5 Men's Fashion Items that Should Be More Popular

Decorating the Man

In Shakespeare's The Twelfth Night, an important subplot involves the conspiracy to get rid of Malvolio, a dour man responsible for a general lack of fun. Essential to the conspiracy is yellow stockings and cross-garters. The maid Maria tricks Malvolio into thinking Duchess Olivia finds him sexy in yellow stockings and cross-garters. He dresses this way, gets ridiculed, and is ultimately chased away. What always struck me about this part of the play is how odd it is that a man would think of decorating his legs to be sexy to a woman.

She did commend my yellow stockings of
late, she did praise my leg being cross-gartered

The leg is something that is typically admired in women alone. Even women rarely go so far as to decorate their legs except on Halloween or private, romantic evenings. That a man's leg would be admired let alone gussied up seems kind of silly. As the less-enlightened might say, "Dude, that's like so gay!"

This Malvolio business shows just how little we think of men as decorative any longer. It's a peculiar and ironic fate. We're told how little power or freedom women had in Western history prior to the 20th century, how men were dominant and had all the freedom. Today, however, we're supposed to be closer to equality. But men at the peak of their patriarchal domination were making themselves ornamental for women and today men do little to no ornamentation.

Male clothing today is largely functional. The rare breaches of functionality are in the domain of hipsters, who wear ski goggles in the summer amongst other annoying fashion statements. Men must make themselves attractive within the confines of functionality. The tie, in fact, is the last remnant of non-functionality. But due to being associated with the workplace, ties are hardly fun.

What I want to look at are some fashion accessories men used to have, for both decorative and functional purposes, that are fun and really shouldn't have died.

The Fedora

Don't I look fab? Also, sorry for saying 'fab'.
Don't I look fab? Also, sorry for saying 'fab'.

Everyone knows the fedora. Everyone loves the fedora. Nobody wears the fedora. Maybe if we could all do it together. Maybe if someone would introduce a national fedora day. Maybe if we all came together and expressed our need for hats we might force them back on willing heads. But as it stands a hat so cool it was deemed worthy of Humphy Bogart and Gene Kelly is curiously out of place in practice. To wear it in public is to be ostentatious. It is now seen as formal, as nostalgically elite, or as a glam item adopted by rockers like Michael Jackson. Heaven forfend a man be a little glam. Even Johnny Depp hasn't been able to bring it back. He's trying his best, but nobody's helping.

A little-known fact is that the fedora actually began as a female fashion accessory. That's one we stole from the ladies and never gave back, like a teenage boy with his older sister's best friend's panties.

The Waistcoat

Well, maybe not brocade Fleur-de-Lis waistcoats.
Well, maybe not brocade Fleur-de-Lis waistcoats.

A waistcoat does wonders for a man who already has a decent figure. It segregates his mighty torso in a patch of distinctly-coloured manliness. Waistcoats can be found at weddings, graduations, and as a part of the increasingly uncommon three-piece suit. But as common-wear, they have gone the way of the fedora. Opened or closed, with jeans or dress pants, waistcoats look great. We need to get them back in circulations.

On a functional level, waistcoats are tight-fitting enough to offer considerable warmth to the body, especially a body in a thin shirt. Many of the stand-alone waistcoats one can buy (mostly from eBay) are plain gray. But more decorative waistcoats are available for the adventurous, including some glorious brocade waistcoats. Throw away those hideous sweater vests and pick up a waistcoat. The ladies will be, as the great Strong Bad would say, "all upons."

The Cape

I don't own a cape. But Oscar Wilde is the next best thing to me.
I don't own a cape. But Oscar Wilde is the next best thing to me.

Was it the World Wars, the shortage of cloth in the Depression Era, or the advent of superheroes that have made the cape a thing of the past? It wasn't so long ago that men wore capes. G. K. Chesterton wore one and it matched his fedora. Most boys have tried to don a cape at some point as a child. A few have even tried to fly and sadly Darwin was proved right yet again. Soldiers throughout history have worn capes. Movies about great heroes always show them in capes. Maybe that's the problem. The cape has become too grand for us mere mortals. If you're going to wear a cape, you'd better have either killed a dragon or have eye-lasers.

Well I think that's bullhonky. Some days I may want a warm back and a cold front. And some windy days I may just want to relish how incredibly cool men look in a cape. Flowing cloth conveys a sense of power, mystery, and spatial expansion to a man and allows him to chose his own background.

