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.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Dress to Incept

Since I'd been out drinking on both New Year's Eve Eve and New Year's Eve, I decided that it was a good idea to fall back last night and maybe not give myself a mild case of alcohol poisoning. I rented Inception, which basically kicks your mind in the apricots and then forces it to be engaged at a high level for two and a half hours. The movie is incredible, though, so it's worth it. Just be sure to detox with something reliably funny afterward; YouTubing Louis C.K. standup routines worked for me.

I would like to point out that just about every male actor in the movie was particularly well-dressed. I mean, we're talking Ocean's Eleven well-dressed. Suits were perfectly cut and color-coordinated, shirtsleeves and collars were so exacting in their standards that they had to be custom-made, and even sportswear was the epitome of what casual elegance should be: relaxed, but not at all sloppy or slouchy. On this last point, Mr. DiCaprio performed particularly well. A round of applause for you.

The real prizes, however, have to go out to Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Cillian Murphy, and Ken Watanabe. These three look dapper as hell and fully understand what it is to wear a suit, not allow it to wear you. The pictures above barely do any of them justice. If you watch the movie, note Watanabe's pocket square/tie coordination. Pay attention to Gordon-Levitt's high shirt collars and the elegant authority that his three-piece suits (broken up or not) imply.

Finally, just watch Murphy. Literally every detail of his suit is correct; he's showing the proper amount of shirt cuff, his suspenders (yes, suspenders) are subtle and not tacky, his double-breasted jacket is side-vented and is tailored with the kind of precision that you can only get from custom clothing. The details shine most when Murphy is in motion; you can see how everything literally flows together to form a whole that's truly greater than the sum of its parts.

Just watch the dimples in those ties, gentlemen. You slipped a couple of times there.