One of the great surprises of this writing project has been just how many times I have written about clothing. On balance, I’m no more qualified to opine on style than anyone else you might find on the street. I am, however, uniquely qualified in voicing my opinion in the most honest of ways, and since the fashion industry seems founded mostly on delusion, I find my point of view needed in sometimes the most dire way. But like any good logician, I am not content with simply anecdotal remarking, and empirical evaluation. I need rules, axiom and laws that I can apply without passion or prejudice to the fashion choices of others that always produce consistent results - or in this case, things that don’t make me want to claw my eyes out of my head. And so, after careful consideration of these many months of summertime clothing which I have been forced to observe, here are 3 laws of fashion:
1. Why Not Take All Of Feet. I have been wrestling with my own personal revulsion over being bombarded with the sight of nearly bare feet for some time. Because it’s hot outside (and by “hot”, I mean three months of three digit temperatures), there are a lot of feet around. Now granted, I don’t personally understand why this obviates the use of regular shoes. After all, keeping my feet uncovered while the rest of me is bundled up does little to keep me cool, and a pair of shorts and a t-shirt keep me from overheating despite wearing socks and sneakers. But that notwithstanding, I’ve come to this: the only people whose feet I want to see naked are those whom I want to see the rest of them naked. Or to put in plainer terms: gentlemen, shoes on; old people, shoes on; anyone overweight, shoes on. Any questions? Listen, there is no part of the human body which more unapologetically conveys one’s overall health, fitness and grooming standards like their feet - and unless you’re the kind of person turning heads at the swimming pool, do us all a favor and turn your bare feet into some shoes already.
2. Gang Colors. Over the years, nightclubs and other entertainment establishments have utilized dress codes to restrict access to gang members who use clothing to identify themselves and rival gang members. Prohibited items have included, certain colors (blue and red), certain items (ball caps and plain white t-shirts) and even certain ways of wearing otherwise innocuous items (sagging pants). But of late, these same clubs have added a restriction to their list - to prevent an even more insidious and worthless group from access - the banning of “TapOut” and “Affliction” shirts to keep out Team Douche. Never in the history of clothing has a brand become more unerringly indicative of an overall absence of redeeming social value than these two. What the white hood is to racists, screen-printed skulls, crosses and other faux badassery is to chodes. No matter what sort of artistic or stylistic value these brands used to have, they have been completely and irrevocably absorbed by the least desirable social element since street gangs, and the time has come to either take them out of your closet and burn them - or abandon any defense you may have to being an asshat. There is simply no good reason to ever be seen in one of these shirts again.
3. Man Dazzle. As a general rule, it is never a good idea for a man to buy clothes at any store that might be rightfully classified as a “boutique.” Men’s clothing has, until recently, been gloriously simple. For those with refined taste and a similar budget, there was elegant simplicity. And for the rest of us there was regular, old, simple simplicity. Quality notwithstanding, our clothes came in shapes, sizes and colors that just made sense. The only things that were attached these practical pieces were buttons, zippers and the occasional snap. On the rare occasion you needed something shiny affixed (e.g. cufflinks, tie clip, etc.) it was a completely separate affair. But just when I thought screen printing had reached a critical mass of ridiculousness, someone got out their hot glue gun and upped the ante. Studs, rhinestones and hastily affixed shiny trim began to appear on casual clothing like unwelcome pimples on a questionable complexion. This man-dazzling has turned the previously banal exercise that was men’s laundry into a tag-reviewing mid-term in the myriad wash modes and drying techniques available in the laundry room, and even exposed the dry cleaner to casual men’s clothes. If there is a worse idea than built-in accessorizing for men, I haven’t heard of it. Seriously, this was barely acceptable for Elvis and it most certainly isn’t o.k. for you. If a shirt has anything on it besides a device it keep it closed, you’re better off without it.
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No matter how exhaustively I try, I suspect there will always be an opportunity for me to shamelessly mock what people are wearing. After all, without fashion misses, there would be no fashion hits. But with the pace at which trends are set, obsessively followed and then abandoned, the struggle to keep up has all but eliminated any measure of common sense in the process, and a nation of the tragically hip are left to wit and whimsy of a few eccentric Frenchmen. Is it really any wonder we end up looking foolish? For me, unlike any other areas of my life where I prefer the cutting edge, I tend to purposefully stay a few steps behind with what I’m wearing. That way I can vet the current trends, see if there’s anything I like, or whether I’ll stick the time-tested classics that I know and love. After all, they don’t call it “fashionably late” for nothing.