The Gentleman's Walking Stick

Phil Hartman proudly brandishes his stick in the NewsRadio episode "The Cane."
Phil Hartman proudly brandishes his stick in the NewsRadio episode "The Cane."

Have you seen the NewsRadio episode "The Cane"? Bill McNeil acquires a gentleman's walking stick. He loves it. He feels great. He's found his authentic self through the walking stick. The problem is Dave, the news director, loathes the cane and can't stand to see Bill with it. There really is something elitist about the gentleman's cane. I think the "gentleman" part might be the first clue. To some extent this explains Dave's antipathy to the decorative object. It's an object that vanished along with the recognition of aristocracy after the First World War.

Well, there's no need to worry about aristocracy now. It's long gone. The cane has no implications. It's now just neat-looking. And isn't that enough? There's really no value to walking with a cane when one can walk fine. It can have a variety of uses. It gives a man something to do with his hand. Perhaps the phallic nature of the stick imbues the cane-holder with a feel of potency. And it is, of course, also a weapon, not just as a blunt instrument: some canes contain knives. But the cane is essentially a decoration, an additional way to express oneself in what one wears. The choice of woodgrain and head allow fun aesthetic and expressive variety.

The Dress for Men

Pinhead only feels himself in this liberating leather dress from Versace.
Pinhead only feels himself in this liberating leather dress from Versace.

I don't think there'll be much argument that this is the most controversial inclusion on my list. My other items all had their moments in the past, but the dress has never been popular for men in Western culture. So instead of presenting a history of the man's dress and lamenting its loss, I'd like to take you through a pictorial adventure of just what the male dress should and shouldn't be.

Venger, from the Dungeons and Dragons cartoon series.
Venger, from the Dungeons and Dragons cartoon series.

Somehow dresses have become a part of the villain's wardrobe. Why did that happen? Hellraiser's Pinhead and Dungeons and Dragons' Venger are both evil, dress-wearing males. Evil or not, it's difficult to deny they look cool, isn't it? Arguably, neither of them lose their masculinity.

No, no, no!
No, no, no!

Okay, this is indeed a dress and it is indeed on a man, but it's not a dress for a man. Compare to the evil dress above. You see the main difference, I hope. One looks cool and the other doesn't. We can't expect to just take dresses designed for the female form and throw them on the male form. We have to adapt dresses to the male form.

The Sherwani: hope for the future.
The Sherwani: hope for the future.

"That's not a dress! It's just a really long coat!" Yeah, you keep telling yourself that. You ask me, it's a dress. It's a man-dress. The South Asian sherwani shows the correct direction male dress-making should move in. The strong shoulders that lead in a v-shape down toward the waist, the slender, rectangular, almost phallic fit all emphasize his masculinity and yet it's a dress. Note that he wears pants under the dress. It just wouldn't look right without pants. So if you're wearing pants, why wear a dress as well? Because it looks good!

The Jesuit Cassock
The Jesuit Cassock

The Jesuit cassock is very similar to the sherwani in design. It too allows the masculine shoulders to stand out. The cinched waist allows a v-shape, which men require. The main difference is in the length and looseness. The cassock doesn't conform as stiffly to a straight line, flowing out toward the bottom. I prefer the loose bottom of the cassock to the rigid sherwani bottom, but both are elegant and neither are inherently effeminate.

One could also remove the arms of either and have an interesting effect. But I'm no dress-maker.

A wizard, from some sort of video game I imagine.
A wizard, from some sort of video game I imagine.

Here's a great example. The arms of the dress have been removed, revealing some big, manly biceps. Wizards, let's face it, wear dresses. Call them robes all you will, they're dresses. And wizards look cool. In fact, they don't look cool despite the dresses, but because of the dresses. In the case of the above picture, we obviously have a dress and not a 'robe'. The shoulders are strongly accentuated, the torso form-fitting, allowing his naturally masculine form to express itself. His bare arms make the dress at once more dress-like and more masculine. The additional flap around his groin contributes another v-shape to his figure.

Sumerian men wore dresses.
Sumerian men wore dresses.

So we've established dresses can look cool and masculine on men. The real barrier to male dresses, besides conflicts with machismo, is that it's kind of nerdy. Cartoon villains and wizards aren't exactly known for all the chicks they get, nor are their fans. Perhaps that's the real problem. Ornamentation used to be valued for its own sake. Now men can only see ornamentation as a part of the chick-getting process. Since women don't want to see men ornamented, men don't do it.

