I once had the unfortunate experience of being blamed for my then-boyfriend’s mismatched apparel and commonly exhibited male behavior. My judge, a female friend, passed off the critique as a joke followed by a lengthy revelation into how his appearance reflects more on me, than him. She laughed while walking away, leaving me to wonder just how much, if any, my partner’s appearance and behavior should be considered my fault. He was an individual before I met him, dressing the same way now as he did then (meaning ten-year old T-shirts and beer-logo hats) but before me, his dress and manners were simply and adorably, guyish, but now, as I have taken him into my life and he, me, it seems to be more my womanly duty to throw shirts out and replace them, comment on his clothes before leaving the house, and ensure that he doesn’t embarrass himself, me or our unborn children who may have political aspirations. Honestly, this whole practice seems like some trap set-up to make women feel inadequate and stay focused on her man’s success rather than her own. (Don’t worry, clarification on this bit ‘o’ feminism rawr comes later) I understand wanting your partner to look good because you love him and don’t want him to be embarrassed in front of his boss or coworkers but come on, if a guy wants to wear the shirt he wore in his high-school yearbook photo to a barbeque or poker night, why can’t he? If he’s going out with the guys, I have a hard time believing that any of them would be able to remember his clothes beyond that he wasn’t naked – unless he was wearing a rival team’s apparel.
I’m not naïve. I know that the unknown but powerful, collective “we” unfairly scrutinizes people on the fact they are associated or related to someone who can’t seem to figure out that you shouldn’t wear polka-dot socks and a striped shirt. I know people look at him and wonder why his woman didn’t save him from himself as they are the only ones who can. I’m going to be honest and say I don’t have the time to even address my own lacking wardrobe and needed-to-get-cut-two-months-ago hair. Sometimes I just don’t have the energy to say, “that doesn’t match.” Can’t we women just assume that the reason a husband/boyfriend/fiance’s clothes don’t match, is because his woman got promoted, spent 50 hours at work that week, made it to two dance recitals, cooked dinner and managed to scrounge up cupcakes for something that she can’t even remember what it’s for other than they’re supposed to be gluten-free? Even though that might not be true, can’t we just admit that it might be true and lay off the woman? A man’s clothes are his own.
P.S. Brett, this doesn’t mean I like your accumulating collection of beer apparel.
Talk to pretty much any guy, and you’ll realize that they have a few items of “clutch” clothing – those, safe, old, reliable shirts or pants (or boxers) that comprise the staple of the male wardrobe. In the male world of fashion (let’s call it “mashion”), these are the solid performers, the clutch hitters that help you look good and feel good. I have a few of these myself: my old drumline shirt from high school, my Editorial Staff shirt from my college newspaper days (Go Elmhurst Bluejays!), and a pair of khaki cargo pants from Old Navy that just won’t give in. They’re relaxed and comfortable, and they make me feel like me. So what’s wrong with that?
Well, some of these mashion staples have (unfortunately) seen better days, a fact your significant other will share with you. And, as any girlfriend will confirm, a fraying collar here, some grease stains there, and color that’s more gray than black are the tell-tale signs you need to retire your favorite grizzled wardrobe veteran.
Believe me, it’s no fun. You’ll get a sick feeling in your stomach when you know the news is coming. Here’s a sample play-by-play:
Guy enters room.
“Oh, are you wearing that out tonight?” girlfriend asks.
“Well, yeah!” dude replies indignantly, eyes shifting between girlfriend and clothing artifact in question.
Girlfriend takes breath, pauses, and bites lower lip, thinking of how to break the news delicately: “It’s pretty faded, and it’s got a big stain right there… and there… and over here there’s a hole in the armpit.”
In short, it’s the beginning of the end – but perhaps with good reason. My lovely lady recently spilled the beans that in the inner female sanctum, a boyfriend’s/husband’s appearance can sometimes speak volumes about her actual significance in the role of “significant other.”
Translation: ladies who let their gentlemen strut about in swiss-cheese jeans and a “Clash of the Titans ’91 Tour” t-shirt can be perceived as lazy, uncommitted, and lacking an equal voice in the relationship. It sends the message that she doesn’t care or have a say in what they look like.
Fair or unfair? I say unfair, but probably not uncommon. A dude is a dude, and sometimes we make less-than-stellar decisions about our appearance in the name of comfort (or reverence). That might be stubborn and a bit ignorant regarding the perceptions of others, but it shouldn’t be seen as a reflection on the lady ,or the dynamics of the relationship in which she’s involved. Frankly, I give the whole notion a hearty “Boo-urns!”