The overwhelming majority of men, despite the fact that we get dressed (most days), just don’t care about fashion. The question is, should we care?
And the answer is YES.
While what you wear shouldn’t matter to the extent that you will forgo saving money to buy the latest, trendiest thing or chase a particular brand despite the absurd price premium that it commands, there are many valid reasons why fashion is relevant to today’s average guy. Lets start with the most basic and important reason. What you wear serves as a form of communication to others about who you are. Yes, we should all be judged based on the value of who we are as people, how we treat others, the quality of our work but the reality is others do make very personal judgments about us based on how we present ourselves.
How would you feel about your neurosurgeon if he walked into the room wearing a pair of tight, short, cut off denim jeans, cowboy boots and a sleeveless Hank Williams Jr. tee shirt with fringe cut into the bottom? Would you trust him to cut into your brain? Doubtful, though he may be the most skilled surgeon on the planet. What if the only difference between two surgeons was that one walked in the room wearing a nicely pressed pair of pants, a wrinkle free fitted dress shirt, a properly tied tie along with matching belt and shoes and the second surgeon walked in with a wrinkly loose dress shirt, an off kilter tie, pants that are to baggy and loose and older scuffed shoes that don’t match his belt? If you had to make an instant decision about which physician is going to take a scalpel to you I’m wiling to bet that 95 out of a hundred people will choose the first surgeon based on nothing more then how he is dressed.
What we wear communicates to others who we are. It impacts how we want to be perceived. In a professional setting it conveys education, training, knowledge and trust. Someone who pays attention to detail in how they dress is likely to also pay attention to detail in how they perform their job and live their life. Now in reality does the detailed dresser always pay more attention to the quality of their work or are they just more caught up in how they look? Often style has no bearing on substance but it does communicate the impression of substance and frequently that is all that matters. We all know individuals of questionable or limited competence who excel in the workplace not because of what they know but because of the impression that they convey.
Does this mean you have to adopt the costumes that you see in magazines and on TV? Absolutely not but it does mean you have to give some thought to what you put on and some effort in making sure your wardrobe is current and fit wells. If your closet is filled with pleated pants its time to donate them to Goodwill and buy a few new flat front pairs. If your idea of a nice tee shirt says Affliction or Ed Hardy its time to get out the blow torch and find something that wasn’t featured on MTV’s Jersey Shore. If your idea of a dressier going out shirt is a vertically striped, untucked button up shirt you are either a tool or still trying to wear what is trendy and cool but three years behind the times. Whether on a date, hanging out with friends or at the work place, what you wear says a lot about who you are and what others should think of you.
For the shorter man fashion will never make you taller or change the perceptions that others may falsely hold about shorter men but it will allow you to present the best version of yourself that you would like others to see. You can’t control what others think but you can control the message that you send out to the world. You can show that you care about yourself. You can utilize fashion to set the stage, preempting preconceived notions that others may have allowing you to dictate the course of your interactions with them.
Fashion communicates much more. Fashion is often used to communicate social and economic status. It creates a barrier between the haves and have-nots. Upscale brands allow high status seekers to communicate to each other that they are of the same class. Ostentatious displays of upscale brands communicate status and often insecurity about that status so the wearer makes sure that everyone knows they are worthy because they are walking billboards for Gucci, Prada, Channel or whatever the it brand of the moment is. Is class differentiation via fashion a good thing, not really but it is a reality and one you should learn to utilize judiciously to your advantage.
Fashion has other positive features. It can serve as a powerful form of self expression. You can have some fun with your clothes and utilize them to draw attention to yourself in a positive way, to express your culture, beliefs or lifestyle or simply to feel good about yourself and in the end, that display of self confidence is the best thing you can ever wear. Brands certainly take advantage of our desire to utilize fashion as a form or self expression. Do you want to communicate to the world that you take healthy living and your fitness seriously then you’re likely to spend half your time walking around in Nike, Under Armor or Adidas. And if you walk around in Lululemon instead it clearly sends a different message. Are your jeans Levi or $250 selvedge denim from a small manufacturer. In the end don’t let your choice in brands define you but feel comfortable utilizing fashion for fun and to bring out a little of your individuality.
Fashion designer Marc Jacobs gets credit for our next item. Fashion is a luxury and as Jacobs points out, it is human nature to want and enjoy luxuries. Be it because we enjoy the luxury or we enjoy that others are attracted to our luxury, either way there is nothing wrong with wanting and enjoying something on the nicer side of life. Yes thrift and humility and living simply are positive virtues but it is quite alright to also embrace a touch of luxury.
And last but not least fashion is an economic powerhouse that keeps countless people employed. While there are a handful of individuals who are getting rich from fashion (I’m not one of them) the majority of designers, pattern makers, garment workers, retail sales people, shippers and textile designers earn modest, if even that, livings from jobs directly related to the fashion industry. Then their is the multiplying effect of all the other industries that touch the world of fashion from bankers, lawyers, accountants, technology professionals, web designers, advertising firms right down to they guy who takes the trash out at the mall where your favorite store is located. Fashion is part of the economy and its impact is most certainly a positive thing. That doesn’t mean you should blow through your paycheck buying new clothes and claim you were doing it for the good of others but you certainly don’t have to feel bad about updating your wardrobe a bit.
Do I still find most of the world of fashion utterly ridiculous. You bet I do. It is often absolutely absurd. Women’s fashion ten times more so then men’s, and lets be thankful for that. Despite the often laughable nature of what is considered fashion it doesn’t change the fact that fashion does matter and it is worth a small moment of your time.