Because you can't have depths without surfaces.
Linda Grant, thinking about clothes, books and other matters.

Sunday, 20 January 2008

The Great Mutton debate - menswear

With with AW/08 collections about to kick off, in the Observer Jeremy Langmead, editor of Esquire, explains that for the past few years the menswear shows have been throwing stuff down the catwalks that looks like it should only be worn by the founders of facebook - beanie hats, jeans with the crotch slung down the mid-thigh. Who wants, he writes,

. . . to look like the work experience guy unless they are the work experience guy? More fun surely to look like the boss with the bonus, comfortable in your middle-aged skin, rather than tragically aping the low-slung, hip hop style of the mail boy?

Personally, I can't say I know any 40-year-olds who dress this way and I do know several style-conscious men (and one who recently replaced a US army surplus jacket he bought in New York in 1970 while in town from Boston for a demo against the Vietnam war, with another one exactly the same, which went in the wardrobe for 'best' while the original remains his everyday wear.)

But Jeremy assures me that

The kidult look that has, for the past three or four years, monopolised the catwalks and therefore the high streets - cue hordes of metropolitan men dressing like their children, a sad sight in every sense - may finally be on the way out. There are early signs that fashion-conscious men may start dressing like grown-ups again. Instead of baggy, low-slung jeans or skintight trousers, the designers are sending models down the catwalk looking like adults: three-piece suits, loose trousers and coats that actually keep the cold out. Gone are beanie hats and manbags; in are briefcases and spectacles.

Someone in Milan and Paris, the world's two most influential fashion hubs, has recognised that style-conscious metropolitan men with money, usually those from their thirties up, may be wearying of being forced to look as if they want nothing more than to get down with the kids.

And then he makes rather a cutting point:

It is women, in fact, who have helped men realise how dangerous the desire to look young can be. We have watched them submit themselves to the surgeon's knife, spend thousands on caviar-filled potions and eat nothing but low-cal yoghurt in order to fit into size six dresses. It doesn't look fun. Men might have been oafish enough to encourage it, but we're not foolish enough to follow it. While gender generalisations are never popular, men, on the whole, do tend to look a little longer before buying into something. And thankfully, with this youth cult thing, we've realised just in time that it's not worth the money.

And still we await the return of the doublet, hose and pantaloons.


Deja Pseu said...

And thankfully, with this youth cult thing, we've realised just in time that it's not worth the money.

Nothing happens in a vaccuum. Women are penalized (socially, economically) much more than men for looking older. It's "not worth the money" to men because the price they pay for visibly aging is not as high.

Phyllis said...

The pressure on women in the corporate world is even more Darwinian. Do you ever see a fame senior executive who's as overweight and disheveled as her male counterparts? No.

In business men are judged by their talent. Women are judged by their appearance first and then their talent.

Toby Wollin said...

Phyllis - Let's look at the people who are currently running for their respective political parties' nomination for president of the United States. Quick - who got major discussion on how much was showing in the chest area during an appearance? Not John Edwards (though I admit that he got criticized for the amount of money he paid for a haircut - not the haircut itself). Who has been criticized for hairstyle, wrinkles, color of clothing, type of clothing, and leg condition? Who has to continuously emphasize competence, experience, seriousness? Not that some of the others do not have to wave their own flags on individual items, but who has to constantly hit all the buttons all the time? Hillary Clinton. Why? Because she is a woman. And like all women, no matter what she does, how strong she is, what her positions or intelligence or competence is - you have political commentators saying things like, "Do American's want to look at those wrinkles for four years?" Deja pseu is absolutely right - "women are penalized much more than men for looking older." People wonder why it is why it is in the US that women of all ages are driven toward cosmetic surgery, Botox, dressing inappropriately etc. - why? Because to be female and "not young" (and you can interpret that in any of the permutations you care to)in this country means that you are supposed to be invisible.
I saw a recent article (UK paper, I think) where a poll showed that a fairly substantial number of women in the UK would marry strictly on the basis of money. Men are not stupid - they know where their value lies - and it has nothing to do with looking cute or young - it has everything to do with "revenue generating capacity." Jane Eyre's Mr. Rochester would recognize the current scene, right down to "family and connections".