I enjoy comfortable clothes as much as or possibly more so than the next guy, but comfortable jeans just weren’t my style for the longest time. I liked dockers and other casual pants much more than I liked jeans for most of my teenage years and into my young adulthood.
Not that I had much fashion sense much of that time. I wore dark socks with leather sandals a few times. And white socks with dark shoes. And stripes with patterns. And numerous other faux pas.
Partly is was for comfort. But mostly it was because I cared both for being comfortable and for being classy. Eventually I learned enough to stop mostly succeeding at the former while mostly failing at the latter.
Apparently that goal of the good look isn’t my unique trait.
Thank heavens for that. I really didn’t need another way to be unique.
The New York Times has an article about how young males are once again discovering the benefits of sharp dressing. Personally, I gain self-confidence from knowing I can hold my own, stylistically, against any comers. While the NY Times article doesn’t so much delve into the why, it explores the cultural icons which are leading the charge and the reactions and possible paths this change will take.
“I think it’s a reaction against the homogeneity of casual wear,” said Gordon Henderson, the design director of Topman. “There’s nowhere to go with that in terms of personality, whereas a suit sets you apart. And now there are suits that are cut for young people. There’s never been that before, so it’s new to them.”
In a twist, neckties are being sold at the very place that did more than any other to usher in casual Friday: Gap. Not to be outdone, American Apparel now sells bow ties.
The NY Times article mentions that this current shift seems primarily found among young men, and is not currently influencing young ladies. A college professor sees this divide in his classrooms:
(T)he younger generation is looking at getting dressed up and making their mark,” Mr. Cohen continued. “It’s a real generation gap here. I teach at three different colleges, and I am amazed how dressed up some of the students are. Girls still come in their hoodies and pajamas, but boys come in their suits.”
In our culture today the man is the boor, the pig, the neanderthal. As a man I resent that perception of incompetence and brutishness. Many women in our culture are quick to disparage (thankfully my wife is not such a woman) and denigrate the men in the culture, reinforcing stereotypes and typecasts which do nothing but discourage those men who do try.
If I’m supposed to be such a boor, why be anything else. After all, it’s what people expect of me.
The Art of Manliness, a blog I heartily recommend to all men, and women, digs deeper into this perceived disparity and the changes which are percolating through the culture.
Asking what manly men can expect from women, the Art of Manliness posted marital rating scales from the 1930’s. The men’s rating scale is not far from what is expected of men today:
- Doesn’t ogle other women
- Compliments his wife frequently
- Takes his wife on regular dates
- Is neat and clean
- Does not compare his wife with other women
Any woman would claim to be happy were they married to a man meeting those criteria.
But if you were to expect any kind of reciprocal effort from the wife and woman, you’re immediately labeled a sexist. And to be labeled sexist is to have your life ruined, so deeply has this disparity influenced our culture.
And don’t begin with the “We women have been working hard for you men already, we don’t need to improve” or the “You’ve got so far to catch up to us, we needn’t make any effort.”
Both people in a relationship have personal work, which supports the ability of the individuals to continue in the relationship, and relational work, which supports and builds the relationship itself.
Expectations for men were lowered at the same time expectations for women were shifted into what was previously the men’s responsibility. Not their privilege, their responsibility. Now men are raising their own achievements back to where they’ve been classically, women need to allow men to be men and cease this snark and this constant tearing down.
The Art of Manliness is careful to note that men are not trying to man up in order to be please women or to seek their approval. That is not strength but weakness.
Men are manning up because it is the right and honorable and worthwhile thing to do.
But these days a new double standard has emerged where it’s okay to celebrate men manning up, but telling women they need to recover some of their femininity is offensive. To wit:A woman telling a man to stop looking like a slob and dress up. Awesome!
A man telling a woman to stop looking like a slob and take care of herself. Sexist!
Saying that men should stop hooking up with women. Awesome!
Saying that women should stop sleeping around. Sexist!
Saying that men should get off the couch and go to work. Awesome!
Saying that a woman should be nurturing with kids. Sexist!
Saying that men should take the initiative in relationships. Awesome!
Saying that a woman should let the man lead (ever!). Sexist!
There is more there, and it is a good and though provoking read.
There really are consequences to every idea, and something as culture changing as women’s liberation has some incredible consequences which deserve to be thought through thoroughly.