Fashion Statement: Doll Clothing for Men

I have never considered myself a clothes horse. Not even close. Frankly, I couldn’t care less about fashion and/or being fashionable (I mean, c’mon – I wear “Dad jeans,” LOL!) I blame that on a lot of things – a less-than-affluent childhood (I wore a lot of hand-me-downs from my cousin Eddie), a lifetime plagued by poor body/self image, a genetically-predestined “sturdy, big-boned” frame (I am of German descent – we are a solid stock) and, quite honestly, just a lack of interest in men’s fashion. I tend to think most men’s fashion is a bit boring and pedestrian. Don’t get me wrong, I definitely think well-dressed guys are sharp and handsome but being fashionable has always been second to being comfortable for me. Which brings me to today’s blog question:

Who the HELL decided fashionably-dressed men should look like PeeWee Herman? And if that isn’t bad enough, who decided men should all buy clothing two sizes too small, like The Grinch’s heart? The male models I see everywhere today are wearing clothing that would probably (barely) “fit” a Ken doll. I mean, what is this?

Outfit tweedOutfit Navy

I would like to quickly point out that the images of both men above were taken from fashion blog “Look Books” (click the images to be re-directed to the original sites) and that I think both these guys are current and pleasant-looking, if somewhat “pinched.” They are also in outfits that look two sizes too small or, even worse, look like adults wearing suits they got in eighth grade. Is there a world-wide shortage of suiting fabric I am unaware of? I don’t get it…

Neither of these guys are “big” – I’d guess each of them to be like 5’8″ or so and a lean, mean maybe 155 pounds. So how in the world can they even FIND clothes that look so small and tight? I mean, c’mon… The gentleman at top is in what I assume could be called a business casual suit, yet his pants look like they barely graze his pubes, his pants are too short (and no socks? don’t get me started!), his sleeves are too short, his shirt looks constrictive and his jacket is so tight it literally pulls across that toned pigeon chest of his in the “relaxed” pose at left. And the navy blue blazer guy fairs only slightly better…

Navy blue blazer’s jacket is so tight it cinches in at the waist, creating – at least in my mind, – a very feminine silhouette. The dress shirt is one button too unbuttoned for me (can you say Reek-oh Swah-vay?) And are we STILL doing distressed denim (hole-y jeans)? At least this guy’s pant hems touch his shoe tops.

I know I probably sound like some old, chubby fashion-hater but I question why – in a world constantly battling eating disorders in boys and girls, men and women – why do we aspire to be “spindle thin” mean wearing clothes that fit like bandages?

God love you fashionista’s – you keep squeezing into those mini-pants and I will keep wearing baggy polo style shirts.

Fellas, Guyliner? – Halloween Only, Please

I must admit, women are beautiful creations. Graceful and shapely, delicate and soft, ladies have a lot going in – and make-up ONLY makes it better. I have always envied women make-up, not in any sort of I-wanna’-wear-it-way but in the dang-she-looks-good-without-it-but-superfine-with-it-way. Ladies have a definite advantage over men when it comes to make-up – it helps bring out natural beauty and hide any flaws or imperfections that may exist.

Guys? We get acne cover stick and maybe some tinted moisturizer…

In recent years, however, men have started to “butch up” make-up and appropriate it for our own fair gender. Ladies’ blush became men’s “bronzer.” Ladies’ fragranced bath soaps became masculine “body washes.” Heck, even ladies’ face and neck creams have morphed into men’s “skin toning lotions.” But one thing cannot be “butched up,” no matter how hard we try – eyeliner. Sure, maybe if you are a rock star you can pull that look off but gentlemen? Guyliner always looks like girl liner to me. For example:

I think Adam Lambert,

Adam Lambert Guylinerclearly must have taken inspiration from movie and beauty icon, Dame Elizabeth Taylor…

Elizabeth Taylor

Just as matinee star Jarod Leto,

Jerod Leto Guyliner 1

Must be channeling fashion designer Mary-Kate Olsen…

Mary-Kate Olsen

And are Pete Wentz and Ashlee Simpson (pre/mid reconstructive surgery) actually the same person?

