If you were to ask me what I would wear on a nice Sunday morning stroll, I would insist on a plain navy blue polo shirt and a pair of white chino pants. I occasionally get compliments for the choice of outfit. But in choosing what to wear, I would pick the one that I would genuinely enjoy wearing, above all other things.
I think I started to develop my taste for clothes a few years ago, when I stumbled upon this community on Reddit called r/malefashionadvice. Instead of a hormonal, testosterone-filled den I assumed it would be, the community is, from experience, one of the least vitriolic circles on the site, whose members place genuine love in menswear as a lifestyle and a hobby. I can’t count the number of hours that I’ve lost reading up on the different types of fabrics and ties, columns by menswear writers like Hugo Jacomet and G. Bruce Boyer, or random discussions on the economics of the fashion industry. In some ways, it is a hobbyist group of sorts.
Despite the iconic styles of characters such as James Bond or Don Draper, it is, I think, a common opinion that plenty of men are still sloppy dressers, without a care in the world about what actually looks good. Memories of dads or uncles wearing baggy jeans and ill-fitting striped polo shirts with basketball shoes don’t help. Though I admit that I had a similar phase—if you were to ask me six years ago what would be a nice thing to wear, I would have settled for baggy jeans and ill-fitting polo shirts.
But as I explored the world of menswear, I’ve also come across things that have troubled me and the community. There are still many men out there who are convinced that the main, if not sole, purpose of dressing up is for the projection of masculinity. Online content with absurd clickbait titles abound like What women would like you to wear or X style mistakes that men always do.
The obvious patriarchal overtones that it projects is the first bothersome thing. Is it new? Not really. The same line of thought has been reproduced a thousand times in a thousand men’s magazines. Is it appropriate? I don’t think so. In this day and age, we should be working toward eradicating misogynist thought rather than allowing it to fester.
There is also this persistent overanalysis of what to wear, what not to wear, or what brands to pick through hundreds of tutorial videos that are posted and reposted everywhere online. Instead of helping people become more confident with what they wear, the agenda of pushing products and brand recall prevails.
Boyer, who served as fashion editor for GQ and Esquire, notes how men dress up “as though it were a blood sport, a competition rather than a celebration. They wear their clothes as though they were weapons, and thus almost never look comfortable in what they’ve got on.”
But all of these just confirms the old adages: outward appearance can never be used as a measure of one’s character. In the grand scheme of things, physical appearance is only ever secondary. There is no shortage of examples showing appalling personalities hidden behind a well-tailored suit and vice versa: many of the sloppy dressers that I know are some of the most genuine characters that I’m lucky to have met.
It doesn’t take much time or effort to choose clothes, but it takes years of rigorous trial and error to build up character. Every time we get the chance to stare at the mirror, we should look beyond the fabric and into ourselves. After all, clothes alone don’t make the man.