Via Put this On comes this waaaay-inside baseball men's fashion blogging discussion at Park & Bond about whether men are dressing for themselves or dressing for women or dressing for other fashion bloggers.
Here's my pet hypothesis about men's style blogs: guys do it to get thanks and congrats from someone, anyone.
Hear me out: if you're schlubby 35 year old guy that wears t-shirts and cargo shorts, and you suddenly go out and buy $150 shirts that fit right and look nice and you start wearing tailored pants and smart shoes, barely anyone will notice. You might get some jeers from coworkers at suddenly becoming a dandy and/or your significant other might say you are looking nice, but for the most part, deciding to dress like a grownup doesn't result in much of any instant gratification, because HELLO: 35 YEAR OLD MEN ARE SUPPOSED TO LOOK LIKE ADULTS NOT TEENAGED SLOBS.
It's kind of demoralizing at first, because if you make a huge change in your life and you think you are looking better, you expect instant results and a night/day difference, but the changes are more subtle and take months to even notice. Strangers will respect what you say more, people in restaurants and shops will treat you better, and yes, possibly people will flirt with you a bit when they never did before. But it's not an overnight sea change, and might be too subtle for most guys given the expense and effort that goes into ironing your shirts every day and picking the right things each morning.
Guys in the US don't have a good culture of supporting each other or being comfortable in general with telling each other they look nice, so men's style blogs (at least the ones I've browsed) that show lots of photos of a headless guy wearing "today's look" and are filled with positive back-slapping comments serve a definite purpose: reassuring dudes that they are making the right choice, they look great, and yes, we noticed you are wearing those special french-made striped socks that you can only buy online.
I got a kick out of your recent post about “deciding to dress like a grownup”. I recently made the same decision after years of t-shirts and jeans. After spend a couple excruciating days shopping at the mall I expected people to notice/say something. I got nothing. But at least I look like an adult (most of the time) now.
This is true for women too, but the expectation to look nice or stylish or whatever is maybe more aggressive. I love hoodies and jeans and t-shirts, which is great right now because I’m going back to college where that works, but not great for anything social or professional. Today I put on mascara and curled my hair, and wore an attractive shirt. I got whistled at and a lot more visual attention! Talk about instant results. Still, dressing up requires a lot more time even for simple tasks like light hair and makeup changes. Ugh.
Dressing up for status is nothing new. This goes back to before there was even such a thing as the United States.
What is new is the idea of dressing down as a status symbol. Geeks, for one example, often dress down not only to be comfortable but because also to signal that they posses skills (and income) that belie their ordinary appearance. People also often dress down because they are the most powerful people in an organization. CEOs often forgo Oxford shirts and slacks for T-shirts and jeans.
Some people look great in well-fitting T-shirts and jeans. Some people look like shit in a tailored three-piece suit.
I’m glad you’ve hit your sartorial stride in button-downs and slacks, but writing off an entire segment of people as “teenaged slobs” seems uncharacteristically narrow-minded coming from you.
Screw you, Haughey! I’m 37! Get your facts straight!
Johnnie, I never mentioned anything about “status” and didn’t mean to imply that everyone should instantly “dress up” and beware of social structure at their work.
If I’m going to be accused of being “narrow-minded” about something, about the only thing I’ll cop to is that I wish geeks spent just a little more effort into dressing themselves. That could mean sticking with t-shirts and shorts/jeans and just making a slightly better effort at getting shirts and pants that fit correctly.
My main point is for the American Geek Male, if you put zero effort into dressing yourself like I did for many years, you’ll end up in the cheapest clothing Old Navy sells, which is likely to be Cargo Shorts. For shirts, I would wear whatever free thing I got at a conference or whatever hilarious joke shirt I bought on Threadless.
Free shirts and joke shirts are often printed on cheap t-shirts that fit like garbage bags. If I want other geeks to take any message from anything I wrote here, its that you don’t have to change your wardrobe overnight, just think a little bit about what you are wearing. Find t-shirts that are the correct size and are flattering on your body type. For me, that means only wearing a slim-cut tshirt from American Apparel or the equivalents, and when I’m at a conference and someone offers me a free dot-com tshirt, if it’s a Hanes Beefy T I pass on it because I know the shoulders fall in the wrong place, the body of the shirt is too big, and the fabric is rough.
I’m not suddenly some style maven or claim to be, I just wear a collared shirt whenever I can and I think a bit about the pants or shorts (yes, I still wear them, but they’re not from Old Navy and don’t have superfluous pockets any more), and the shoes I wear.
That’s all I’m asking for here from geeks, is to put more than zero effort into how they dress. That doesn’t mean CEOs should wear custom tailored suits and geeks shouldn’t or vice versa, but that I’ve found my life has improved a little bit by just spending a tiny bit of effort into dressing myself.
Matt, check out the Trunk Club. “Hand selected outfits sent to your door.” For the up and coming guy, me thinks. http://www.trunkclub.com/
$150 for a shirt?! There are no words.
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