Pete Wentz Guyliner

Ashlee SimpsonDon’t get me wrong – each of these people are beautiful but, guys, really? Forget the guyliner. It makes you look kinda’ “girl-y” (sorry). Maybe at Halloween, or on other “Special Occasions” when you feel like “dressing up” (I adore you, Raven!):

Raven

 

Who Thinks This Stuff Up?

This has been on my desktop for a while: A step-by-step guide to tying an Eldredge Tie Knot:

Eldredhe Tie KnotI mean really – who thinks this stuff up? What man in their right mind would ever commit to wearing a necktie with a knot that requires fifteen – FIFTEEN – separate, coordinated steps to create the desired look? No one I know…

Listen, don’t get me wrong. I like to think I am “fashion forward.” And I really, really do like ties – they are the ONLY fashion accessory that men have that allows us to compete with women and their scarves and hats and jewelry, etc. Mens’ suits remain fairly standard from season to season to season – sure, maybe the lapels get skinnier or wider – or disappear all together, but men are essentially given shoes, socks, pants, shirts and jackets – not too many pieces to have fun with. But ties, OMG, ties – woven, printed and knitted ties. Silk or linen or woolen ties. Skinny or wide, long or short, bow tie or standard – ties are the ONLY men’s fashion accessory, in my humble opinion.

So why the Eldredge Knot?

Surely the man that wears this knot has a delicate neck and an extremely L-O-N-G necktie. Remember – fifteen steps, many involving a “wrap” or a “twist.” And forget about a small circumference neck – the man that sports an Eldredge must have a long, graceful neck – like a giraffe – otherwise that massive knot of fabric at his throat would swallow his face. But who wears this knot?

The Eldredge Tie Knot Look how dapper that looks, with a sporty button down collar and a cute sweater vest. But wait – a skull and crossbones tie bar? Really? Pre-pubescent facial hair? Oh, NOW I see who wears this knot – this guy:

Eldregde Knot GuyYup. A hipster, of course. So, if I “deconstruct” this pic – this guy has never started shaving, the vest is a thrift-shop find, he spends 25 minutes using Bed Head hair products to make his hair look like he never combed it, the button-down shirt is a gift from his parents at Christmas and the tie knot is a quiet-but-bold personal fashion statement that says, “Hey bro’, I am cool.” (I guess the skull and crossbones tie bar and/or the ear gauges were maybe too understated?) And he drinks chai lattes.

You know what? More power to this guy, and any man that wants to risk getting hives in an attempt to tie this complicated knot. Maybe I don’t know a lot about men’s fashion but I do know this – when your tie knot is approximately the same size/shape as your chin, well, maybe it’s not the greatest fashion statement.

At least not for me…

Five Fashion Mistakes Men Make

As a gay man, I think society assumes I possess some sort of “innate fashion sense” – the natural gift to be chic, stylish and current. To be honest, were it not for my beloved Martin, I would spend my whole life wearing nothing but “relaxed fit” jeans and ringer tees. Sigh… But, as a gay man that IS involved in design, I do feel I have a bit of an understanding of men’s fashion, or at least enough to know/recognize what I like to call “Men’s Fashion Faux Paus.” 

Here – in no particular order – are five of my pet offenses:

1. Overly-groomed male eyebrows – Listen, if your eyebrows have more of an arch than Tyra Banks’ – and you have a penis – that is a bad cosmetic decision. Or, if people assume you are Vulcan, again – bad choice. I apologize to the man shown below; I do not know him, but the caption for this pic on an image search engine was “pluck-3” – 

pluck-32. Excessive ear and/or facial piercings – I get it. Everybody LOVES a “bad boy.” The look gets you noticed. Those facial piercings make you look dangerous, edgy and arty but trust me, cool as they may look now (BTW, they really DON’T look all that cool), when you are forty and trying to land a job in financial services, well, you are gonna’ regret those choices. Trust me on this – 

ear-piercing3. Gladiator sandals – Men, men, men. No, no, no! Do you know why the ancient civilizations of Greece and Rome fell? Because the men (allegedly) wore this ridiculous style of footwear. Unless your birth name is Spartacus or Ulysses, JUST SAY NO to these – 

sandals4. Pants with “expandable” waistbands – Do we REALLY even need to discuss this one? I mean, c’mon – respect yourself enough to buy pants that fit or, at the very least, pants that are too big and buy a belt. These pants are for ninety-year-old retirees that live in “Flah-ri-dah” and wear adult diapers – 

stretch waist5. Finger nail polish for men – Unless you are front man for Green Day or Smashing Pumpkins (are those groups even still around?) OR are Adam Lambert, Johnny Depp or Marilyn Manson, PLEASE do NOT wear finger nail polish or EVEN WORSE – do not wear some whackadoo color on one finger on each hand. You look stupid. I mean, you know you do, right?

