It's not just limited to petty crooks, the homeless, or tough guy wannabees, on the streets anymore. This look is now the typical daily "go to" mode of dress for many young guys on college campuses and their slightly older twenty-something cousins. Or, as I like to call the latter, terminally part-time baristas. What planet are we on, and how in the world did we get here?
A common protest heard from many average guys, who aren't used to dressing in anything more than jeans, sweatpants, and hooded sweatshirts, runs something like this. "I just hate dressing up! It's so uncomfortable." What exactly lies at the root of that oft heard complaint? I feel that guys' aversion to dressing better than something resembling a walking lawn and leaf bag is based on various physical and psychological factors with, perhaps, the latter being the more significant of the two. Together, these fuel that perceived discomfort claimed by so many guys when even the mere prospect of "dressing up" is raised. Consider the following:
1) Too many guys wear clothing made, in whole or part, of synthetic materials.
Even with regular washing, garments made from man-made materials can get funky after a while and rarely feel what you might call "soft" against the skin even when new. Then, there is the issue of fabric pilling through wear, which is not only uncomfortable, but can make something like a fleece look crappy really fast.
By contrast, attire made from natural materials like cotton, silk, wool, cashmere, linen, etc. breathes better and, with a tiny bit of care and maintenance, maintain its shape and appearance better than any of that man-made garbage that too many people buy, often paying exorbitant prices for it, and wear in public without a second thought.
2) In addition, lots of guys wear stuff that doesn't fit them.
Size matters, guys. At least when it comes to the clothes we wear. For some bizarre reason, lots of guys on the loose out there either wear items that are far too large, or they try to squeeze into things that are way too small. Much like a comb-over on a follicle challenged individual, neither approach to clothing will ever leave you looking and feeling your best, or help you make and leave behind the kind of impression you hope to make.
Instead, find, try on, and purchase stuff that actually fits you. But don't get something a size too large, or, worse, try to stuff yourself into an item that is too small to begin with. And under no circumstances do you want to force your body into something that you have outgrown thanks to too much beer and too many cheese bratwursts during the five years since you last wore that one suit hanging at the back of your closet. You want to grill brats, not look like one.
3) Some guys just aren't discerning when it comes to what they wear.
And, remarkably, they don't seem to care how bad they might look, although I remain convinced that many average guys, who might protest to the contrary, are bluffing in a weak, misguided attempt to save face. I suspect lots of guys just don't know any better, and it's easier for them to maintain that they don't care than it is for them to seek help. Guys like this need to become, within reason of course, more fastidious about their appearance where clothing is concerned instead of taking the more cavalier, "It's close enough" approach.
But too many of these same guys seem to be worried about seeming effeminate if they pay attention to their appearance. Hogwash! That way of thinking does not usually result in your feeling comfortable or appearing entirely confident when in adult male attire. Call it a hunch, but it might help to learn a little something about about clothing and accessories to look and feel your best. You've also got to know what works best for you when it comes to classic attire and exude a certain degree of self-confidence.
4) Most guys fail to make a tailor part of their sartorial routine.
Don't forget to have each new piece of clothing -- typically items like sports jackets, blazers, pants, and suits -- altered to fit your unique physical dimensions. And we aren't talking about bespoke Saville Row suits, made from the ground up, either. Off the rack items can look almost as good with the right alterations. Keep in mind, though, that to a certain extent, higher quality items can be altered to fit you better.
At the very least, you need to have jacket/coat sleeves and pants inseams altered so that you don't look like a little boy in his father's suit. Don't ignore this vital trick of the trade when it comes to looking and feeling your best in clothes that you wear for public consumption, that is outside of your own backyard or TV room.
5) Still other guys seem oblivious to climate and season.
Take care to wear items that are the appropriate type and weight for your location on the globe and the time of year. You wouldn't think of wearing a heavy tweed jacket and corduroy pants in Mississippi or Alabama during July, August, or September, would you? Neither would a lighter weight gabardine suit be appropriate for Minneapolis-Saint Paul during a typical Minnesota winter. And let's not get started on the apparently millions of doofi (the correct plural of doofus) out there who wear shorts any time the temperature rises above 25F./-3.8C.
