To many women, looking stylish is a total obsession. And I don’t think you dress to kill to impress the men in your lives, because we just aren’t that picky, nor are our tastes refined enough to offer substantial critiques. I gave up watching “Project Runway” (the female equivalent of UFC) after the second season because I always backed the losing designer, without fail. I think it’s a ladies-only horse race. Women dress up for other women. Dudes are casual spectators of your beloved sport.
When the current woman I’m dating (I know how you ladies love nicknames, so let’s just call her “the current woman I’m dating” or TCWID) dolls up, she makes me sweat like a prom date. She looks beautiful and reminds me of a cactus flower: a colorful, delicate, powerful little bloom that a thorny, ugly world shouldn’t produce but does. And then there are the nights where she greets me at her door wearing nothing but a t-shirt, boy shorts and glasses and my heart high-fives my brain. Packaging isn’t a huge priority to men. But that doesn’t mean we don’t appreciate the short skirts.
On the flip side, I know most ladies probably pine for more fashion-forward dudes, and there are bunches out there. I know only one thing about fashion — that women judge men on their shoes. Which is why, in my pile of oh-so comfortable, ratty, aesthetically neutral sneakers, I have a pair of wide-soled black shoes for when I go out with a woman. They are the fashion foundation upon which I build the hobo shantytown that is my personal “look.” Usually, I think about clothes the way I think about the food pyramid: I need multiple servings of button-down shirts, fewer servings of pants, and then a couple offerings from the shoe group. I have no sense of style, and I know I’m sized up on how I dress. If I had to explain my “look,” which I’ve cultivated over the years by not being naked, I’d describe it as “freshly laundered.”
This is a minor source of insecurity, but I don’t think I have the aptitude to express myself sartorially. It’s too bad first impressions can’t be made with finger paints, or feats of strength, or dirty jokes. I occupy my scarce ration of brain cells with such topics as “How To Open This Jar” and “Politicians: Those Guys Get Me Steamed,” instead of “Is This Last Season?” And I’d rather spend my money on … just about anything else. Steak? Power tools? Comic books? It’s not just the expense, either. It’s the brightly lit dungeons known as “department stores.” Sartre was wrong: hell is the modern retail experience.
Funny, unless it’s happening to me.
My dad was old-school; he wore humble suits bought at discount stores. I was raised to think that clothes are purely functional and that peacocks are guilty of vanity, a moral no-no in my house (blame my Catholicism and the fact that my granddad was a Baptist preacher). But I know this isn’t entirely true. My dad was a successful man, and while he wore suits off the rack from Sears, he was always well put-together and polished. Therefore, I get that old saying that a person wears clothes, not vice versa.
I have plenty of male friends who are impeccable dressers. One in particular edits a bunch of popular websites, and he’s always hip and sharply put-together. When we hang out, we look like The Odd Couple, if The Odd Couple starred Don Draper and Jimmy Kimmel. I envy his knack, and it would be dismissive not to mention that he obviously puts time into it. He is proud of how he looks, and I respect that. I am proud of not eating with my fingers. I accept that fashion is an art; the body is the canvas, the fabric the paint, the draping the brushstroke, and it’s all unified by a single vision. Fashion melds function with flourish. I can’t really criticize anyone for wearing clothes that transform the way they see themselves and the way they see a sometimes dreary environment. But when I see a beautiful woman in a stunning, haute-couture gown, all I can think is, “Damn, she looks good!”
Maybe I just don’t have it in me or maybe I’m missing the “fabulousness” chromosome. I’d beg someone for a makeover, but I know it would be a month before I was back to wearing button-downs and jeans. So I won’t wear Crocs (again). I will wear the absolute opposite of whatever Jon Gosselin is wearing. Tank tops only if I’m fishing? Iron Maiden t-shirts purely for ironic purposes? More than two pairs of jeans, a couple of nice ties, and nothing that actually has “Old Navy” written on it — deal? Can I get a pass? Oh, and Amelia: I thought that hoodie I wore at that club was cool. I had no idea it was actually part of a “track suit.” I bought it on sale in Queens. (Thankfully, sexily attired TCWID didn’t notice this horrid faux pas.) [Whatever. When can we talk about your hair? -- Editor]