Monday, December 24, 2012

Nail Polish For Men. Hmpf.

A while back a friend of mine e-mailed me and alerted me to the existence of Alpha Nail. This is nail polish that's designed specifically for men, whatever the hell that means. Apparently it's officially a thing for guys now, and he asked me to respond in the form of a blog post.

I'll admit that I absolutely hate their marketing technique. The vibe of the website is the same you get from Axe Body Spray and Maxim magazine, which is to say that consuming their product means you're a bad ass who wins fights, parties "like a rock star," gets laid 365 days a year by 365 different women (except for Leap Year, of course), and sees himself as an alpha male who has no reason to give a damn about what anyone thinks of him because he's so, you know, alpha.

This kind of advertising turns me off because I feel like it appeals to stereotypes of straight guys as being macho and sex-obsessed. I will never buy these products or recommend them to anyone as a result of this, but there's an interesting gender-role question going on here that should be addressed.

Nail polish is traditionally a woman's thing, and Alpha Nail knows this; they go so far as to mention that their applicators aren't "dainty" like the ones used by women. While the idea of a guy wearing nail polish seems ridiculous, they make a decent case for it by mentioning that some UFC fighters wear it, and I am certainly not going to call a UFC fighter out on wearing nail polish. In fact, I'm not going to call out a UFC fighter on much of anything because I value my physical well-being. Also, Dave Navarro wears nail polish, and he happens to be one my favorite guitar players ever. Seriously, listen to the solo in "Been Caught Stealing" by Jane's Addiction and tell me that it isn't amazing. It starts right at the two-minute mark.

My gut reaction is, "This is maybe the most ridiculous, tacky, Jersey Shore-inspired abomination ever," but why do I feel that way? There's an interesting theme in gender role reversals: when women do masculine things, it's acceptable and sometimes even sexy. The classic example is a woman in an over-sized white dress shirt, loosely knotted necktie, and little else. Hot, right? But when a man enters the realm of the feminine -especially with anything related to cosmetics and grooming- we view it negatively as effete and/or see it as a symptom of the gay gene.

So women acting like men is fine, but men acting like women isn't? We've come a long way in terms of gender equality, but this is a more subliminal case of femininity being viewed as less desirable than masculinity. Homosexuality, while rightfully gaining more and more mainstream acceptance, is often perceived as worse than being a woman. To prove my point, compare how often we see lesbian sex scenes in movies and TV versus how often we see gay men having sex. I can think of the movie Milk and HBO's The Wire, but that's it. It's sad, but it's still too taboo for mainstream consumption.

Parodoxically, Alpha Nail is breaking down gender barriers ("Guys can wear nail polish too!") while simultaneously reinforcing them ("We don't make you use those dainty little women's nail polish applicators so that way you maintain your alpha male badassery!"). And while I hate to admit it, they've forced me to do some introspection on how I really feel about those gender roles, and it seems that I need further enlightenment. Thankfully, self-improvement isn't impossible.

Some advice: at the very least, don't wear this stuff to an average job interview.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

I Seem To Have A Troll


I guess it was bound to happen at some point; I've been putting myself out on the Interwebs for a long time now, and I finally got trolled in the comments for Primarily Colorful. I won't reprint the three-comment-long exchange here because this person posted comments that were incredibly racist towards black people, but you can click on the link above if you'd like to see it. Most notably, this commenter, who actually gave his name in a rare act of Internet bravery (is "Anonymous" Anglo-Saxon in origin? Perhaps Latin-based? Help me out here, etymologists.), used the word "schwartze," the German word for "black" that was absorbed into Yiddish as a derogatory term for black people.

Though I shouldn't have gotten pissed off over someone who is such a gaping asshole that he/she spends his/her time spewing abuse anonymously on the Internet, this upset me greatly for a couple of reasons.

First, I find racism abhorrent. This is not to say that I fancy myself colorblind; I, like everyone else in the world whether or not they'd like to admit it, see skin color and notice it. Like everyone who is not a complete jackass, I try to heed Dr. Martin Luther King and judge people by the content of their character, not the color of their skin. My parents taught me that "there's good and bad in everyone." I get exceptionally angry when hearing about racism and once bit a co-worker's head off years ago after this person referred to a difficult customer as a "black bitch." So when I saw a racist comment on my blog (after I was politely told to commit suicide for using the word "jawn"), I got angry.

Second, this commenter used some Yiddish terminology that I described above. I don't know if this person is Jewish, knows I'm Jewish, or inferred that I was Jewish because I used the word "oy," but the word "schwartze" as it's used in Yiddish is incredibly embarrassing to me. As a Jew, I strongly believe that Jews who succumb to racism -towards anyone, not just blacks- need to re-read our people's history and think about all the times we've been discriminated against, literally to the point of near-extermination. If after that you still can't see the role-reversal, you are pathetically ignorant.

In response to this, I am now managing any comments on my blog. I don't care of someone disagrees with me (see the shitstorm that happened two years ago), but I do care about my little slice of the Internet being a civil forum for discussion and refuse to let it be a place where any anonymous dickhole can spew racism and get away with it. Let's keep it classy, and thanks to anyone who's commented in a positive and/or constructive way since I started writing.

Shoe Basics

I got a reader question the other day, which I edited slightly for clarity:

"How do you go about choosing shoes? I've realized I don't really have much taste in shoes but am well aware as to how important they are in completing an outfit. Any tips in terms of what's good, what's not and how to choose stuff out? My usual move is to just bring a lady friend to come shopping with me and pick stuff out, but I figure I might as well pick your brain and see what you have to say.
And another thing, I live in a city and am constantly walking. As such, my shoes get dirtied and scuffed up fairly quickly. As a result, I don't really like to spend much money on my shoes (a.k.a less than $100). ENLIGHTEN ME, please."