Men-Wearing-Nail-PolishSo there are five of my current men’s fashion “Don’t Do’s.” I hope these spare some of my fellow men embarrassment now and regret later… Stay tuned for more future thoughts on men’s style trends.

And always remember – one can never go wrong with ringer tees and jeans!

Do These Shoes Make My Feet Look…

… too Elvis? 

“Well, it’s one for the money, Two for the show, Three to get ready, Now go, cat, go. 

But don’t you step on my blue suede shoes. You can do anything but lay off of my blue suede shoes. 

Well, you can knock me down, Step in my face, Slander my name all over the place. 

Do anything that you want to do, but uh-uh, Honey, lay off of my shoes…”

Blue seude shoes, undies and socks

So Sunday, as is our frequent routine, my beloved Martin and I did a quick “off-price shopping” run. Coming from Europe, off-price shopping (think Nordstrom Rack, TJ Maxx or Marshalls) is still a new experience for him. Anyway, yesterday I was apparently in a “blue” mood. Thanks to a combination of a rewards certificate, a “birthday” coupon and fortuitous placement on the clearance racks, I came home from DSW with the blue suede bucks above for a song. They are definitely more of a “Fall” style, given their deep navy color but I think they will look cute as hell with jeans…

I also scored the navy and white striped American Eagle “undies” at like 25% of the regular retail price. Believe it or not, as a gay guy, I am a bit late to the game in the whole fancy, sexy undies department – and, as a man that needs an XL (for the waist and nothing else, LOL!) , I am always ecstatic to discover big boy panties on the racks. No kidding – see how my boxer briefs say “American Eagle” around the waistband? My Sweetie’s say “LE (eagle logo) AMERI” around the waist!

The socks in the pic are from a previous shopping excursion but I thought the image needed a third “something” – it was just a pair of underwear and a pair of shoes – two pairs, if you will. Good in poker, bad in photos.

So yesterday was a “blue” day for me. I hope my shoes don’t/won’t look silly on my feet but, even if they do, they make me happy when I look at them so who cares? They are kinda’ unexpected for me, I suppose, but I am tired of being so “normal” and “expected.” I guess maybe ladies have known all along the power of a fun pair of shoes…

A New Business Idea

Yesterday, my beloved partner and I attended an awards luncheon at the Statehouse in Columbus, Ohio – more on that at a later date. It was a frickin’ fantastic day, and I am really so very proud of my SBF for the award he received. That said, it was a luncheon – at the Statehouse – with politicians and presentations and speeches. So, for me, that invitation/event meant I had to wear a suit…

Let me be very clear – I am not now, nor have I ever been, a “suit.”  

Suit

In the forty years I have been working , I have worn more than a few uniforms, sometimes a blazer, many times “dress shirt, tie and slacks” but I have NEVER had to wear a suit every day. Like a lot of men (I suppose), I have but ONE suit, my all-purpose, dark charcoal gray, four-season wool suit. I bought this suit probably more than five years ago, expressly to wear to the commitment ceremony of my two best friends. I had a “speaking part” in the ceremony so I felt I had to look awesome (and I did!) That suit was the most money I had ever spent on clothes for any event – I mean, I even paid $95.00 for an extra-long silk tie!

THE suit has served me well – it saw me through the commitment ceremony, covered me as I emcee’d the regional ASID Awards program, comforted me as I buried my favorite aunt, my grandmother, my Mom and my older sister (it’s been a rough past few years!) and probably a few other occasions.  It would seem that I have the cost of that outfit averaged out to about $100.00 per wearing – I factor in dry cleaning. So, again, yesterday, I went to put on my “suit” and go to the luncheon and celebrate.