Whatever the reason may be, I hope some day to see men walking proudly through the streets, their capes flowing in the wind, the skirts of their dresses clinging to their legs, but their torsos warmed by delightful waistcoats and their heads protected by fedoras.

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Comments 44 comments

drbj profile image

drbj 6 years ago from south Florida

Arthur - will you be the first to adopt the new ornamentation look of manly men wearing your dress, cape, waistcoat, and fedora? And carrying a walking stick?

Now that would be FAB!

This was an amazing read. Thanks for the trouble.


Arthur Windermere profile image

Arthur Windermere 6 years ago Author

Hey drbj, thanks for the comment.

Hahaha, that's a good question. Hmm, I will answer you with a koan. The kangaroo in a helicopter does not eat grapes, for he knows it is not time.

In other words, "Nah." I'm an intellectual. I'll leave the actual trail-blazing to others. You could say I'm the Marx of the ornamentation revolution and I await a Lenin.

Cheers!


Jane Bovary profile image

Jane Bovary 6 years ago from The Fatal Shore

Arthur,

I think you'd look adorable in that Oscar Wilde outfit....it'd go with your fingers.


Arthur Windermere profile image

Arthur Windermere 6 years ago Author

Haha darn right I'd look adorable! ;)


Lee B profile image

Lee B 6 years ago from New Mexico

Just my own personal rant, but when society gets out from under the thumb of "fashion," people might get more creative,

expressive, and individual about what they wear. You, Arthur, are apparently ahead of your time.

Great hub! I really enjoyed reading it. Never realized how good a man could look in a dress, e.g., the Sherwani.


Arthur Windermere profile image

Arthur Windermere 6 years ago Author

Thanks, Lee!

The 'haute couture' level of fashion is surprisingly daring, but it's so detached from the real world and often so silly (dresses made of swiss cheese, e.g.) that it has no impact.

That guy does look great in his sherwani.

Cheers!


Jane Bovary profile image

Jane Bovary 6 years ago from The Fatal Shore

I don't think it's quite fair to compare the Sherwani to the the little belted number above it given the disparity between the models.

I agree with Lee, this is a great hub Arthur. Men must be very conservative...look at the business world..the shirt and tie has really clung on there. I'd love to see Donald Trump in that Sumerian dress.

By the way, you could whip up that Oscar Wilde number yourself. Take a look at this

http://hubpages.com/art/The-Manly-Art-of-Sewing


Arthur Windermere profile image

Arthur Windermere 6 years ago Author

Oh, very interesting! Thanks, JB! I would like to try making a manly dress. Would I have the courage to wear it? Probably not. Except for online modeling. If I can model Hello Kitty underwear, why not an Oscar Wilde costume, right?

(Note: I'm far too lazy to ever actually make anything via sewing.)

hehe yeah, heh the models are different. I actually compared the old guy to Venger, the cartoon villain, in my defense. But I think if you swapped--put the old guy in the sherwani guy's costume, and the sherwani guy in the girly dress and jackboots, the old guy would come out on top. And that sounds much more homoerotic than intended.


Jane Bovary profile image

Jane Bovary 6 years ago from The Fatal Shore

Frankly I don't like to think about that old guy in either outfit...


Arthur Windermere profile image

Arthur Windermere 6 years ago Author

Then I guess you don't want to hear about his Hello Kitty panties?


Jane Bovary profile image

Jane Bovary 6 years ago from The Fatal Shore

Haha....please, I'm eating a sandwich. I'd like to see them on you though.

Where are the pictures...?


Arthur Windermere profile image

Arthur Windermere 6 years ago Author

Coming as soon as my Hello Kitty and Felix the Cat briefs arrive from eBay. And I'm not bluffing. :D

I'll have to make a hub about underwear so I can indulge in shameless exhibitionism.


Jane Bovary profile image

Jane Bovary 6 years ago from The Fatal Shore

Lol......uh-oh..I'm thinking *sensory overload*. Promise me you wont mix and match with that brocade vest? Better not use the cape either or you'll look like a gay superhero.


Arthur Windermere profile image

Arthur Windermere 6 years ago Author

haha That's good advice. No vests or capes. Just a healthy coat of manfur. And one thing I've learned from our buddy in the dress: no workboots, unless I want to look like He-Man.


CMHypno profile image

CMHypno 6 years ago from Other Side of the Sun

So are we going frock shopping soon Arthur? Thing is, I'm not sure that your Hello Kitty briefs will go with suspenders...... Do you think that if man dresses catch on (the skirt didn't work for David Beckham) that you guys will start shaving your legs?


