Thursday, January 5, 2012

Dumb Trends that Endure, and How Southern Women Can Save Us

Fashion is for people with no style, it is often said.  On the near-empty subway home from a very pleasant dinner of sushi and martinis, I sat next to an abandoned copy of GQ (January 2012 issue), and started spinning through it.  To my schadenfreudian pleasure, I saw that it was still borderline useless, designed by man-boys for the specific consumption by other man-children. 

Look very closely at the images below.  If you have a pulse and are awake while viewing these pictures, you will see that the trend clobbers your style sense with its ugly style agenda.

There is nothing wrong with socklessness in moderation, but the high-water/pegged cuff-with-dress shoes trend is just that: a trend.  And it's dumb. Very dumb.  It's for children and not for men.  It was almost charming when young Londoners did it in the 60's, and it was almost funny when Pee-Wee Herman did it in the 80's, but today it still looks dumb.  I try to avoid saying that this or that is right or wrong, but many trends can generally be dismissed out of hand as suspect at best, and subversive at worst.

Not that this should come as a surprise within the pages of "men's" magazines... especially when they are publications that encourage men to undertake grotesque body-building (unrelated to athleticism, by the way), practice sporadic abstinence with shaving, and to pain endlessly to achieve a pseudo bed-head hair style.  I generally tend to be laissez faire when it comes to style, preferring that people do and wear what they like if it is no harm to me, but when it becomes wedged down one's throat, my hackles get crackled. 

Consider this "fashion advice" from their long-running column:

Since a bow tie conceals the collar points, I find this advice especially moronic. Below, I have a spread collar with a bow tie... what's the problem?


"YWP, If you don't always like GQ, don't read it."  An appropriate suggestion since I just said "laissez faire" a few lines ago, but it goes deeper than that.  It is clear that there is a resurgence in style-hungry young men, and like you, I quietly bristle (as unsanctimoniously as possible) at that to which these eyes turn.  Should they be looking to blogs?  Maybe as a last resort.  Magazines? No.  They should have been guided by an older generation of fathers, grandfathers, brothers, uncles, teachers, and even public figures.  Further, they should be guided (by insistence) by mothers, sisters, girlfriends, and wives.

Southern women are the best for this... they lay it out plainly about what their boys and men should wear, how they should act, etc., and they stubbornly adhere to their expectations in a way that is always refreshing and appropriate.  I always love spending time in the Mid-Atlantic and South for this reason.  They insist that men dress and behave in a certain way, and it pays off.  As a Yankee (who married a Yankee) who travels several times per month, I assure you that the contrast is vivid.  That is not to say that there are not appropriately strong-willed and exceedingly hospitable women elsewhere who refuse to abdicate to lower standards.  In New England there are many, and I imagine that it comes from family, school, friends, or any combination of those, or even from an innate sense of self-assuredness and certainty of how they choose to interact with the world (a nod to the Fowler sisters, M.F and K.F.).

In Boston, men will pretend to sleep or read on the subways and buses to avoid giving their seats to the elderly, the injured, or even very pregnant women.  When the offense becomes too glaring, it will normally be the smartly dressed gal with a sweet southern lilt (student or transplant) who will be the first to insist that "At least one of you able-bodied men will SURELY give you seat to this woman."

My close friend with three girls says that if he had three sons, he could only teach three boys how to behave... but with three daughters he can teach the whole town... and he lives in Maine.  Sound philosophy.


  1. The subway/seat thing makes me crazy! I don't believe it's necessarily a Bostonian trait, as my subway line is very multicultural. I can't tell you how many seats I've given up to a mother and baby. Or helped a woman down the stairs with a stroller. Ugh!

    The 20 and 30 somethings that routinely barge ahead of me into and out of elevators and restaurants are treated to the stare of death.

    Oops, sorry for the rant, guess you touched a nerve.

  2. I blame women. The first time a young woman told a prospect to go home and get dressed the world would be a much better place. It's good to be old sometimes

  3. Agreed. Excellent. One of your best yet.

    The older generations, beginning perhaps with the so-called "Greatest" one, have utterly failed their heirs, in more ways than I can count.

  4. My favorite post, absolutely. I read through the issue of GQ several days ago. Pants aren't designed to be rolled like that. Nobody wants to see your pale ankles in contrast to bright red wingtips or saddle shoes or WHATEVER trendy shoe of the moment. While I'm enjoying the recent renaissance of shoe design which has brought some classic styles to the forefront and turned a lot of guys off from square-toe Frankenstein bricks, the colors are monstrous. I could go on, but I'll stop before I find myself visiting the Duckie Brown or Marc McNairy sites and ridiculing every pair of neon orange patent leather penny loafers.

