A few days ago I was discussing the merits or demerits of wearing trainers as a fashion item with someone on-line. I spoke of casual attires reflection in society and he said that he had a friend of similar opinion but could not fathom the viewpoint. I attempted to elaborate on the position and felt that it might be helpful to readers to understand a bit about the author. The question is posed below followed by my response.
Question: “Regarding your first paragraph, I have had this exact exchange with a friend of mine recently, who like you, believes we exist within a “too-casual societal existence.” When I press him about this, he goes on to explain that more traditional forms of dress (by traditional I mean traditional notions of propriety in fashion not necessarily in fashion itself) show respect for those around you, show “you actually care”, etc. None of those explanations resonate with me, but they come from a man whose opinion I don’t easily write off. Can you help describe this position to me?”
Answer: There are a few reasons for me I will try to explain them as best I can.
Alison Lurie in “The Language of Clothes” said:
“Long before I am near enough to talk to you on the street, in a meeting, or at a party, you announce your sex, age and class to me through what you are wearing–and very possibly give me important information (or misinformation) as to your occupation, origin, personality, opinions, tastes, sexual desires and current mood”
They say first impressions count for a significant amount of our opinions of someone and often take significant amounts of interaction to overturn. If this is true then Clothing is a vital part of how people perceive us.
I simply considered this, thought about how I would like people to see me. ( I think everyone has a fear of misrepresentation, although it is a pathological phobia in me and is responsible for my infrequent rude outbursts where I simply have to correct someone’s incorrect assumption about me). I am an intelligent man, I enjoy a good intellectual debate and a serious discussion. I cannot stand lady gaga, twilight, harry potter, glee, big brother, the only way is essex, jersey shore, desperate houswives, soaps, benefit culture, personal injury litigation, and the general shit-storm of piecemeal platitudes that people talk about when socialising.
I went to a party full of physicists and mathematicians, I mean literally there was no one in the room with an IQ of less than 120. I was discussing some interesting news regarding reactions engines Ltd pre-cooler testing with an aeronautical engineer, and a group of five others at the gathering started shouting (mildly drunk) “why do you want to be talking about that maaaan, we’re at a party!” I know that every single person at this party has had a good healthy discussion regarding an area of science that they are “passionate” about on their own, and yet the group were en-masse, accosting me for having an intelligent discussion. while this has little to do with the attire that evening, it rather obviously illustrates my point that today’s culture has driven a schism between “work” and enjoyment. This I would suggest has something to do with societies general trend to more casual out of work attire.
I left, feeling perplexed and somewhat frustrated. It was not long after this that I figured, they must not know me very well, or are too insecure to talk comfortably about things I know they all enjoy talking about. I decided that I would begin to tailor my wardrobe to more appropriately reflect the way I wish to be perceived. I want to be seen as polite and gentlemanly, smart and intelligent, attentive and punctual & not shy of a good healthy philosophical battle. So I looked for people in the public limelight, throughout modern history and my peers and picked and chose those whom I personally thought exemplified those aspirations. Knowing that how they dress would have probably been associated to that experience in my mind, that I would perceive those qualities in others dressed similarly on first meeting.
So here I am, four years later, wearing brogues, chinos, cords, tweed, nowt but a white shirt in public, cravats, waistcoats, braces, and now for the last 18 months, a moustache of the Victorian English style. My hair is a 1880-1920 military cut with a side parting aligned with the centre of the eyebrow. The wardrobe is still a work in progress as items are elusive and/or expensive, but I am not long ready to abandon my last pair of pantaloon-de-Nimes.
The difference in the way I am regarded by others is incredible. Men and women of all ages over about 30, comment on how nice it is to see a young man looking so presentable, I get P’s & Q’s and generally treated considerably nicer by everyone. Those 20 and under generally look upon me with revile, heckling me with Mario, Hither, Joey Barton or in fact any other person that they can think of with a moustache, to be fair the heckling from youths started long before the moustache. Some just burst out laughing as if I am for their entertainment. The 20-30 bracket is an even mixture of responses generally correlated with quality of upbringing and level of intellect.
But the point is, other peoples perceptions are much more in tune with who I am. I very rarely find myself talking to people I don’t end up liking, as my appearance acts as a filter and a barrier to those who might mistake me for someone “cooler”.
We all judge people as to how they look, you cannot help it. We are biological entities with instincts that tell us to gather information and rapidly assess those around us for potential threats and or mates. They say don’t judge a book by its cover but we all do, every day. By me matching my appearance to the information I want people to garner from that first glance, am I not just ensuring the book matches the cover? If I have to be pigeon holed, surely it is best if I chose the hole?
Now to your friends point. Ask yourself this, why do women wear make-up. Because they want to be perceived as beautiful yes. They want the world to see them looking their best. Why should a man not want to do the same. When I meet someone important, I would always dress more formally and be very much more polite, my parents taught me that much. But if we are all equals, should we not show similar levels of respect and courtesy to everybody? I figured that to be the case.
Casual attire for the masses and rebellious clothing came out of punk. The “MAN” wears a suit so to stick it to him I will dress as slovenly as possible. Granted that is a margin call and the vast majority just followed along with a moving centreline. Notice that the manner in which people speak to each other has followed a parallel decline. Generally contemporaries swear more, say more offensive things, are ruder to each other and generally show fellow men/women less respect than ever before in the history of the modern world.
I am courteous to everyone and I will show everyone around me the respect of dressing well, so that I may project to them that I will take what they say seriously and actually listen to the words coming out of their mouths. The care taken by women applying make-up in concentrating for a significant period of time shows a meticulousness and regard for ones own appearance. Dressing well shows that same regard, that self awareness of wanting to be seen in good light, a pride in ones appearance.
Your second point about the poor. I can only go on what I have seen. The poorer folk around my part of England are the ones that buy the most expensive Nike trainers, the most expensive tracksuits, the most expensive over-sized lumps of gold, they all have Iphones and large televisions, all in some casual pursuit of status within this overly casual sub-culture. Nike TN’s for example are £79.99 a pair and up. These are a council estate favourite.http://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/bills/article-1680660/Supermarket-suits-the-best-for-under-50.html there is a suit that is £18.99. I think with the modern ubiquitous availability of clothes of all styles there is simply no excuse for dressing poorly, unless it is a conscious decision to do so.
Finally as a bonus. The expression “clothes maketh the man” refers to a significant portion of the above, but now has a new string to it’s bow.
This study shows that those dressed like a doctor, who they perceived to be more intelligent, more attentive, actually scored higher than those wearing the exact same coat but told it belonged to a painter. If the inference is correct, and it is something that there is large amounts anecdotal evidence for. Clothing empowerment, such as people who wear specific items out to “pull” or clothes that make you feel sexy, bolder. Power dressing is often cited, so why should it not affect other parts of the psyche as demonstrated here.
If that is the case, then my initial point of trying to show others more respect and courtesy, and the fact I ascribe those qualities with certain types and styles of clothing. By wearing clothing of that style I actually become more like the person I want be perceived as. Like a beautiful self fulfilling prophecy, I dress to promote a set of values and characteristics, that in turn makes me behave more in line with those values and characteristics.
Again this is merely an attempt to explain my perspective on men’s fashion. It may or may not ring true with those reading this. Please feel free to comment below and continue this discussion. As always follow/subscribe to avoid missing the next update.