Arthur Windermere profile image

Arthur Windermere 6 years ago Author

Leg-shaving? No way, sister! Men will wear pants under their dresses, like the sherwani guy above. And not like the old guy with the boots. So not like the guy with the boots.

I think the only way I'll find the manly dress for me is either at a goth or fantasy clothing shop or to make it myself.

Hello Kitty briefs go with everything. ;)


Green Lotus profile image

Green Lotus 6 years ago from Atlanta, GA

This was truly brilliant Arthur and you are an inspiration. So glad to have found you. What style! What finesse! Ironically my husband and I were not long ago having the same discussion about the unadorned male and his "blah" wardrobe. I shall forward this gem to him straightaway. Rated up up up.


Arthur Windermere profile image

Arthur Windermere 6 years ago Author

haha thanks so much, Green Lotus! To be fair, it's probably not your husband's fault. There just aren't a lot of options for us guys in the shops. Or in society. A man has a lot of difficulty even getting a job if he has long hair.

Anyway, good luck getting him glammed up. :D


Jane Bovary profile image

Jane Bovary 6 years ago from The Fatal Shore

Hey Arthur I just realised, in these profile pics you look purple and I look orange...I think we might be clashing, accessory-wise.


Arthur Windermere profile image

Arthur Windermere 6 years ago Author

Hey Jane the Orange,

Yeah, I was thinking a few days ago how purple I look. You can hardly tell I'm African, right? But seriously, I rarely smile in pictures and I felt I should show a friendly face on hubpages, so that picture made the cut. I think I'll soon snap a new one that lets my true colours shine through. And you should find one that lets your whole head through. You're currently wrapped in mystery, covered in hot enigma sauce.


Jane Bovary profile image

Jane Bovary 6 years ago from The Fatal Shore

Yeah I do look a bit tabascoey. Your purple sure brings out the worst in my complexion. But if you're going to go home and change, that means I don't have to.


Arthur Windermere profile image

Arthur Windermere 6 years ago Author

Hey Garfield,

Well we do want to be a charming match for the evening ball at Lady Darlington's. Even if this is a cunning ploy to see more of my handsome face.


Neil Sperling profile image

Neil Sperling 6 years ago from Port Dover Ontario Canada

Fedora no problem -- just don't ask men to wear a thong on the beach


Arthur Windermere profile image

Arthur Windermere 6 years ago Author

Greetings Sperling,

You're correct. Thongs are only to be worn at children's birthday parties. But seriously, the thong, the banana hammock, the buttfloss--definitely not made for the likes of men. I want men to wear more clothes, not less.

Cheers!


Jane Bovary profile image

Jane Bovary 6 years ago from The Fatal Shore

A fedora! ...how passe.....as I said to Lord Mantlestoke while we were dining the other evening. No seriously Arthur the new pic is fab. To tell you the truth though, I miss that friendly smile...I can hardly see you behind all that dazzling white light.

I've gone all sepia..it's my Dorothy Parker look. At least I've got rid of all traces of orange now. It was your cruel Garfield comment that did it.


Arthur Windermere profile image

Arthur Windermere 6 years ago Author

I changed again! I'm a wily one. Lost the fedora and divine light, put on a smirk, and cunningly positioned my hands to conceal sexy chest hair. I think it looks too much like the cover of a dorky white-guy rap album, but it'll last until tomorrow at least.

I like your new photo. Hey, you got a fedora too! Now I'm gonna have to change back to a fedora so we can be the Fedora Pack. It'll spread around hubpages. We're at the forefront of the revolution. And who gave you permission to be cute?


Jane Bovary profile image

Jane Bovary 6 years ago from The Fatal Shore

Haha..

Mine's not a fedora! It's a 1920's cloche. I wouldn't be caught dead in a fedora.


Arthur Windermere profile image

Arthur Windermere 6 years ago Author

Oh right. I should have checked the larger image in your profile before commenting. Well, close enough. Was it not Isaac Newton who said, "A 1920s cloche is just a depressed fedora"?


Jane Bovary profile image

Jane Bovary 6 years ago from The Fatal Shore

No..you're thinking of Nostradamus...but what would he know?


Joseph 6 years ago

Very good. Although I strongly disagree with your point about the fedora. They are worn by hipsters, and they look stupid. The wast coat has also seen a resurgence. Once again, mainly by hipsters. However, it is the co-opting of this clothing by this marginal subculture which is what will bring it back into the mainstream. BUT, not classy mainstream but rather vulgar popular fashion. Too bad.