This is a great question, and you're right when you say that shoes are very important in completing an outfit. I'll assume you're talking about dress or dress-casual shoes, meaning ones with a leather sole and heel, or some combination of leather and rubber. I need to start it off by gently nudging you away from the practice of buying cheap shoes because you're a city dweller and they get beaten up. I live in a big, walkable city too and am very familiar with the havoc that walking on pavement can wreak on your footwear. The way you deal with this is not to buy cheap shoes and wear them into the ground, but rather to spend more money on nicer ones and actively take care of them. Doing so will make them last longer and therefore be cheaper in the long run. Another way to make shoes last longer is to own a few pairs and not wear the same ones two days in a row. Less wear means longer wear.

"Actively take care of them" means to polish them regularly (once every two weeks or so if they're your only pair), keep cedar shoe trees in them when they're not on your feet (this will wick away moisture and keep the uppers looking and feeling nice), and get them re-soled/re-heeled as often as necessary. It's much better to spend $60 or $70 every year or two to get new soles on an amazing pair of comfortable shoes as opposed to spend $100 on new shoes that have to be broken in all over again. Additionally, better made shoes (which will inevitably be more expensive) are better for your feet, meaning that they're better for your legs, meaning that they're better for your back.

Just for a point of reference, we're talking about "good" dress shoes when we get up to the $200 range, but that's at full retail price for many Cole Haans, Kenneth Coles, and brands offering similar quality. These brands also have outlet stores and nearly incessant promos in stores and online, so you can generally avoid paying full price and get something that's closer to what you're comfortable spending. No matter how you slice it, save up for the good stuff and your feet will thank you for it.

With that out of the way, what makes for a "good" shoe? If we're talking about dress shoes, then you need something with a leather sole and heel. The heel and sole can have some rubber on them for traction if you like, but make sure that the rubber isn't visible when looking at the shoe from the side:

I prefer shoes with a tapered (not pointy) toe, as I feel they elongate my short frame and just look a bit more elegant. Tall thin men, on the other hand, can wear rounded-toe shoes to great effect because they obviously don't need any help looking taller. Avoid fully square-toed shoes like the plague.

For a short list of shoes I think every guy should own, check out this previous post. Obviously keep your wardrobe in mind when selecting your first few pairs, and pick out shoes that go with most of the items you already own. Maximum utility is key here.

Finally, if we're talking about sneakers, I see no reason to spend a lot of money. I know there's a whole sneaker-collecting culture out there in which folks will spend hundreds of dollars on limited-edition Nikes or Jordans, and I never understood it. In fact, if any readers are sneaker-heads, I'd love to hear your thoughts on the collectible sneaker thing. Regardless, I say that if you wear sneakers with, say, cool jeans and a fitted track jacket, make sure that they're slim, streamlined ones. Athletic sneakers are good for athletics and that's it.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Again, I'm An Internet Sensation

Today I was featured in's Philly section with my suggestions for last-minute gift-shopping. Check it out:

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Primarily Colorful

Oh, the good intentions I had. Had I not come down with a cold that turned me into a useless, sniffling idiot, I would have posted this entry last week. Can't win 'em all, I guess.

Anyway, it dawned on me after wearing it for a couple of hours that my outfit was based on only neutrals (grey, brown, and white) and primary colors (red and blue). I felt like a million bucks in it, so I figured I'd do some attention-seeking on the Internet under the guise of giving sartorial advice.

To be fair, it's a bit of both. But like any decent peacock, I do love to show off. Thanks for humoring me.

This picture is crap, but it at least serves to capture the simplicity of the color scheme. For starters, the jacket is one of my made-to-measure jawns from work. The color isn't depicted accurately here, so trust me when I tell you that it's actually a shade of blue -"cadet" blue, according to the fabric swatch- a bit lighter than navy. It's gorgeous and functions well as a blue odd jacket too, which you'll see later.

The shirt is a simple blue check on a white background, and the tie is one of my most patriotic: a red, white and blue repp stripe. The pocket square (scored for all of $8 at a Nordstrom Rack) is a light blue with playful white polka dots.

In addition to the smooth pattern mixing (note the large scale/small scale tie/shirt combo, grounded by the solid jacket), this combination is harmonious because of the color story. There's a different blue in each piece, and throwing red in there means that we're now working with primary colors, which generally play nicely together. If the background of the pocket square had been yellow instead of blue, I'd have gotten all three colors in one ensemble and hopefully have won a prize.

Never one to sleep on his hosiery game, I figured I'd get a little seasonal with some fairisle socks. While they provide a stark contrast with the light grey pants and brown monkstraps surrounding them, they work with the outfit because the red with blue accents tie back directly to, well, the tie. And there's grey in there, kind of. Right?

I always feel mega-awkward taking iPhone pictures of myself in a mirror, and it translates to the blank look on my face (which is actually just me trying to not look stupid). For completeness, though, I wanted to give you an idea of how the whole ensemble worked together. I finished it off with the beautiful vintage tie bar my girlfriend bought me and the one pair of suspenders I own (light tan with dark tan leather button holders), but the point is that a simple color scheme with well-fitting clothes is a winner every time.

Also, stripes+checks+dots+fairisle= I mixed four patterns. This isn't Fred Astaire skill we're talking about here, but I'd like to get there one day.