The Wall Street Journal recently ran an article titled “Why are male celebrities dressing like such slobs?” The article triggered an onslaught on chest-thumping and righteous indignation from the “I just want to be comfortable and I don’t care” crowd who, for the most part, wish to continue to dress like little boys. Seriously, is it that hard to man up and put on a shirt with a collar?
“The Chinese have a wonderful saying,” said Beverly Solomon, former model and executive for Diane von Furstenberg, Revlon and Ralph Lauren and who operates an international art and design firm near Austin. “To be a tiger, you must first look like a tiger. Frankly, too many men dress like slobs because, well, they are slobs.”
It’s not just celebrities though, the bigger question is why do men in general dress like slobs – or, on a more hopeful note, is this trend towards fashion de-evolution turning a corner and men finally starting to pay attention to how they look?
The Wall Street Journal article may be selling us guys short. According to Dave Bowder, men’s style and confidence consultant who blogs at Irreverent Gent, “The WSJ article was right to note that some male celebrities are dressing like slobs, but it completely neglected to mention the myriad stars who are frequently snapped wearing dapper outfits, even on their downtime. Stars like Ryan Gosling, Ryan Reynolds, Bradley Cooper, Chris Pine, Justin Theroux, David Beckham, Idris Elba and more are taking the time to make sure they look like modern gentlemen, even when they’re not on the red carpet.”
Here in the Midwest though, one of the strangest phenomena I’ve witnessed is the bizarre pairing of a well-dressed woman with a stylish dress and nice shoes, designer handbag and well-thought-out accessories and cosmetics. She’s sitting across the table at a restaurant with her date, who is wearing a wrinkled Lynyrd Skynyrd tee-shirt with the sleeves cut off, a pair of jeans that don’t fit right, and some dirty tennis shoes. He’s wearing a ten-dollar watch with a plastic band, cologne from the dollar store, and white gym socks. He has on a baseball cap with the logo of a local industrial supply store, which he leaves on the entire time.
Do women really want a man who “just wants to be comfortable and doesn’t care what anyone thinks?” Not really. Going on a date wearing basketball shorts and a sleeveless mesh shirt with your man boobs showing? Trust me, there will be no second date.
An often-unspoken reason behind the men’s fashion de-evolution is the fear of being perceived as gay. I don’t know when American men started thinking that if you put on a collared shirt with a jacket and a nice pair of pants it means you’re a homosexual, but it needs to stop. Now.
Chart-topping recording artist Ricky Rebel had a few things to say about it, saying, “I think American men have this hangup, especially the ones who are conservative, about looking gay. I think they’re afraid of looking gay. But at the end of the day, people should put that to rest. Why? Because women love men that know fashion and know how to dress themselves. They will throw their bodies on you when you have a little bit of style and flair.”
Abraham Zherebilov, of men’s style and fashion accessory brand Luxedore, says that while their more formal clothing and accessories have been less successful, sales for more trending and contemporary clothing have increased significantly. Men’s fashion, rather than a full-on de-evolution, may be reaching some sort of happy equilibrium, where men don’t have to wear a suit and tie to look sharp, but on the other hand, can still be casual and stylish at the same time. “To start, the men’s fashion industry has been creating higher-end luxury t-shirts,” said Zherebilov. “This in turn made it somewhat acceptable to wear t-shirts, and not just t-shirts, but other clothing that is generally not accepted as formal wear such as sneakers, shorts and hoodies. I believe that men do not try to look like ‘slobs’ intentionally. Rather, the clothing that is commonly worn today does not conform to the standards of formal and acceptable wear in previous years.”
“It’s very unlikely we’re going to see men go back to wearing suits and hats to work daily as they did in the 1950s and prior,” said Kevin Darné, author of My Cat Won’t Bark! (A Relationship Epiphany). “One can only hope we’ll eventually see the end of both women and men wearing pajama bottoms to the grocery store!”
Dan Blacharski is editor-in-chief of TheVivant.com.