Sunday, April 08, 2007

Jesus on the dashboard

For a long time I've bemoaned the lack of variety in men's fashion. Whilst ladies are open to the possibilities of a thousand variations of garments, men find themselves restricted to a narrow range of shirts that either do up or do not (shirts and t-shirts as they are better known), and trousers made from different material of different lengths. And that's it.
The shirts can be made from different materials, they may be cut in slightly different ways, they may have long or short sleeves (or none, turning them into a 'vest'), but they're all shirts. Trousers are trousers, shorts are short trousers and jeans are trousers made from denim.
The different names for women's tops do actually refer to different clothes - a strapless top is not simply a variation on a blouse, and a dress is not a joined-up skirt and top.

This dearth of options has always led me to err on the typically male attitude to clothes shopping-it was a chore to be endured as quickly as possible, opting for larger sizes that can be held with belts to avoid the hassle of actually trying them on. I was lucky in that my culture of choice was that of the 'metaller', meaning baggy or oversized trousers were generally accepted and not a sign of laziness but of taste. These added to a band t-shirt meant getting up in the morning was an activity to which Americans would refer to as a 'no-brainer'.

Whilst this made dressing easy, it didn't prevent my yearning for real difference in my choices, and so my expression came about in other areas - from the age of about 14 I grew my hair long, so for a time I experimented with different types and numbers of pony tail, pig tails and also hair dying, at one time having as many as four colours in my hair at once.
It all ended at Uni when my hair became unmanageable to the point of anarchy, and I shaved it all off. I never had the chance to grow it back again because I started going bald shortly after, and started a mighty goatee instead.

For the last nine years I worked a job where I could wear what I wore outside work, so I did, but just recently my new workplace comes attached with the rule of having to scale up a few levels of classiness, to that of trousers, shoes and shirt, and has led me once again into the quandary of male fashion.
That, and the fact I had the misfortune to visit Oxford Street's Topman on Friday.

The horrors within, dozen upon dozen of preening male halfwits in hideous diamond jumpers with haircuts that would have resulted in mass suicides five years ago. In a pique of desperation the minds behind Topman have clubbed together to concoct methods of persuading young men to buy clothes more often than the cloth actually wears out. Like women do.
Their answer this 'season' is to have people think that it's a must to dress like colourblind golfers.
It's all very well to have fashion houses go for the straight male's wallet, but you'd think that in the jump from offering the purely functional they might try something other than t-shirts with different designs and jeans the same as all the other jeans, only with built-in stains?
It prompts a cry of why bother? And more to the point why do people buy into it? Because they're idiots, that's why.

Look at these. Only idiots would buy these! Idiots I say! Info here at FHM, who along with the other mags like Arena, GQ and Maxim etc. will attempt to tell you what hellish clobber is "in" alongside the celebrity boob pics.
In case further clarification for 'idiots' is needed, exhibit B:

Link to GQ's "Let's look at the catwalk" mind-melt

There was a time when men wore robes, capes, ruffled shirts and permed wigs, pantaloons, buckled shoes, jerkins and thigh-high boots, but now the norm is the trouser and shirt variation on a theme. I blame the Victorians, with their regimentation of everyday life forcing people to confirm to proscribed moral guidelines. As women fought for their freedom, their fashion changed alongside the suffragette movement and led to the sartorial bounty on offer today. But men were free to begin with and their social change has been slight - the focus of life has slipped a little in the last century and a half from work towards a life with more leisure time, and fashion movements have followed suit, or rather left the suit. Haha.
But the basis of the suit-type is still there - even the most slovenly chav wears a variation on the suit, albeit a 'sweat-suit'.

Of course it's not just me noticing this situation, indeed there is a whole website dedicated to broadening men's fashion horizons, or at least trying to get them to wear skirts. Which I think defeats the point really, as you're not bringing much new to the table but instead are just borrowing from what's already out there. But you can see where they're going, the skirt already has a precedent in the kilt so it's not too out there for most men's minds.
If you are into skirts for men, here is a treasure trove. I'm not really into the skirt thing, shorts are bad enough. Men's legs are best left unseen.

Men's fashion - it's either simple or it's a mess.


  1. I sometimes wish that it could be like it was back in the 40s and 50s. Before the hippies and the beatniks and the pinkos and the commies ruined everything, damn their aethiest hides. When everybody - all males between the ages of 15 and 100 - wore suits. All the time. Or if you weren't wearing a suit you wore pants, a jacket, a shirt and tie, which looked like a suit even though it didn't exactly match. If it was a particularly hot day, you wore a waistcoat without a jacket. If you went abroad, you wore a safari suit or maybe just a shirt, without a tie.

