to overcome his mental blocks.’

So, where does fashion fit in? Well, a lot of men refuse to use therapy services because of how it would appear to their friends. In many cultures, seeking professional help is still harmfully described as a weak move. However, Christopher believes fashion can help diminish this harmful stigma, suggesting:

‘Utilizing fashion and style as a means of expression can be a powerful means to boost confidence and assist men in rediscovering themselves.  Having experienced this first hand, I have since become more passionate about gentleman’s fashion and its impact on men’s mental health.’

Ultimately, changing the current stigma and enhancing social awareness of mental health is Christopher’s primary goal. It’s an incredibly important initiative as well, as echoed in his own words:

Male suicide rates are twice as much as those of women, and whilst the rates are declining on a global scale, in some countries, such as the United Kingdom, we are again seeing an increase in male suicides.  Of course, fashion is not a remedy to such crucial matters, but it can be a preventive measure and a disruptive force in terms of how men view themselves. The style and its consequential etiquette can provide positive and yet powerful mental affirmations, which can alleviate depression and increase self-esteem.’

Indeed, he believes that a big part of the problem is the creation of the “alpha” male stereotype, which he believes has had a pejorative impact on male mental health. Regarding this topic, Christopher argues:

‘I believe that this term came to pass to provide security to the insecure men that they are dominant leaders of some sought.  Ironically, the characterisation of the “alpha” male, in my understanding, has contributed to male mental health issues. In other words, men shouldn’t show emotion; men shouldn’t express their feelings; men must always provide and must deal with their challenges alone, etc. The term “Alpha” male has a much deeper connotation and stems from the leader of a pack, one who is not alone.’

However, Christopher knows that this view and social norm can be changed through fashion and ongoing support. Having said this, he recognises the need for there to be widespread change in the industry and is calling on well-known voices to propel these changes:

‘I would encourage those with significant influence in the fashion industry to increase their efforts to connect fashion design with lifestyle.  Garments portray a lot more than their final appearance, and I think it would be great if brands and designers could express this more effectively in the future. Also, I can only hope that larger labels with significant exposure will join the efforts being made to create awareness for men’s mental health around the world.’

So, what does the future hold for Christopher? Well, his main goal is to build social awareness of mental health issues, especially in young men and collaborate with designers and influencers in supporting this initiative. In his own words:

There are plans in place to collaborate with other fashion influencers to support men’s health, and I plan to publish more statistics on how much impact the current initiatives have already had on followers of our main Instagram page.  The critical challenge for me, as always, is finding the time to do more outside of my professional work environment, however, with the increasing support from similar-minded individuals, we’ll be able to do a lot more.’

Samantha Rigby
Samantha Rigby
Samantha is the head of content, lifestyle and entrepreneurial columnist for Best in Australia. She is also a contributor to Forbes and SH. Prior to joining the Best in Au, she was a reporter and business journalist for local newspapers.
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