Suffice to say that you should remember to pay at least some attention to the thermometer and time of year before you get dressed. Doing so will help you feel much more comfortable, especially when you wear classic male attire.
6) Then, there are the guys who habitually buy poor quality items.
One more reason many feel uncomfortable whenever they need to "dress up" has to do with the fact that they've bought the cheapest, crummiest stuff they could find, which, at some level, they realize. And while low price might seem like a good idea at the time, you get what you pay for. Too often buying something for a cheap price means poor craftsmanship, poor fit, and low overall quality. Sometimes, that will have a direct effect on how comfortable a piece of clothing is. . . or is not.
Assuming clothes fit your body reasonably well to begin with and are seasonally appropriate, better items are, in general, going to wear better, last much longer, and be more comfortable than cheaper, mass produced garments that usually, though not always, feature poor workmanship among a host of other problems inherent in them.
7) And of course, far too many guys have other bad sartorial habits.
This point has to do with how a guy wears his clothes and, depending on the kind of garment under consideration, how often he does so. While a necktie should be drawn up enough to hide the hopefully fastened top button of your shirt, it should not be cinched so tightly around the neck that it feels like a hangman's noose. Put another way, the whites of your eyes and face should not be turning deep red, or your pulse pounding in your ears minutes after you finish knotting your tie.
Neither should your belt be cinched so tightly around your waist that it gives you a muffin top. Of course a belt is meant to help keep our pants up, but there is a happy medium between too loose and too tight. Find it.
Similarly, if you wear that one pair of leather dress shoes in your closet just once or twice a year, spending the other 363 days in athletic shoes, "mandals," or flip-flops, then of course you'll feel self-conscious and unsteady on your feet when you absolutely cannot avoid donning dark socks and dress shoes for Great Aunt Marge's memorial service. Hopefully, you aren't actually planning to wear sneakers and that old pair of Levi's Dockers.
8) Still other guys lack any sense of occasion and what is appropriate.
Make sure that you wear clothing appropriate for a given occasion. What might be suitable (get it?) for raking leaves, mowing the lawn, or changing the oil in your car is not necessarily appropriate attire for weddings, funerals, religious services, jury duty, special dinners or events, parent-teacher conferences, or, indeed, many offices.
Very often, people feel uncomfortable (or should) when they show up dressed in such a way that is not in accordance with the occasion and, perhaps, the kind of attire that those around them are wearing. To be blatantly specific, I am talking about people arriving woefully underdressed relative to the kind of event they attend. For example, consider the number of weddings these days where no one, except maybe the bride, groom, their bridal party, and the person officiating are dressed in anything other than jeans, sneakers, and shirt sleeves. Same thing with how many people apparently now attend church services on Sundays. It's as if they are on the way to the beach and decide on a whim to drop by a church service along their way.
No, no, no. It's time to reintroduce a certain level of respect and decorum for certain places, events, and occasions, and that comes, largely, through awareness and consideration for other people and things besides oneself. What a concept, eh? It is worth noting, and rather interesting, that this terminal state of arriving underdressed does not seem to be a problem for people attending services in synagogues or mosques from what I've seen.
9) Some guys are burdened by emotional baggage from their formative years.
If certain attitudes and practices were (or were not) conveyed during one's upbringing, it's easy to see why so many guys claim to be uncomfortable when faced with the prospect of dressing presentably, in something besides ill-fitting sweats or jeans, for work and/or recreation. They've been conditioned to think that way, their psychological discomfort instilled by others, who have moaned and groaned about the imagined hardship of wearing a suit or a jacket and tie.
I actually have a former in-law in the United States and another relation in Great Britain like this, so there must be plenty of other guys around who think in a similar way. Call it an unfounded and irrational fear of looking presentable, which lots of guys attempt to disguise through bluff and false bravado. Or, as some of my own family members now quietly chuckle in less guarded moments it's one more example of the "No, I'm not taking that promotion to a leadership position because I don't want to wear a suit and tie!" syndrome.