    Everybody wore hats, all the time. In extremely cold weather, you wore a trenchcoat. But suits - everybody looks good in a suit. They are designed to make men look good, and they do the job well.

    Do men like choice? From what I've read, men are generally sartorially lazy. Most men find a look or a combination they like in their 20s and stick with it - with minute adjustments and alterations - for the rest of their lives. They don't want to bother thinking about it. Wheareas women go on adjusting to trends etc as they age.

    The only time I really cared about clothes in my life was in my early 20s, when I was single and I went out to pubs and clubs quite a lot. I also had enough disposable income to spend money on clothes, I was fit and healthy, and I wanted to look good. Since then, I haven't really cared. I am the profile of that sartorially lazy male. I know what I like - what I think works for me - and I wear it over and over.

  2. This is unexpected. I have a weird idea of you and clothes. You seem to resent them. Out of the three of us you either make the most effort to look untidy, or you make no effort to look sharp.

    But you chose things that get a raised eyebrow from me, and maybe I'm not alone. Purple Combats? Bold. I wouldn't. Cyberdog-style anorak-material-trousers and trainers with oversized soles? You pave the way. I did metal for years, but I was more conventional in my choices - hoody, black cords or tan combats, black tee. More recently I'm become a lot more generic - the shirt and trousers I've tried on before I buy, to get a complimentary fit, and it's usually a retro-tee or a medium-sized band tee-shirt underneath. I never ventured as far as you into the Camden future fashions as you. But I reckon I buy more clothes more often than you. I think you're happy with 1997.

    So you do go against the grain, and wear things that don't neccesarily look right on you, despite your gripes. You just don't wear the trendy strange. You wear your own strange.

    And with your work. I'm guessing you are bound to a formal standard or at the very least a smart casual with hardly any emphasis on casual. But rather than sort yourself out with a suit, and dress to kill, you go with this round neck jumper and massive trousers thing. You sell yourself short in that, dude. There are some more classic, but still stylish avenues you can tread for the office. The flatmate said you looked good in the wedding photos.

    And get some trousers in your size, man.

  3. The remaining Irish community here harks back to those days. As they congregate on the steps on the high street clutching their plastic cider bottles each and every one of them is in a suit.

    So you think that the fashion options reflect the typical male's reluctance to choose?


    It's not that I'm happy with '97, it's more that there is nothing else on offer of worth besides the staple suit.

    I don't wear massive trousers to work, I got them in my size! I can't get them any smaller or they'll not do up. I do have a suit for work, but the dry-cleaning element is impractical and costly. And I had the jumpers for winter. I don't like v-necks.

    I'll have to get one of them there machine-washable suits.
    I don't beleive that there are "classic but stylish avenues for the office", there is one avenue and that is a well-fitted suit.

  4. See, I've had the joy of working in informal, smart-casual offices. I don't have to wear school shoes. But I can make the effort and look tidy in a new, clean, understated shortsleeved shirt, tan slacks and a jacket. Or go for tee shirt and hoody and jeans. Just make sure that the ensemble looks more GQ than NUTS. This is an avenue I can take that doesn't mean suit every day, but doesn't mean I have to look like a scruff either. I can hopefully show I have some style.

    All my ties but one are vintage, or second hand. And that one was a gift, for a function. Even in a suit, I want to show off a little.

    The flatmate sometimes asked after I'd stepped out with you guys in a new shirt or jacket if you two had said anything about my duds. I told her we never remark on each others clothes. Not that there's a rule. Just none of us speak about it. The only time I really said anything was when I wanted us to look smart on David's stag night, and you ignored me anyway.

    But here we are.

    You'd look better in a v-neck.

  5. I used to be forced to shirt and tie it up in my last job. It was horrible. I look like an escaped gorilla in disguise when I try and dress smart.

    There were about four ties on rotation, completely oblivious to the colour shirt I was wearing. I had two pairs of trousers, and shoes that looked orthapedic.

    My current job does nothing but expose the limitations in my current wardrobe.

    I'd be all for the everyone wears suits again idea if it wouldn't make me look like Mr Toad.

    I'd love a hat though, but thats a Millers Crossing thing.

    Maybe as a society we've drained all possibility for functional clothing, so everything is just slightly modified and rotated. It's all just tubes of cloth in the end anyway isn't it?