    Though there's no subway in my city, I take similar issue with gentlemen holding doors. There's NO reason you can't take five seconds to hold a door for a lady, even for another guy.

  5. "Fibonacci numbers"???? Fibonacci numbers can be found by the summation of the "shallow diagonal" in Pascal's Triangle. Doesn't a spread collar have a shallow diagonal? The Fibonacci sequence proves that spread collars should be worn with bow tie. GQ is for idiots.

  6. Style Taste Fashion

    A continuum with more money to be made at one end than the other, taste being the needle of the consumer. GQ's job used to be the arbiter at one end (style) but now its job is to pull the needle toward the right (fashion). With that in mind, if you're going to give clues to the clueless, you need to use a pretty big club and use it repeatedly. Whatever they once were, they're now no different from Cosmo or Vogue. I don't know if Esquire is really any better.

    On the southern thing: sometimes delightful, sometimes oppressive. One thing I do enjoy is that a southern woman really understands how to make a man feel valued. At its best, the mode is both carrot and stick. Many women only use the stick.

    On public transportation: I tend to leave gender out of it altogether and make my seat-leaving decisions based on vulnerability and venerability. Except for the door thing -- women go first, men get the courtesy hold.

  7. Magazines exist solely to sell stuff; they're cooked up by Madison Avenue wonks trying to create "trends" out of impractical products which have no basis in reality.

    Who's going to wear those "skinny" jeans? They'd only fit the guys in anime cartoons! The average American these days has an, er, "well-fed" look. Also, not everyone who's "trad" wants to cross the line into "fey."

  8. There needs to be a socklessness flow chart, to be honest. Is it a boat shoe or a loafer? Yes, proceed to weather. No? Wear socks! Is it cold outside? No? Don't wear socks. Yes? Wear socks! This foolish trend to bare your ankles no matter the shoe, no matter the weather really has to be nipped in the bud.

    A cuff, whether sewn in or not, on your khakis is one thing. Rolling, however, especially fabrics you wouldn't normally roll, just makes me think you've lost something in the stream bed and you need to go fish it out...

    Now, I am fiercely egalitarian, and as such, I have issues with chivalric tendencies of some of our more formal traditions. I also think gender is entirely a social construct and can very easily rant on the subject of chivalry as a patriarchal, and ultimately harmful, social narrative. HOWEVER, I'm not going to. Because a style blog, whether mine or yours, YWP, is not the place for such commentary.

    In my daily life, I do as Scott does. I give my seats to others and I hold doors open. For everyone. People tell me I'm really nice. I ask them why they're not.

  9. Thank you! I cannont STAND the pegged pants and wing tip look that young guys are wearing. Blech. And, as a Southern gal, thank you for that comment. While my kids probably tire of my disapproval of certain clothing for certain occasions (they both learned to state, "That's not appropriate" at a young age), I hope they'll thank me in the long run. :)

  10. "People tell me I'm really nice. I ask them why they're not."

    That's clever and glib writing, but I don't believe you're really that rude.

  11. JMW, I hope their spouses thank you in the long run.

  12. "To my schadenfreudian pleasure" you are just damn showing off.

    The mainliest thing that offends me in the GQ picture lineup is the skinny jeans.

  13. My pet peeve: hats indoors, especially ball caps. Please ladies, tell the men to take them off. Please

  14. If it takes you longer to cuff your bespoke cargo pants than to tie your shoes, you're doing it wrong. Completely support this. I do, however, hate socks. But I also only go sockless with shoes that are supposed to be worn thusly. I tried wearing a pair of very a la mode oxfords without socks and couldn't walk the next day. GQ is a pile of crap.

  15. OY.. the no socks thing. Couldn't do it in the 80's, could NEVER do it today. Although, my aversion has just as much to do with the way it feels, as much as the horrid fashion statement itself. Now, when I have to run out to the garage and it's only 30 degrees in there, I occasionally throw a pair of shoes on over my bare feet. However, I cringe every second that I'm wearing them. Heck, I'm a sock wearing guy, it's just how I was raised. I even wear socks while I'm wearing my slippers!

    Great blog you've got here, I really dig your style. Swinging by from Main Line Sportsman's blog by the way.


  16. This is a great website. I will others about it. Good Work!

  17. I wore brown A&F shorts and black Paolo Sesto loafers with no socks to one last summer shindig this Labor Day and I have to say I felt like it was a proper farewell to summer.


Let's keep it clean... but if you DO have to get foul, at least give it a bit of wit. Also, advertising disguised as comments will be deleted, unless it is clever.