Monday, June 14, 2010

Men Are Easy

It's so simple for men to buy clothes. In general, they don't have to deal with weird fits, strange colors, goofy detailing, trendy designs that don't flatter, excess or skimpy amounts of fabric, bizarre sleeves, too-revealing or unflattering necklines, too-short skirts or shorts, or transparency. Everything comes sized to fit an average guy, in styles and fabrics that won't scare horses. They routinely have a choice of sleeve and inseam lengths. It's sensible to have fewer options in terms of styles and more options in terms of fit.

A men's blazer is predictable; they all look and fit about the same. The sleeves hit where they are supposed to, around the wrist, instead of creeping up the forearms in an attempt to look cute. The lapels follow the dictates of traditional styling; they don't decide to go wide or skinny, or round or too pointy. The same is true for dress shirts. They come in a variety of collar styles, but none of them are much better or worse than others. Until recently my husband believed that there were only two collar styles: with buttons and without. I can see his point. And all men's dress shirts have long sleeves (at least where we shop). If men would look ridiculous in 3/4-length sleeves, why are about half of women's shirts made that way?

And why are all the women's chinos at J. Crew's outlet stores cropped at the moment? There's not a single pair of full-length chinos to be had. No one has bothered to try sell the idea of cropped chinos to men. But women are stuck with them, and they look bad. Crops wouldn't look any goofier on men, they'd only look equally goofy. But somewhere, there's a Sartorial God that protects men from the silly fashion trends that we women have to navigate around. Men have it easy. I'll grant that their shorts are really bad. But they can always find basic ones that fall somewhere above the knee. They don't have to wear those long, baggy ones with cargo pockets — unless they need a break from looking decent and want to look ridiculous and trendy for an afternoon.

My husband said he needed chinos. So I ordered three pairs from J. Crew in his size and length, in different colors. The only other option was "fit," which I guess is a euphemism for "how fat is he?" I chose "classic fit," instead of "slim" or "relaxed."  The pants came, they fit perfectly, and he's all set. I can't get away that easily. On me, their chinos are too baggy, gap strangely in the back, and are too long. Petites are too short.

My husband said he needed dress shirts. We went to the Kittery outlets. Because he tends to destroy his clothing pretty quickly, with rips, indelible stains, and unfixable holes or pilling, I tend to look for good brands but at bargain prices.

He tried on a dress shirt at Ralph Lauren. Too baggy. The baggy shirt is practically the only annoying clothing issue that men ever confront. Then he tried on a shirt at J. Crew. Just right. Bought four, in different colors. He's all set.

We went to Brooks Brothers because one of his sport coats has developed some holes. I no longer question him about how he manages to ruin his clothes while working in an office and teaching college courses; it's just a special talent he has. Brooks Brothers had all their sport coats on sale. Every one he tried on fit like it had been made for him. (Maybe they were; he's a preppy.) He bought two. And some socks. Now he's got a new wardrobe. It look us less than an hour.

Meanwhile, I didn't see a single thing in Brooks Brothers, J. Crew, or Ralph Lauren that I would consider owning even IF it looked nice and fit me (and it probably wouldn't). I was most interested in the Brooks Brothers' series of faux-leatherbound books on "How to Be a Lady" which I read as they rang up his purchases. But I'm not convinced that I want to be a lady. It sounds like too much hassle and too many occasions that would require biting my tongue.  I think I'm going to look into cross-dressing instead.

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