Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Grow A Pair

In the January 2011 issue of GQ, Glenn O'Brien fielded a question about from a salesman about men needing their wive's or girlfriend's approval before making any clothing purchase whatsoever. I won't get into Mr. O'Brien's response (which was excellent), but I can say that I've seen this scenario approximately eighteen bazillion times, one of which was last week. Two things were clear about this couple: that they were linked romantically and that he had absolutely no say in which coat he would or wouldn't buy. It went something like this:

Woman: Are these all your men's coats?
Salesperson: Yes, but we have more sizes in the back. (speaking to both, but making eye contact with the man) What were you looking for?
Man: (Totally silent, looks over at wife/girlfriend)
Woman: Blah blah blah blah...

I write "blah blah blah blah" not to belittle the woman, but to emphasize that the important point here is that the man in this interaction was so clueless and helpless that he came off as pathetic and completely whipped. She may very well have actually been carrying his testicles in her purse. This man, a grown man, appeared to be mentally healthy and reasonably successful. How in the hell does he not know how to pick out his own damned coat? Asking for your girl's opinion is totally reasonable, but having her pick out all your clothes is a completely different thing altogether. It sets you on a path where the next logical step is to have her cut up your food into bite-sized pieces and wipe the snot from your nose. Being able to dress yourself is a life skill, like balancing a checkbook or making a doctor's appointment. It's reasonable to assume that this man could do these things; why not buy clothes?

Many guys simply don't care. Men in this country are raised to be not at all concerned with how they're dressed, and while the pendulum is swinging towards dressing decently (for now), it's still safe to say that many men are afraid that any aesthetic sensibility with regards to their appearance will make them "look gay."

This point of view is offensive on many levels, as it associates dressing well exclusively with homosexuality and homosexuality with inherent wrongness and shame. Dressing well knows no sexual orientation or preference, and there's nothing inherently wrong with homosexuality. Some gay men dress well, some dress poorly. The same can be said about straight men, bisexual men, asexual men, and whatever other sexual orientations that anthropologists might otherwise chastise me for omitting.

Maybe this couple was happy with this arrangement. Maybe they're doing an unorthodox social sub/dom thing. Maybe he's a pushover and she's a control freak. Maybe they hate that he doesn't know what an appropriate winter coat is, or maybe he's so afraid to appear gay as to defer all sartorial decisions to his girlfriend. Whatever the explanation, I think it's much better to have an ignorant person perceive you as gay for dressing like a man (God dammit) than to be dressed and treated like a pathetic, helpless little boy who's still caught up in mommy's apron strings.


  1. AMEN. Although sometimes I wish my guy would branch out a little bit more, he absolutely has a point of view when it comes to his clothes, which I respect. And even if I think his leather jacket gives him the appearance of a mafia hitman, well, at least he'd never be caught dead outside wearing sweatpants.

  2. For sure, I've seen a lot of guys at my school still get their Mommy's to buy them dress clothes or otherwise their girlfriends. Several clubs at my school somewhat enforce a once-a-week business attire type environment, and it certainly turns the pendulum in the right direction as it seems, since many of those more hideous and disrespectful looks seem to be fading- or at least in my school of nearing 5,000 students.

  3. @Jessica: I applaud your guy for not being apathetic when it comes to what he wears. (Almost) any opinion is better than none at all.

    @Andy: It's good that some of you school's clubs do that, but it's also important to remember that guys in their late teens/early twenties are still building wardrobes and need time to accumulate the goods. on the other hand, I knew a guy in college who wore pleated corduroy pants and I did everything I could to help. You owe it to your buddies to do the same!


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