Why Men Have Always Cared About Their Clothes

I’ve been hitting on this a lot lately, but it’s a topic that continues to come up. Oddly enough, it’s never actually directed at me or on the site. I just read about it on friends’ sites or other forums that link to me. Don’t know why that is, but these keyboard warriors never actually come here to tell me their uniform is the only acceptable way for a man to dress.

There are two “hate facts” that men everywhere need to accept.

1. People judge you

It doesn’t matter if they should or shouldn’t. They do. We are always being sized up, evaluated, judged, and treated accordingly. We’re judged for threat we do or don’t pose, the respect we do or don’t command, the attraction we do or don’t build… whatever value we can offer to other people is constantly being assessed.

2. People judge you according to your appearance

The human brain likes efficiency. Because of this efficiency it creates shortcuts. That’s where stereotypes and other surface assessments come from. Our brains recognize patters, and then safely assume that most people fall within recognizable patterns.

This isn’t good or bad, it just is.

Coincidentally, the men who try to tell you that concern for appearance is unmanly are the ones who judge most harshly according to appearance.

To them, there’s only one acceptable masculine appearance – indifferent utility. Anything that appears to be beyond that uniform is considered to be flamboyant, gay, effeminate, shallow, or any other negative term they can come up with.

However, this assessment is based entirely on a failure to adhere to their standard of an acceptably masculine appearance. This strict judgment doesn’t come from men who are equally comfortable in any article of clothing – only those who profess that their uniform is the most masculine.

And that’s why they immediately lose any semblance of credibility. When a man can honestly wear whatever is placed in front of him, not have it affect the way he carries himself, and not have it affect the way in which he interacts with other people, only then can that man say that clothing and appearance don’t matter.

We never hear of men like that because they don’t exist. As soon as we start to move out of our aesthetic comfort zones, we quickly realize that our appearance has a significant impact on how we carry ourselves and how other people treat us. Period.

Men have always used their clothing as a way to signal status. We use it to show allegiance to tribe and distinction from other tribes. We use it communicate strength, wealth, courage, refinement, mastery, and honor.

It’s not limited to a particular culture or a particular period of time. As long as men are dependent on each other, we will use communicative shortcuts in attempts to display our worth to the tribe.

The error occurs when it’s taken too far, and again this is where aesthetic critics fail to understand the importance of style.

They believe, because men like me preach the importance of appearance, that we believe appearance is the most important aspect of being a man. When the truth is that it’s far from it.

Clothing, grooming, and other aesthetic cues are simply the medium. They don’t make the man. A refusal to say they are at the bottom of the hierarchy of masculine value doesn’t automatically require they are at the top. Appearance can be valuable without being the most valuable.

It’s all a sour-grapes approach. The men who chaff the most at the importance of appearance are usually the ones in whose favor it doesn’t work. It’s akin to wimpy academics saying strength doesn’t matter or idiot strongmen saying intelligence doesn’t matter. Both are threatened by a masculinity that requires excellence in an area in which they lack – so they reject that definition of masculinity and choose to double down on another.