Here’s the thing – since I bought that suit, I have lost probably close to forty pounds. It kinda’ fits like this now:

Big suit

(Click image above for tips on fitting a suit from Esquire Magazine)

I mean, I didn’t look quite THAT lost in it, but it definitely is too big now in every dimension. HOORAY! for me and Weight Watchers, BOO! for spending hundreds more on clothes I rarely use and really don’t even like.

It made me think: “Why can’t there be a place that rents suits to men who never wear suits, just like we rent tuxedos for formal events?”

Do such places exist? I mean, I think there are websites where women can lease handbags and wedding dresses, so why aren’t there places where guys can rent suits? I’d pony up $80-$100 for a suit, shirt and tie for twenty-fours hours. Think about it – I’d never have to worry about lapel shapes, the number of buttons, single or double breasted, vest/no vest, vent/no-vent/double vent, skinny versus wide tie or any number of other style options that immediately date a suit six months after purchase. My credit card would get me a stylish, of-the-moment ensemble with little worry. I think such a concept could kick ass.

We’d start off slow – standard black, gray or navy suits in a range of sizes with just a few shirt and tie options. I mean, for guys leasing suits, how “discerning” can they be, fashion-wise? As the idea takes off, we’d franchise and add more styles, sizes and options.

Think about it, guys… I think I may be on to something. Any investors out there?

Tie-ing It All Together

I was off work today, so my Sweetie and I had the chance to go shopping. We haven’t really been shopping since the December holidays so it was a nice treat. Today we were shopping for two particular items – a collared dress shirt and a tie to bring a look “together.”

Woven pattern ties

(for tips on selecting and buying a quality necktie, please click image above)

I have always loved ties, despite the fact that I have a neck as thick as any professional wrestler. I think that for the most part, men’s clothing is pretty uninspiring – pants, shirts, shorts, suits, jackets, the whole lot is fairly basic. Even the most expensive “designer duds” are usually set apart by fabric choice or garment cut. Most men’s fabrics are fairly standard – wools, twills, tweeds, cotton, linen, all usually solid or, if we are lucky, a strip or plaid. Then there are ties…

Glorious, multi-colored, patterned fabrics around our throats.

Ties are for men what scarves are for women – THE accessory that can make two or three totally unrelated articles of clothing look like a well-conceived “outfit,” if chosen correctly. I mean, you can wear a red jacket, a pale lavender shirt and brown cords and – if you have on the correct tie – it looks like some designer dressed you. That was our mission today, me and my Sweetie: finding the “correct” tie to complete a look for his upcoming awards luncheon and a wedding later this summer.

Nine ties

(for a brief history of neckties, please click the image above)

My Angel is sometimes a bit challenging to shop with; he and I have different opinions on clothing and fit (he is youthful, fit and stylish; I am “fluffier” and would be happy to live the rest of my life in sweats) but we do have fairly similar tastes in ties. For me, ties should always be woven and silk – sometimes I will let a knit tie “slide by” if the color is cool enough.

I. Hate. Printed. Ties. Hate.

Anyway, as so often happens, we set out to find one thing (the perfect tie) and, in the process, also picked up a couple of other things (a pair of shoes and an awesome dress shirt). My SBF and I are both super off-price/sale shoppers so we did really, really well today.

When we got home, I was treated to my own personal mini runway show, with the most handsome male model ever. While the shirt and tie are fantastic, we are reconsidering the sport coat. It looks good but I want my Beloved to look great – he deserves it. Plus, I get to live vicariously through his fashion expression, all from the comfort of my elastic-waist pants…

To the inventor of the drawstring waistband, I say “Thank You.”  

Skinny Jeans + Men – the fashion “Rules”

OK, I’ll be honest – I am no A & F model by a long shot. You know that joke, “Some people have a six-pack, I have a keg?” Well, that kinda’ describes me (although I AM working on it). Anyhow, I saw another one of “them” today – another poor, unfortunate male slave to fashion.

