There's no right style when it comes to fishing

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Picture a fisherman.

Depending on your influences, you probably either pictured a flyfisherman in hip-waders casting repeatedly into the riffles of a free-stone stream or a bass pro in a short-sleeved button-up shirt with $200 sunglasses and a boat worth more than some houses tossing obscenely-large baits to fish that have passed up more hooks than the average pop music producer.

A huge element of fishing culture centers on “the look” of the fisherman.

I love to fish.

No, I live to fish.

Yet, for some reason, I never look like I belong.

Put a rod in my hands or talk to me about fishing, and I can show that I belong, but look at how I dress, and there’s no way you’d know — even when I’m fishing.

From head to toe, I break the norms.

While I pride myself on dressing stylishly for work, I dress practically while fishing.

My typical summer fishing outfit from head to toe includes the following:

1) Hat: flat-billed if I want to wear it backwards and protect my neck, curved-bill to keep sun out of my eyes. Cost: $7-10 if purchased at Ross.

2) Sunglasses: they must be polarized, and they can’t fog up when I exert myself. Those are my two criteria. Look in the fishing section for “fishing glasses” and make sure they’re polarized.

You can spend $200 on Oakley glasses, but I wouldn’t recommend it. Cost: $12-20 at Walmart.

3) Tank-Top: also called “bro tanks,” they provide a great range of motion, prevent chafing on the shoulders from my vest, and typically dry quickly when I wet-wading. Cost: $2-5 at Old Navy.

4) Board Shorts: any brand will work, but the Hurley shorts I wear can go from soaking-wet to dry in a few minutes on a hot day. Find a pair with a little stretch to allow better range of motion when hiking or climbing. Cost: $10-50 depending on store.

5) Sunscreen: oil-free and with an SPF-rating of 15-30 to ensure I don’t burn my pale Nordic skin, but also not so powerful as to prevent me from earning a tan. Cost: $5-10.

6) Vibram Shoes: personally, I think these look ridiculous. They destroy your arches if you run in them (which is technically what they’re made for), but they make great wading shoes. The flexibility of the material allows you to grab rocks and logs with your feet apishly. They weigh only a few ounces and don’t fill up with water, making swimming easier if you fall in or choose to swim across the river. Sizing is very finicky, so try some on before you buy a pair. Cost: $70-100 online (if you can find them).

7) Fishing Vest: A vest is only as good as its zipper, so make sure to buy one that will last. If you find the right vest, the only thing you’ll need your tackle box for is storage. If you’re not a strong swimmer, definitely buy a vest with built-in flotation. Cost: $25-200 depending on how elite you want to feel. My current vest cost about $75.

This works for me.

In the cool weather of fall and spring, I layer Under Armor under my shorts and switch to a long-sleeved shirt, but everything else remains the same. Long pants just weigh you down and limit range of motion, which, in my humble opinion, doesn’t justify being a little bit warmer.

In winter, though, the gear changes a lot.

1) Beanie: I ditch the brim and opt for a warmer top. Cost: $2-7 at Old Navy.

2) Sunglasses: These don’t change with the weather. Neither does the vest.

3) Layers: Once my sweaters, sweatshirts and jackets get old, I don’t toss them; they become my fishing clothes. I usually wear a few generic Under Armor shirts and pants under a vest, sweatshirt. Cost: Variable.

4) Outerwear: This layer changes based on weather, but my default winter wear is a snowboarding jacket and pants. I don’t ski or snowboard, but the repurposed clothing does its job in temperatures down to -5° (the coldest weather I’ve fished in) when you’re breaking ice from your eyelets every cast. Cost: Variable.

5) Boots: Insulated rubber boots are great, all-purpose footwear in the winter. Wear layers of old socks underneath. Cost: $30-200. Mine were about $50.

Find your own look, but don’t wear clothes you aren’t willing to stain with your own blood or that of the fish you catch. It’s a matter of when, not if.

Fishing apparel has not yet been overtaken by the rampant disease of wanton commercialism like most other sports. Kids aren’t being shot for their wading boots like they are for their J’s, so let’s stem the tide and keep fishing about the sport, not about the outfit.

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