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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.
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.
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."
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
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
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.
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.
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.
"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 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.
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.
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.
If you're interested in edgy fashion...
- Hope Alexander on HubPages
Read Hope Alexander's hubs. They're a must. "Who is Hope Alexander? Unlikely fashion guru, pseudo philosopher, chronicler of the modern age."
- How To Wear A Fedora
How to wear a fedora without looking like Indiana Jones on a mission? Easy - grab a vintage fedora bargain on Amazon and own your hat!