Today I’m writing to mourn a very dear friend of ours, a friend who made the good times great and the bad times bearable. He could enliven the most mundane of situations and could raise the expectations that you had of yourself while making you look spectacular in the eyes of others. No matter what race, creed, nor color you were he would always bring out the best in you, and make you feel like a million dollars even if you only had two in your pocket. With him you could stand toe to toe with the most powerful and prestigious of men without regard to station in life. And yet most people have an attitude of apathy to his passing if not outright disrespect as they stomp profoundly on his grave. It would be devastating if we lost this person under any circumstance and yet the fact that we all have some culpability in his demise makes it all the more tragic. Perhaps that is what makes the majority of us turn a blind eye to these developments, much like a jury of a certain “Trial of Last Century.”
We gentleman have let style die a long and silent death as if we made a solemn oath to follow to the letter instructions to not resuscitate. There does however remain a slight glimmer of hope in the sartorial darkness known as jeans that are so tight that they can be a hindrance to human conception, suits that are suitable for the professions of clowns and shall we stay dubious matchmakers, and tee shirts that while are perhaps appropriate for a night of intoxicated debauchery coupled with a morning of considerable regret, should probably not be worn to the presidential address. We must extinguish the naïve thinking that continues to plague the current attitudes and mindsets that have been formed in regards to men’s style.
I recently had the great fortune of going to an interactive music museum with a good friend of mine. One of the galleries happened to feature some of the greatest musical artist and guitarist of all time, from Les Paul, to Hendrix to James Burton. These were the guys who did not just create modern definitions of the words cool and swagger, but made it cool to be cool. They put the B, A, D and at least one S in the term…well, you get the picture. My friend pointed out the fact that, aside from their immense talent, the thing that all of them had in common was that they all had a carefully constructed style, that while different, they made a painstaking point to project in how they dressed. My embarrassment at having to cede an excellent point to a style atheist was overwhelmed by a profoundness of what it implied. Imagine that, men who took pride and put time into their appearance and were admired for it. Fast forward to today, and you will find a sharp contrast in opinion. Prevailing thought would have you confuse someone who takes more than a cursory interest in how he dresses as having a feminine quality. Keep in mind that this is the same thinking that sees absolutely nothing wrong with a man allowing his pants to hang so far away from his waist that they welcome an unsightly glance at his soiled underwear. At the same time it would have you believe that rail thin jeans coupled with a shirt containing an image of a half naked mixed martial artist is a superior form of masculinity versus a well groomed, well tailored man. New life begins to be given to the question, has the world gone mad?
I am not at all proposing that a gentleman spend more time in front of a mirror or coordinating his dress than his female counterpart does. However, I am suggesting that he pay some attention to his appearance at all times. Five minutes of looking through a GQ magazine, picking up an Alan Flusser book, or visiting the Aspiring Gentleman, especially on Tuesdays, could never be confused with being narcissistic about one’s looks. Think of the pride that is taken in other aspects of our lives, in our work, art, relationships, and yet how little we have come to show our appearance. An argument could be made that how you look actually expounds on who you are more than anything. As a civilized society it is something that each of us must do every single day, regardless of if we want to or not, so why shouldn’t we put some amount of conscious thought as to what we would most like to be viewed in, and as a consequence, viewed as? Since the moment that man replaced the leaf around his loin area with that of clothe it has always been a badge of honor and respectability to put your best forward as far as what he allowed himself to be clothed in. From King David, to Caesar, to Napoleon, a display of greatness was not just in their actions but on their persons, literally. Is it asking too much, just once, to substitute the ubiquitous Chuck Taylor and Air Force One tennis shoes at a social event for a pair of clean looking casual loafers? Trust me Phil Knight of Nike is not hurting financially. What if instead of a tee shirt and jeans we alternated to a nice complimentary button up with the sleeves rolled up and a pair of slick looking trousers? Until gentleman reinforce their dominance and take the lead instead of acquiescing to the ignorant thinking that has become so pervasive we will continue on with style’s eulogy. Its resurrection, my friends, rest squarely upon your shoulders.
*Special thanks to Mark Glesne who, while I wouldn’t exchange wardrobes with him for all the currency in the world, had a great influence on this article.
Marcus Green is the author of A Year Without April, and lives in Seattle,WA. His motto is that “90% of life is simply showing up…dressed well.”