Arthur Windermere profile image

Arthur Windermere 6 years ago Author

Thanks for sharing your prophetic vision. Those wascally wabbits are always a few steps ahead of us, eh Joseph?

Vulgarly yours,

AW


Jane Bovary profile image

Jane Bovary 6 years ago from The Fatal Shore

That Hello Kitty hub is never going to happen is it...?

You philosophers..you're all talk, talk, talk.


Arthur Windermere profile image

Arthur Windermere 6 years ago Author

I'm still waiting for The Goods to arrive in the mail. Ordering from Asian countries is always a little dodgy. But soon my package will be wrapped up in a fine, cartoon linen for all you ladytypes to enjoy.


Jane Bovary profile image

Jane Bovary 6 years ago from The Fatal Shore

"ladytypes"!! Sounds like a bunch of maiden Aunts having afternoon tea in the parlour. Is that how you see me..? Haha


Arthur Windermere profile image

Arthur Windermere 6 years ago Author

Hmm, the name "Jane Bovary" has a spinsterish quality to it. But nah. Ladytypes comes from the one and only Strong Bad. It's Man-guage for wimmins.

If you're not sure who Strong Bad is, you need to check out Strong Bad emails on www.homestarrunner.com.


billyaustindillon profile image

billyaustindillon 6 years ago

Some great fun on this hub with the comments too - for mine got to love the Fedora and walking stick.


Arthur Windermere profile image

Arthur Windermere 6 years ago Author

Thanks, Billy! and Austin! and Dillon!

With a fedora and walking stick, y'just have to be careful no-one mistakes you for a pimp.

Cheers!


Christopher Price profile image

Christopher Price 6 years ago from Vermont, USA

Arthur,

You aren't going to believe this, but I have owned and worn every one of the fashions you yearn to return to favor. Really!

The man dress...the cassock from my 10 years as an altar boy, back when Latin was king.

The closest I came to the Sherwani is the Nehru Jacket period I enjoyed...brief but culturally encompassing.

I did wear sweater vests frequently for some time; one black one with a huge red rose embroidered on the front from chest to waist. But I also wore regular vests, the next best thing to a waistcoat.

I loved my English Bobbie's Cape I bought on 42nd Street in New York City while I was going out with a JAP (Jewish American Princess...her nomenclature, not mine). The cape was big and black, made of the heaviest canvas I have ever handled. It had a high collar and slits for your arms and must have weighed 25 pounds. Very impressive.

I never have worn caps. I wore a Country Gentleman Stetson for some time, and now wear wide-brimmed "Tilley" hat's...light, indestructible and dashing...made with pride in Toronto!

A cane will soon be more than an accessory the way my joints ache. I have my eye on a folding carbon fiber number that is just my style.

Some thing I should mention is that I have dared to make these fashion statements in my home state of Vermont. It was a whole lot like inviting Wilde to the hootenanny.

And you should have seen me in my Edwardian-cut Burgundy Crushed-velvet Tuxedo Jacket over a white Tux shirt with ruffled front and cuffs.

Oh yeah...I was a dandy and a dancing fool.

At least part of that last statement is true.

I do so miss those days.

More balls than brains perhaps, but, I contend, an equal ratio of substance to style.

I'm with ya bro.

CP


wetskirt profile image

wetskirt 6 years ago from Austria

Not only in the olden days, today, now, ist he time, to show colours and vesatility in shapes and accessoirs, a revolution in mens fashion is about to break loose! Right now it still feels like wishful thinking, but let's do something!

Here's how i started:

http://hubpages.com/style/MenInSkirts

Cheers!


Gypsy Willow profile image

Gypsy Willow 5 years ago from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand

Love this hub! I wish men were more adventurous. I think the current prison look of baggy knee high crotch pants and shapeless tops is horendous. There ! I've said it out loud despite the derision of my 20 something son of how "you don't understand!"


nicomp profile image

nicomp 5 years ago from Ohio, USA

I never noticed Pinhead was wearing a dress... somehow his other fashion choices distracted...


TheOracleKing profile image

TheOracleKing 5 years ago

Wish I had the balls to wear what I wanted. Like a full on tweed suit or traditional pirate wear. I would look so badass on the bus in pirate wear.


Tawanda 5 years ago

The Jesuit cassock is nice.


DemiMonde profile image

DemiMonde 4 years ago from Mobile, Alabama

Voted UP! Great links, as well as historical background; you make this story so interesting. I personally would like to tweak the white shirt and make it more pirate-style for men. LOL!

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