Thursday, June 2, 2011

the clothes maketh the manchild

Vanity being one of my many vices, I've spent considerable time thinking about clothes and styles of dress. I've experimented with various themes - from an ill-advised and extended dalliance with a grungy aesthetic (I owned for years a pair of high rotation cut-off army pants that I would combine with the requisite well worn Chucks and t-shirts featuring whatever Seattle-based band I was listening to at the time), through to a period where I would only wear functional athletic or outdoorsy clothes almost exclusively constructed from materials that were marketed with terms like "quick-drying" and "breathability". Europe exerted its influence, and my wardrobe grew to include numerous pairs of jeans, Italian leather shoes, and even accessories. I did spend a year or so only wearing (much to my wife's dissappointment/astonishment) bright red Crocs, right though the middle of a Swedish winter.

Lately though, I've been feeling a little frustrated at my clothing choices. This has been building for a while now, from a couple of different directions. As I mentioned, we spent some time in Sweden, a place where people appear to put some actual thought into their clothes, and I began to feel like I should stop actively trying to dress like a slob. Around the same time I became slightly Mad Men obsessed and started thinking it would be nice get around in a suit a little more often. There were some weddings and dinner parties that required formal attire, and I had a couple of professional engagements that called for a jacket and a decent shirt, despite occurring in the academic world where a general sartorial quirkiness (think tweed jackets with elbow patches, corduroy slacks and sandals) is not only acceptable but expected.

Knowing what I liked, but not why, and realising that there were rules out there, I did some research. I like rules. They take some of the guess work out of dressing 'correctly', and it turns out there is another arcane body of knowledge I can immerse myself in and thus once again fulfill my desire to 'get my geek on'.

So research I did. I started following this guy, which ticked all the right boxes - classy and traditional while being approachable (and not requiring immense amounts of money). There are a few others out there as well: The Sartorialist, A Suitable Wardrobe, among others. My vocabulary has expanded to include terms like selvage, shantung and tussah silk knits, grenadines, bicolour ties and houndstooth (not that I really know what these terms actually mean). I developed a desire and willingness to wear 'nice' clothes. Clothes that make you stand taller, that make you look like a grownup and not some rapidly-approaching-middle-aged-man-desperately-trying-to-hang-on-to-his-youth-by-wearing-jeans-and-novelty/vintage-t-shirts.

And at this point in my wardrobe development I find myself in Cairns, where 'formal wear' means leather sandals instead of thongs and shorts that come with belt loops instead of drawstrings and velcro. Admittedly, it gets damn hot here, and the opportunity to layer, to wear long pants or even a decent mid-weight suit without expiring from heat stroke or at the very least ruining your clothes with sweat stains are few and far between. This is a climate that favours those quick-drying 'functional' clothes I am trying to move away from, a place where Crocs actually make sense.

So I bought a powder blue safari suit. Formal attire for the tropics. BAM!


jo said...

Photo please man-child.

Anonymous said...

I tried dressing up like a grown-up.
Puke is hard to got out of suede.