Thursday, February 24, 2011

It Is What It Is

(Part Three of the series "Dressing the Average Guy.")
Chapter 3
Welcome back, mon petit protégés! If you've been paying attention (and I hope you have,) you might have noticed that the focus here is on clothes. It may also have crossed your mind that for all the alleged focus, there has so far been precious little actual talk about the subject.

Sure, we've started out by making you face a good hard look in the mirror, and after that embarrassment, given you a swift kick where it will do the most good, and told you to pay more attention to impressing That Person who is softer, curvier, and a great deal better-looking than you are. You may even, as a result, have picked up an iron or combed through that rats' nest perched on your scalp. But, after all that, all you have is still just a well-ironed tee-shirt to go with your freshly-laundered ratty Levis.

And then you get philosophy thrown at you! 'Insouciance' and 'dressing well' and all that is fine and good, but you're still left with the sticky problem of your wardrobe. (Yeah, right; like you have a wardrobe. I know the truth -- your clothes are crammed in a drawer or lying on your closet floor. You can't fool me.) Well, I'm glad you're saying these things to yourself. I am. I did it on purpose, you see -- letting you live with what you've got for awhile. You've been chewing on crusty bread, and I've just cracked the lid on my big ol' stewpot, giving you a tantalizing whiff of a Bigger World. After a while, those old things don't feel right, do they? Like you need something else, another piece of the puzzle? You need better clothes, different clothes, something that fits the little buzzing in the back of your brain every time you look in the mirror now. Ha! All is going to plan. I'm devious like that.

Well, resist the temptation to run to the nearest store and melt your credit card right away. I want to cultivate that desire a bit first. A starving man might stuff his face with the first morsel that looks edible -- but there are unscrupulous types out there that will feed you deep-fried plaster of Paris: it may fill your belly, but it won't be what's best for you, and you'll probably overpay for it.

When most men who have never learned to dress themselves "go shopping" (read: have things bought for them,) they merely buy newer or more expensive versions of that which they already have. For the love of all that is good and decent in this world, DON'T.

Stay with me on this -- you will end up not only dressed better, but you will feel more comfortable, and look more attractive. You will feel better about yourself, others will feel better about you, and you will be able to effortlessly integrate with any group of people, anywhere, at any time. In several further installments, I'm going to whet your appetite a bit more, and shatter some of your preconceptions, before sending you out to augment your (ahem) "wardrobe."

This next bit may come as a shock to you. You may never have heard this meaty morsel of information before -- Many articles of clothing are named according to their function! These names are not chosen at random, and you would do well to understand them.

For example, baseball caps are worn when you are playing baseball. If you are not playing baseball, please do not wear a baseball cap. (If you wear a baseball cap now, so much the better -- it will ease your future transition to a proper hat. More on that later.)

Belt loops are for belts.

Trousers have a waistband because they sit at your waist. It's not called a hipband for a reason. Similarly, they have a crotch. So do you -- and I'm willing to wager it's nowhere near your knees.

Shirts that have shirttails do so for the express purpose of tucking into the aforementioned trousers.

That flap at the top of your shirt is called a collar. There is a button there to fasten it. It folds over to hold a tie, which is, well, tied.

If this train of logic seems like it is going in a direction that will end with you bound up from stem to stern, don't worry, it won't. It seems frightening now, but so did doing many things that adults do, at first. Trust me. I'll just give you two more examples for now.

Athletic shoes are for the performance of athletic activities. Tennis shoes are for tennis, running shoes are for running, gym shoes are for gym, basketball shoes are for playing basketball. Most people wouldn't wear their football cleats to a restaurant. So, if you're not actually playing basketball, leave your Chuck Taylors at home. Now, to some of you, I understand I may as well be speaking Swahili right now. You live your life in sneakers, flip-flops, Crocs, or Sketchers. You believe they are comfortable, well-fitting, attractive, and proper. Your only memory of "dress" shoes, is being forced to wear stiff, cheap, ill-fitting foot clamps to church when you were six. Your feet poured sweat, they itched, they pinched, and your toes hurt. It felt oh-so-good to take them off when you got home. Now, forget everything you think you know. A real pair of (what you would call "dress") shoes is supportive, comfortable, will fit the shape of your foot better than any sneaker ever could, and will never wear out. Honestly -- a real shoe will last for decades. But I don't want you to suffer from information overload on this point, so we'll talk shoes later.

The last one is a real shocker. It goes against everything you've ever seen, everything you've ever known, everything anyone has ever told you.

A tee-shirt is underwear. (It goes by many names: undershirt, tank top, crewneck, v-neck, scoopneck, muscle shirt, A-shirt, wifebeater, the British call it a vest... All underwear.) If you want to dress like a grownup, you must understand this basic concept. Underwear is worn under. It is not seen. It is covered by something else. A tee-shirt's function is to sop up the sweat, oils, and dead cells you are continually exuding, and in so doing, helps to keep your actual shirt clean. Keep that in your noggin when you see a fellow in a tee-shirt -- he's wearing his grimy, disgusting sweatsponge on the outside for all to see. (It pains me to even mention something so basic, but alas, I fear I must -- boxer shorts are underwear too.)

Let me arrest your pallid defense immediately, and save you the shame of speaking it aloud -- yes, women do wear tee-shirts on the outside. They are also women. You are not one. They wear something else as underwear. And let us hope that's all that needs to be said on that subject. Next time, we'll see why these seemingly-arbitrary rules exist, and why they are important.

Click here to go to the next essay chronologically, Part Four of Dressing the Average Guy.

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