My yearly pilgrimage back to the land of my forefathers always reminds me of the things I miss so dearly in East Asia; good cheese, clothes that fit, architectural diversity, multiculturalism, nonchalance, and the ability to blend in with the crowd. Several of these things may be contributing factors to two of the biggest cultural shocks, or reverse cultural shocks, that I’m struck with every time I venture beyond the 75th meridian west. The first is the size of the people, which after a couple of days I tend not to notice anymore. The second, and one that I never quite get over, is that a great number of American males either don’t care about their appearance, or, which in my eyes is a far greater sin, actually cultivate a look of sophomoric slovenliness.
The suburbs are a sea of ill-fitting cargo shorts, sweat pants, hoodies, baseball caps, concert t-shirts, and trainers, all covered with the logos of mega companies. The cities aren’t much of an improvement. On several occasions I stood in my beloved Wawa, a glorious convenience store indigenous to Pennsylvania, which offers a multitude of delectable fattening sandwiches at the mere touch of a screen, trying to take in the sheer magnitude of men who were basically saying “Yeah I don’t care what my clothes look like” and was often met by the glare of a goateed, hooded thirty something that said “I’ll kick your ass you wimp!”. Luckily I was able to look deep into their tortured souls and see that what they were really saying with their eyes was “help me! I’m trapped in this nightmare of hoodies, cargos, sweats, and ill fitting jeans! I want to get out I just don’t know how or I think I can’t afford it!” Fashion nightmares of America don’t fret, there is hope! The good news is if you can afford what you’re wearing you can afford to dress better than you do, which isn’t at all difficult. To start you can follow a few basic rules.
Rule Number One: You are not a billboard
When a company wants to advertise they pay for space in a magazine, newspaper, or on a billboard. If a company wants a sports star or any other variety of celebrity to sport their logo the company pays them to do so. When you wear Nike, Rebook, or any apparell with a logo as a fashion statement, you are basically paying so you can advertise their product for them. You are saying this “Hi I just paid triple the price of what this windbreaker really costs because of this small swoosh here on the left hand corner. ”
Rule Number Two: You're not at the gym or playing center field
Your skate shoes are made for skating, your running shoes are made for running, and your baseball hat is made for keeping the sun off of your face when playing baseball. Sports equipment isn’t fashion. While you may feel great wearing your favorite baseball cap out for a night on the town it is a piece of sports equipment just like running shoes, ice skates, boxing gloves, or a goalie mask. You wouldn’t go out at night with a shot put or a javelin as an accessory so take off your baseball cap and trainers. Save your sports clothes for the track, field and gym.
Rule Number Three: NO ONE cares!
You’re really into an obscure indie rock band and want to let EVERYONE know so you wear the concert t-shirt. Guess what? NOBODY CARES that you like some band you think is cool or obscure and wearing concert t-shirts after your late 20’s will earn you the label of sophomoric or worse. Musical tastes make for great conversation pieces NOT fashion choices.
Rule Number Four: You can be highly fashionable and extremely manly at the same time.
I would love to see one of the hoodied fashion nightmares tell Nick Wooster he is a sissy boy! Dressing well doesn’t make you less masculine, dressing slovenly doesn’t make you more masculine either.
Rule Number Five: Have fun finding your style!
Dressing, and shopping, should be fun and exciting. Shopping for an outfit and accessories is an extremely enjoyable way to spend an afternoon and a great way to find out more about who you are and what you like. Maybe after you find the perfect three piece seersucker you’ll decide to match it with a pair of Tom’s, or boat shoes, and a Peal & Co.® Triple Gusset Briefcase. Maybe you’ll go for an Irish linen suit, handle bar mustache, and Billykirk® schoolboy satchel. Instead of just slapping on clothes and walking out the door you’ll take pride in what you wear and find a new hobby in the process.
I challenge the stylistically impaired or stunted to start fresh, throw away those cargoes, baseball hats, and sweat pants, or at least save them for the gym, and discover the joys of taking pride in how you look. Many American males don’t realize they’re known throughout the world, and are easily identified, by their slovenly sense of fashion. If your friends mock you or laugh then let them and see if they’re still laughing when attractive, mature, stylish ladies, who wouldn’t give them the time of day, take an interest in you. If you have a significant other she, or he, probably spends a fair amount of time getting ready when you go out on dates so if you can’t do it for yourself at least do it for her. A woman who put time and thought into picking out her outfit and accessories doesn’t want to be seen out with a guy who threw on a hoodie, baseball cap, ill fitting jeans, and trainers. Let’s get in the game gents!
Columnist Joshua Lorenzo Newett is a novelist, entrepreneur, and English professor at The Korean Naval Academy in Jinhae, South Korea. Saving Bill Murray, his second novel, will be published in June 2013.
Young man in a hoodie image courtesy of Shutterstock