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

Thursday, 24 July 2008

Men and Uniforms

The idea of a uniform is a bit of a conundrum for the average male. It's not that uncommon , in my experience, for the female of the species to sometimes bemoan the boring apparel of their significant other. Probably quite rightly. Because men do seem to conform rather a lot in their style of dress.

But perhaps they feel more constrained in their choice of what to wear than they are given credit for.
They conform to unwritten rules in terms of professional status ( though perhaps nowadays to a dress down uniformity). And outside work they conform in a tribal way to to a chosen peer group ( sports gear, media savvy/ ironic T shirts, Grateful Dead t shirts). Yes, the overall look is deeply dull. Because one sees it cloned a million times. And it's perhaps not very stylish.
But hang on.
Women fall for a man in uniform. We know that because that's what they tell us. But perhaps they are referring to the DJ and bow tie, or perhaps the firefighter. We are assured that these a big turn - on.
So there is a sort of Darwinian pressure on the male to embrace the idea of a uniform.
But what elements of a uniform create attraction? Literature suggests that power and masculinity are the key signifiers ( Bathsheba Everdene and Anna Karenina spring to mind).
Perhaps the partner's complaint of 'dullness' is just a coded way of saying ' my dear , I'm sorry but you simply don't look powerful or masculine enough'.
This may be a bit of a poser for those of us of more senior years. But spare a thought for the younger generation. It's possible that they are being rather poorly served by some of the leading style arbiters. Just look at those skinny jackets, fey sweaters, and flimsy shoes.
But I guess if they adorn themselves head to toe in D&G and make sure those logos are showing, then they are at least managing to communicate ' I have money to burn'.
Which today is perhaps the key cipher for power and masculinity.

(posted by LG but by Harry)


miss cavendish said...

Think also of The Great Gatsby, where Jay's army uniform was the class leveler that enabled him to court Daisy.

LeeLee said...

I think women also find competence to be sexy. Uniforms convey that the wearer is a competent, skilled, trained individual. Nevermind that the training may only be useful if one is taken captive or somesuch.

Shay said...

It's not the uniform. It's the idea that inside the uniform is a tough and dangerous man, someone who has stared into the eyes of death and survived, who has had adventures the civilian world can only imagine.

Men don't seem to feel the same way about women in uniform. At least, I never ran into any when I was on active duty.

greying pixie said...

This reminds me of the time that my husband decided to become a cub scout leader in order to support our children through cubs. Whilst I had a real laugh at him about how much polyester he was forced to wear, several mothers at the school were visibly quite excited about it, mentioning his uniform at every opportunity!

Duchesse said...

I have a friend who is a pilot for a commercial airline. I see him all the time in casual wear. The other day he stopped by on the way to the airport in uniform. This pleasant looking, mid-sized man, at whom you would not look twice on the street, was transformed into a god. In fact, I said, "Oh my god!" and he said, "You can just call me Captain."