I was standing in line at the neighborhood coffee shop, just chillin’ while I waited for my medium house with room for cream and a vanilla shot, and this soul was standing in front of me (well, not this exact person but someone very similar):

skinny jeans

Oh yes, another poor male creature that had managed to somehow “grow” inside a pair of skinny jeans. I mean, how else could he have gotten into them? He must have put them on sometime before his growth spurt hit around puberty and then wore them 24/7 until he arrived at the cutting-off-the-blood-supply-to-my-legs-look he was sporting today. It made me sad…

This year, I will celebrate my 55th birthday – I have been around a while. And when I was in high school – during the last century – we wore jeans sorta’ like this and called them pegged jeans. (We also used to buy jeans, rip out the side seams, re-sew them and then wash them like 20 times so the edges would fray into a fringe – I know, right?) Pegged jeans were a pain in the ass, but not like today’s skinny jeans – those jeans actually look like they can cause ass pain, and ankle pain, testicular pain, well, you know what I mean.

I’m not really sure what the “point” of skinny jeans is. Are they meant to let others know if the wearer is circumcised or not? Wearing boxers or briefs? None, anklets or tube socks? That the guy is carrying a wallet, 76 cents in loose change, a condom (who knows why?) and two random keys? I don’t get skinny jeans.

Like most men’s fashions “of the moment,” few – if any – men other than professional models, Adam Levine, The Beeb or any of the guys from One Direction can wear skinny jeans and pull them off. Fellas, STOP already with these stupid pants. Stop inflicting self-sterilization on yourself. NO ONE thinks you look cute in these, especially if you are:

  • Over 21,
  • Over 120 pounds,
  • Have facial hair heavy enough to warrant shaving, or
  • If you wear these with a cool fedora. Please. YOU.MUST.STOP.

Listen if you wanna’ date Taylor Swift and risk being the subject of her next break-up album, go ahead, wear skinny jeans. As for me, I think I shall keep on keeping on with my favorite, Wrangler Relaxed Fit Boot Cuts. I know – they are “Mom Jeans” for men but at least I can still feel my feet when I wear them…

 

These boots were made for walking, but not down any runway…

So, the weather here has been a bit crappy of late – cold, snow, “yuk” on the ground (yuk = slush) – you know, all the typical “winter” stuff.  As I have lived in Ohio for 99.1% of my life, winter is no surprise to me, more like an inconvenience or an annoyance.   I don’t mind it, really.  Sometimes I find it quite beautiful – fresh snow, everything all white and smooth, like a landscape covered in marshmallow creme.  Or after an ice storm, when everything is all crystalline and sparkly (and we still have power!)  But what struck me as odd today, as I was considering winter, was how I distinctly remember an entirely different winter wardrobe as a child, compared to my “adult” winter attire.  In particular, I thought about these today:

boots

Yessir, classic five buckle rubber boots, the footwear I HATED as a child. When did I stop wearing these?  I mean, I wear more expensive shoes now than I ever did as a child, and my feet quit growing many years ago (meaning I have the probability of wearing shoes “longer”) so when did I quit wearing boots?

Or hats?  I must have had a dozen or more of these growing up:

hat

I had black hats and blue hats and those weird hats you pulled down over your face like bank robbers wear. I had hats with stripes and hats with pom-pom balls on top and I may even have had a logo-d Shelby Whippets hat (the old scarlet and gray).  I mean, when – better yet, WHY – did I stop wearing hats?

I  proportionally have less hair now than I have ever had since birth.  The “place where my guardian angel sits” (my bald spot!) is larger now than ever – and men lose like 70% of heat thru the top of our heads in winter.  So, when did I leave behind my child “winter wardrobe” and decide that being an adult meant ruining leather shoes and having a chilly head when the snow flies?

I’m not sure what the answer to my question is – maybe its vanity, maybe its rebellion (Mom ALWAYS made me wear those stupid boots!), maybe its just the natural order of life when we “…leave childish ways and pursuits behind.”  I’m not sure wearing boots, hats and gloves are childish ways – I’m gonna’ have to revisit that and give that some serious consideration.

In the meantime, most winter items are now drastically reduced for clearance.  Plus, my beloved Martin always looks incredibly chic and handsome in his hats, gloves and scarves. Who knows?  One day soon you might  see me sporting a pair of  these babies…

They are ridiculously fashionable and sporty, am I right?

earmuffs

The Evolution of Man – Fashion Edition

I saw it again yesterday and it makes me sad every time I see it – a man wearing a style of clothing or a label that is clearly not flattering or age-appropriate.

We men are vain creatures. We say we aren’t but we are. And, just like “the ladies,” I believe we struggle with body issues and aging as much as they do. The thing is, they talk about it and support/help one another. Together, they come to grips with the realities of life.

