This is a post for those who are new to the blog. You can take it as an introduction of sorts. In my real-life interactions with people I have a lot of men who ask me why I dress the way I do. For some it’s genuine curiosity, others do it out of a sense of discomfort, and some do it because they want to be able to do so themselves.
It’s a tough question to answer. A woman dresses the way she does as a way to attract men and as a way to fit comfortably in with the women in her in group and distinguish herself from those of her out group. For a man, it’s not this cut and dry. Yes women are attracted to how a man looks but a man’s appearance doesn’t carry the same weight in the sexual and dating/marriage marketplace as a woman’s does. And most men don’t want to fit in the same way a woman does.
We’ll come back to fitting in in a minute. I bet a lot of you men like to consider yourselves lone wolves. In fact, the most common excuse I hear from men who feign aesthetic apathy is that they don’t care what anyone else thinks of them. If you’ve said that to yourself, I’m calling your bluff right now. If you didn’t care, you’d be wearing a Forever Lazy or some similar robe-style getup day in and day out.
“But my boss makes me dress a certain way to work”
That may be true, but you comply because you care what your boss thinks. You care what your boss thinks because he’s the one who pays you so you can have a roof over your head and sleep at night.
Have you ever stopped to ask yourself why the way you dress is important? If you think about it, the clothing we wear is extremely arbitrary. Most of it is equal in accomplishing the dual function of privacy and protection. There’s little functional benefit between wearing pair of relaxed jeans instead of a pair of slim ones.
But clothing is like speaking. Making different noises with our mouths would seem fairly arbitrary to a species that did not use spoken language. But since Man has attached meaning to those sounds they have become extremely important. Whether you like it or not, Man has attached meaning to the different clothing that we wear.
So getting back to fitting in, men don’t want to fit in like women do. When a woman finds herself as part of a group, she wants to fit in with that group as much as possible. She sees value in the women around her and wants to copy and replicate that same value.
As men we’re a bit different. Yes we’re still human and yes we have the same tendencies to be in and form packs. But a man wants to fit into a group the same way a particular part functions within a car. It doesn’t matter how many V12 engines you have, if you don’t have the rest of the materials you need, that group of engines will never become a functioning vehicle. You need a frame, the axles, the wheels, the doors, windows, interior, carbs, brakes, etc. Men want to fit into a group as a unique piece that contributes to the greater whole. And as much as you like to think you’re a lone wolf, a single engine is no better than a room full of engines. Men need other men to survive and then to thrive.
So what does this have to do with clothing? Well, the clothes we wear, those arbitrary pieces of cloth that now have attached meaning, communicate what part of the whole we want to be. A business man wears a suit to communicate to other men what function he can serve. A policeman wears a uniform to do the same. Even the neon vests on construction crews communicate things to the world around them.
But it’s more than just communicating how we fit in within the rest of society. What a man wears communicates his opinion of what happens within that society. He may wish to show reverence to the deceased by wearing all black to a funeral, he may wish to stand out from other men by wearing a different bathing suit at the beach and thereby communicating a willingness to be different, he may even subconsciously wish to convey that his own comfort is more important than anything else around him by wearing sweats when he goes to the grocery store.
Regardless of what we wear, we communicate our opinion of the people we associate with or the situations we find ourselves in.
That means it’s just as inappropriate to wear a suit all the time as it is to never wear one at all. It means it’s just as crucial to know what your outfit means to those around you as it is to know what your words say. It means that wishing it didn’t matter isn’t going to make it so.
If a man doesn’t learn how to dress well, he cripples himself almost as much as if he didn’t learn how to read. He hurts his interactions with women, he hurts his interactions with his employers, he hurts his interactions with his customers, and he even hurts his interactions with his family.
So stop trying to come up with excuses for not dressing better. You’ll never come up with a valid one, just like you’ll never come up with a valid reason not to learn how to do any other number of things that can get you ahead in life. Learn to dress well to respect those who matter to you more. Learn to dress well to get a better job. Learn to dress well to be able to relax when you go on vacation. Learn to dress well to be able to show that you’re a fuel rod instead of a CV joint.
Whatever reason you need to focus on, just learn to dress well. No you’re not your khakis, but your khakis can help others see who you really are.