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)

Harry Agrees With Hadley

Well, up to a point.

Hadley Freeman in the Guardian was asked recently what is ' the safest way to compliment a lady?'. ( Read it here).
The question is revealing. It shouldn't be about what is safe, but what is right.
She has certainly got it right in identifying some of the things that should not be said: ( 'that dress makes you look pretty').
But I am less convinced of her recommendation. Yes, it may be ok to say 'That's a nice dress',. Or 'that colour really brings out the colour in your eyes'. But in my humble opinion neither of these are likely to pass muster.
Because they sound like a rehearsed response. Unless the male in question has a track record of paying attention to others ( perhaps a loaded question) , and  a track record of comment and compliment, this is going to sound anything but spontaneous.
Ok, it's difficult for men. So many ways to get it wrong. It's not surprising that steering through these troubled waters results in something anodyne.

The real answer is simply 'You look fabulous'.
But it has to be said unprompted, and with spontaneity.
There may well have been time for a couple of martinis before being called on to say anything. That's what the martinis are for.

Thank you

Many thanks to all of you who shared your memories of 9/11. Please add to them if you wish

It's true. Shoe designers hate us

Lisa Armstrong at the Times asked around to see if designers were going to introduce a mid-height heel, and the answer is no, they aren't:

“So,” I asked the head of the shoe design studio at Louis Vuitton in Paris recently, “when are you going to do a shoe for you know, wearing?” The slightly wounded reply was that if they had money for every time someone made a smart-aleck comment like that, they would be very rich indeed, but that actually, there were no plans to introduce lower heels in the foreseeable future.

It's pretty much the same story at other fashion shoes houses - officially, at least. “Our customer is a fashion customer” one PR said, implying that anyone not prepared to stagger through her day in 105mm has obviously given up the fight to look good. Another told me that their 35mm to 55mm heels were doing very nicely - with the “older” customer.

Great. Wanting a shoe you can walk in now categorises you as a geriatric. In some of the more fashionable stores, you actually have to ask to see a mid-height heel - they're not on display. Oh, the shame. Sidling into the adult section of the video store and asking to see the stuff with animals probably has more kudos.

“The simple fact,” Rupert Sanderson tells me on the phone from the shoe factory in Florence, “is that heels just look sexier, stronger and more arresting the higher they are. With the advent of the concealed platform, heels can be even higher. Technically, the sky's the limit. I keep doing lower heels, and some of them look quite strong - but the eye gets distracted. We're used to height.

“The other reason why designers still push the extreme heel is because that's what women come to us for. Practicality is what they go to the high street for.”