We men do not, which is probably why I saw a gentleman in his mid-fifties sporting an A&F logo “hoodie” yesterday. Don’t get me wrong, I myself wear hoodies frequently but not one that was designed for a tight-bodied twenty-something. And that is where men derail in the fashion arena.

Most men’s fashion houses design for male bodies that look like this:

Image

when, in reality, most male bodies – mine included – look more like this:

Image

So, this is where the problems really begin. Now, I am not suggesting that all men wear loose, button-down shirts and pleated khaki pants but guys, really – we need to be honest with ourselves, maybe take a minute and objectively consider our “fashion realities.”

Women have so many resources to help them; men are more limited in fashion style guides. Beyond GQ and Details, guys have few places to reference for style guidance. So, in the spirit of helping my brethren, I humbly submit my own fashion timeline/guideline for your consideration. Here are my thoughts on a few national brands that most men should be familiar with – I have arranged them in an age-appropriate format so you can easily see what I believe is the fashion evolution we all are destined to follow…

Under 18 – Hollister – This body-conscious, beach-identified brand is best worn by boys who have yet to experience puberty, with shoulder, waist and hip measurements all about 30″. Once you develop facial hair, say goodbye to this label.

18 to 21 – American Eagle Outfitters Once you get your driver’s license, you graduate from “beachy” Hollister to the bit more grunge-y AE. Flannel shirts, oversize cargo shorts with eleventy-million pockets, flip-flops and woven leather bracelets create the AE signature look.

21 to 21 – A&F (Abercrombie & Fitch) – If you like clothes that look like they came from a thrift store – meaning distressed, faded and full of holes – then A&F is your brand. This brand has made millions on $50+ graphic tees. BTW, the window to wear this label is so short because all the clothes are so tightly-fitted that, should you breathe, they will explode at the seams.

21 to 24 – A/X (Armani Exchange) – Now that you are old enough to drink, you’ll want to start wearing this “I’m-hot-n-horny, looking-to-get-laid” label. The first label that made men feel like sex objects, A/X is well known for plunging V-neck tees with metallic A/X logs all over them.

24 to 30 – Express Men – The first fashion chain offering both professional and casual attire, the Express Man has a penchant for rainbow-colored shirts with no breast pockets in stretchy fabrics expertly paired with color-coordinated skinny ties and crazy, contrasting socks.

30 to 35 – Banana Republic/The Gap – These two fashion labels have blurred into the same aesthetic in my mind: lean, tailored silhouettes in muddy colors. A bit more refined version of Express Men, these two offer over-priced basics in boring, corporate colors.

35 to 40 – Brooks Brothers – The “mid-life/career” shift has begun and we move from the body-conscious styles of our youth to the more professional, slightly more relaxed fit of this venerable style house. The Brooks Brothers golden fleece logo speaks to the pricing at this chain.

40 to 45 – Jos. A Bank Clothiers – As our careers gel, we continue our fashion evolution at Joe Bank, where tailored, affordable suits live alongside cool golf duds. This is the window when polo shirts enter our lives, suitable for wearing on “Casual Fridays.”

45 to 50 – Casual Male XL/Casual Male Big & Tall – As our careers blossom, so do our waistlines and we are forced to seek out stores that cater to our more, um, “fulfilled” lifestyles. This could well be the bracket during which we purchase – gasp – our first pair of pants with a hidden, adjustable elastic waistband. Shudder.

50 and up – Regrettably, this is where most men derail, fashion-wise, because there is no label/chain for this age, and beyond. Sure, most of us will probably trade-in our Joe Banks polos for camp shirts from Tommy Bahama, but this really is where men’s fashion “falls apart.”  This is when we need each other the most…

Hopefully by the time we all reach fifty, we will be confident enough in ourselves and secure enough in our skins to not be seduced by clothes that promise to make us feel young. I ask all my brothers to help one another – don’t fall prey to vanity. Share your thoughts with your male friends. Let’s help one another.

When you see that fifty-year old white guy in a logo starter jacket or worse yet, saggin’ in a pair of oversize jeans, make a mental note of that image and remember it. And maybe hope/pray that guy passes a mirror and really “sees” himself.