A guy friend who reads my column each week recently complained to me that I rarely write about men's fashion. At the time, I took a cop out, going over my regular roster of excuses--there's not that much to write about because the fashion world is really aimed more for women and guys really don't care that much about what they wear anyways.
I do try to write about male trends when they come up. He sort of agreed with me, if only because he never fully agrees with anything I say. He still wished people had more to say about what guys are wearing. I said I'd try.
What's funny is that after having that conversation, I began seeing and hearing things constantly that contradicted my assumptions about the topic. As most of my friends are guys, it wasn't hard to discover the truth. Just listening to them on one single night, I overheard my guy friends compliment each other on each other's vintage t-shirts. They bragged about the customized sneakers they created online or about the jacket they had won on eBay. They were concerned about the size and fit of their clothing. They wanted to know if their new shirt matched a new blazer. They cared just enough about how their hair looked.
What I might have once interpreted as abnormal, I now find endearing and comical. They aren't having drawn out conversations about clothing, but they slip fashion small talk into their regular topics of quoting movie lines, talking horribly about one another's mothers, being generally crude, and occasionally mocking the fashion choices of other guys. I've come to the conclusion that I was wrong. Fashion is apparently now for the boys, too.
Bored to Tees
I can't determine if this interest in fashion amongst the men folk is a new trend or just something I hadn't picked up on. Their approach is different than a woman's approach. The average female shopper is meticulous in her purchases. She may spend hours at a mall or visiting her regular role call of stores. She will go through every rack and every shelf to make sure nothing has been looked over. She might see a shirt she likes, grab her size, see it in another color and grab it to try on as well. It's the same size, but we need to know if the color matches.
This is why it takes women so long in the dressing rooms and why it takes so freaking long to just find one outfit. And it's why we have to go shopping throughout the year.
You won't see this with gentleman when it comes time to shopping. It's why I was sure they didn't care about clothes. A man may only go shopping a handful of times in one year. He might have his mom or girlfriend shop for him. He will not waste time. He has one, maybe two stores he likes and they will be the only stores he visits. Once he's in his store, he will find something he likes, find his size and maybe, maybe hold it up to his body to see if fits.
It's highly unlikely that he will be visiting a dressing room--he is the same size everywhere. Once the price has been checked and approved, he will move on to the next item. Let's say it is a t-shirt. He likes the cut, perhaps the way it feels, great cotton or whatever. He will dig through the stack and find his size. If there are several colors, he'll buy more than one. And then he'll aimlessly peruse the rest of the store, repeating these same actions until he finally reaches the cash register. No, he doesn't want to hear about the discount he could save if he opens a store credit card today. He just wants to leave.
And this kind of shopping may be a dying art; more men than women are embracing online shopping to squelch any kind of store interaction. They managed to find a way to shop that's even more basic. Reading this replay with its bland play-by-play, you really would imagine that guys really don't care.
But they do! They just don't like the preparation. They want to look good and have great style without having to invest any time. Hell, they'll even talk about it with their guy friends, just not like girls do. I may go on and on about an article of clothing to my girl friends. With guys, the fashion remarks are short and remarkably on target. Girls will suggest ways to improve an outfit, "maybe if you wore it with/like this..." With guys it's either good or bad--a fashion element to compliment or to mock.
Studs ands Stripes Forever
Now that I know about the secret lives of clotheshorse boys, I thought it was time to write about their own personal trends for the following heated months. So, by the Internets or by actually hitting the streets, here's what you should be scoping for.
Starting with shirts. Whether you're rolling out a polo, regular t-shirt or button down (with rolled sleeves for a more summery easy vibe), it's time to don horizontal stripes. I know that you're thinking this is not a trend at all, that this is the norm. But listen to me. I swear this time it's different.
First of all, this season's horizontal stripes aren't the typical fare. While most of these shirts would be rather blasé, this season it's about packing in as many different colored stripes as possible. This isn't some kind of blue and white stripe--it's a cobalt blue, then Kelly green, followed by chocolate brown, then orange, then bright pink on a white shirt. The stripes might be consistent throughout the entire shirt or just tossed on there haphazardly. It's a good updated look for late spring/early summer feel on what is a basic item. It is important to keep the stripes narrow however. Larger color blocked stripes can only handle two different shades; anymore and it will look dated.
Another great way men's fashion is adapting this horizontal standby is by putting it with another pattern. This season try a striped shirt with plaid Madras shorts. Yes I know it sounds like something you've been told your entire life not to do, but somehow this season pairing these two is perfectly acceptable. First off, keep the shorts well fitted. I'm not sure where on the trend spectrum cargo shorts have gone (are they a permanent fixture in fashion or slumping out?), but I do know that for this spring and summer, the trend is all about simple, sleek khaki shorts. No side pocket embellishments to weigh the look down, nothing too baggy. And please no sagging!
Or you know, simple sleek plaid. To pull off this juxtaposing look, you really need to simplify. Selecting your color palette is important. The stripes and plaid need to have similar color tones. For this pairing, put the brights aside and find common colors of blue, brown shades and olive greens. By ensuring the colors of stripes are also represented in the plaid (or vice versa) it is a coordinated outfit. Mixing any plaid shade with any color of striped shirt and it looks like you dressed yourself in the dark.
Top off this preppy outfit with the preppy shoe of the moment--the canvas oxford. These babies will look like you just stepped off a boat in Cape Cod. When wearing with pants, you're able to rock socks, but if you're staying cool in a pair of shorts, sorry fellows, but you're gonna have to go sans socks.
Those are the big changes occurring in men's fashion at the moment. They are far subtler than what is offered seasonally to the girls. But at the same time, I don't know that all guys have mastered elements that exist year to year. Case in point--are you wearing flip flops and creeping out everyone around you? Sometimes guys aren't real sticklers about personal hygiene. That's fine; some girls like a dirty boy, but even when you guys are freshening up, you tend to neglect your feet. Now I'm not saying go and book a pedicure, but they do make clippers, ones exclusively for toe nails, so maybe you should invest. It's fine to wear flip flops, especially a nice brown or tan pair in leather or a faux suede. They're great for dressing up or down, good with jeans, khakis and shorts, but they lose a little something when the feet filling them look disgusting. But that doesn't mean you can skimp on the upkeep of your feet in cheap flip flops either. If your feet are exposed, please clean up your toes.
Another key trend to keep cool in the warmer weather is the man tank top. Sometimes they're called muscle tees, or the trashily apt "wife beater." I like to call them gross. There is a time and a place for any men's shirts without sleeves. It's acceptable near a large body of water, when participating in an outdoor activity, and as an undershirt. And that's about it because at no other place or time is it all right to display clumpy armpit hair for the world to see.
I don't know that there's any better way of ending this than with the phrase clumpy armpit hair. I hope this reaches all you fashion forward thinking boys out there. Thanks to my friend for showing me about this untapped resource. Let's give the boy a hand.
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