It’s time for men to open their worlds a little wider to fashion and style.
I am thirty-nine years old as I write this. I have been married for nearly nine. As a school teacher of twelve years, and previously a data analyst in marketing, I’ve had a difficult relationship with fashion and style. I consider myself a normal, straightforward (geeky) guy, but I’ve struggled to understand the ease and intuition with which my sister and other women I knew seemed to approach how they dressed.
When I used to go shopping it was for necessity and function. I would walk into a shop look for what I needed, take it to the counter and buy it. I might have tried it on – if it was a pair of trousers for work or a suit. There was a reason for this in-and-out approach. I found the whole process overwhelming. How was I supposed to know what was good for me? I don’t look anything like the models or shop displays (I am a short bloke).
Occasionally, my friends would be dressing in all sorts of ways – some would even speak to me about what I was wearing. I would shrug it off saying “fashion’s not important to me.” It got worse when my mum and sister would comment on whatI was wearing. It made me feel uncomfortable, and I just dug my heels in about what I wanted to wear like a stroppy teenager (even though I was approaching thirty at the time).
After I got married, I didn’t find it any easier. I started to take better physical care of myself and I lost weight – and found I had a chance to buy some new clothes. So I did – except this time I experimented. I started to look at what people I admired were wearing. At first, I stole people’s looks.
Then I began to refine my ideas.
I started to take a deeper interest watching television programs from Trinny and Susannah and Gok Wan. Over time,people began to comment on what I was wearing. Sometimes I’d wear something outrageous – and no-one would comment (which is actually a good thing).
People now say things like “James always looks cool.”
Recently I spent a very interesting day with two of my close male friends – shopping. Two of us were helping out the other with his style and attitudes to shopping. The whole reason the day was set up was because I was teasing (quite relentlessly)one of my friends about his dress sense.
However, by the end of the day he had: 1) found a lot about what looked good on him, 2) learned how to search and find it in shops, and 3) discovered more about his individual style.
Firstly, there are shared conversations. Women grow up with a network of discussions about style. Men are not comfortable discussing shoe-outfit combinations, coordinating accessories with clothes or examining the effects of skin tone on clothing colour. For women, it is “normal.”
Secondly, there’s media influence. Men are becoming more self-image-aware. Combined with the rise of an actual discussion of male ‘style icons’ there’s a rich environment for men to step into – yet so few men dress with awareness.Males are trailing the instinctive skill of the average female (however, I acknowledge that women are subject to more pressure from the media to look a particular way than men).
I say it is time for average, heterosexual men to embrace our whole experience of style between ourselves. Women are already comfortable doing this. As gender roles and urban living changes so is (and must) masculinity.
It’s time for groups of guys to get together, discuss style, and evolve.
Photo: Getty Images
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