Um, guys? If you're out of high school and over the age of 17 or 18, it's time to get over that and start paying more careful attention to how you present yourself -- and what your clothes are saying -- to the rest of the world anytime you walk out of your front door. An increased level of self-reflection and greater awareness might help here.
10) And many guys suffer from very low expectations for themselves.
Or they simply don't aspire to more than the lowest common denominator in terms of clothing and conduct. It might be a case of not knowing any better, a conscious decision, or perhaps a little of both. Where the latter is concerned, I find that there are many "men" who take a bizarre and perverse kind of pride in looking and/or acting coarse for want of a better word. Why?
Hopefully, that does not describe any visitors to The Average Guys Guide to Classic Style. If my observation does strike and uncomfortable chord, however, consider revisiting the way you think about yourself and your life. Examine what you want and expect for yourself personally and professionally. What kind of attire and life do you want for yourself, and what expectations go with what you envision? Do you want to resemble the legions of guys in perpetual disarray, who are sloppy in appearance, habit, and mind? Or, do you want something better for yourself. . . and those around you?
Like it or not, external appearance is a part of this. We can use clothing, however, to present ourselves in the best way possible, inspiring confidence within ourselves and those around us when it comes to our education, skills, abilities, talents, and level of seriousness. . . Or just our general level of pleasantness.
11) For many guys ripped, torn, stained, orange and/or camouflage clothing is the daily norm.
I don't even know where to start when it comes to this, but Judas H. Priest! And I don't think it's always an indicator of socioeconomic status hence my sense of frustration with the situation. Isn't there someone, a parent or parent figure, who can set these clowns straight? Since I grew up in the country and cared for several horses, ponies, and sheep among other farmyard animals during my youth, though, I feel safe in suggesting that this kind of clothing should be relegated primarily to chores in and around the barn.
Otherwise, don't appear for public consumption wearing it. . . Unless you are actually freezing your baguettes off in a blind during deer season, or some other hunting season, when it comes to all of that orange and camo gear.
12) Last, too many guys are crippled by a self-defeating mindset.
An awful lot of guys I've rubbed elbows with invent any number of reasons and give all kinds excuses for why they do not, will not, or cannot dress any better than they do if and when the subject comes up. I also suspect that there are lots of unstated reasons and ways of thinking that come into play too. Enough is enough!
It's time to stop viewing dressing presentably, together with decent behavior, as things to fear, loathe, and deride. Dressing (and conducting oneself) like a man with some grooming, polish, and sophistication should instead be seen as an opportunity to look and feel your best and put your best foot forward. A change in how you view yourself, along with dressing and acting like an adult, who has things to do, places to go, and people to see -- plus the well-practiced social skills to match -- is called for when it comes to feeling comfortable in classic male attire or a social setting besides the dreaded and stinky "man cave."
Where do we go from here?
Surely, there must be additional points I am not thinking of at the moment, but those outlined above go some way in explaining how and why lots of guys claim to feel physically uncomfortable, or just mentally and emotionally ill at ease, whenever they are faced with wearing something that conveys somewhat more gravitas than that ratty Cozumel t-shirt, from college Spring Break a dozen years ago, with a pair of blown-out jeans or cargo shorts.
Now, I might be off the mark with some of of the problems I identify above, but quite a few years spent meeting and observing people, in various walks of life, suggest otherwise. It's my considered opinion that lots of guys, of various ages and occupations, suffer from one or more of the ills described above, consciously or subconsciously. Moreover, I'll venture that these same individuals, who clearly are in the majority, are to some degree physically uncomfortable in and/or mildly embarrassed by their clothing and appearance. However, they attempt to mask that discomfort in a haze of cheap aftershave and testosterone-induced bluster if the subject is ever broached. Smoke and mirrors in other words. Or as I like to think of it, the emperor has no clothes on at all.
I'll go out on a limb here and suggest something quite radical at this point however. If a guy goes about it the right way, re-imagining his self-image and approach to presentable dress, a suit and necktie, or even just a sports jacket or blazer, odd pants or jeans that fit, and a blue oxford cloth button-down collar shirt -- worn open-necked without a tie. . . what constitutes "dressed up" to a lot of people these days -- can be every bit as comfortable as a pair of pajamas. Try it and see.