After over three decades of marriage, six words continue to bring tension into our dynamic. “You’re not wearing that are you?”
It’s the sentence of doom. The earth cracks, I’m positioned on one side, my husband on the other. Resistance tightly engaged. Even after all these years, on occasion, I find myself uttering those words, like a time warp. I hate expressing them as much as he hates hearing them. He is intuitively aware concerning this subject, attempting to bypass it by laying out a few items of attire to appease me while desiring nothing more than to be comfortable in what he’s wearing.
What is it with men and clothing particularly when they have to go out? Generally speaking, they don’t give a crap. As long as it’s clean, it works. The idea of dressing within the season means nothing. A bulky tired winter sweater over light summer pants makes total sense as does a linen shirt with wool pants which in their fashion book is divine. Costco and Mark’s Work Wearhouse is their Nordstrums. They can’t see the obvious, because to them it’s clothes. What’s there to bitch about, when you’re covered? Unlike women, men don’t feel their age so they’re unaware that something might be inappropriate that’s why you’ll find some of them proudly sporting camouflage.
They need to make Garanimals for men — clothing where one of seven animals show up on labels. You wear the tops and bottoms of the corresponding creatures. You don’t mix a hippo with a giraffe or a bear and an elephant. This idea would prevent jackass outfits from occurring where these accomplished titans of business, medicine, science and the arts wouldn’t look like they’re a toddler in a drama centre dressing up for pretend time.
Recently my husband donated half of his wardrobe. He rid himself of suits and any formal wear. Moving forward in his life he will now be in either golf or sportswear. If someone dies, he’ll attend the funeral dressed for a fresh round of golf which to him is a religious experience. Someone getting married. Perhaps some dark golf pants and a lovely cerulean blue golf shirt. Because nothing says, wedding, like dressing for TSN. Besides his argument would be that many marriages are hosted at golf courses so it stands to reason you’d dress for it. Golf attire for Valentines because what else says I love you baby, more than a bright coral button-down golf shirt with navy pants and a white belt. Fortunately, like many other women, I’ve purchased most of his clothing so he can fake it, but how about the others who can’t? Shorts in the dead of winter with a heavy down coat, going commando to the barbecue, and why wear socks if it’s not a business meeting? And nothing like a stained t-shirt to say hey baby let’s get it on. These guys are our husbands. Our prizes dressed like we picked curtain number three in ‘Let’s Make a Deal’ and yet this type of thinking is rational for a lot of men.
I’ve been spared the socks with sandals, but it would be an easy sell for some of the men I know. Who is the dude who even started that trend? How much sexless can you compress into that visual? I remember years ago being at an eastern European wedding, and the groom wore bright white sport socks with dark trousers. I felt for the bride. The earth was moving and not in a good way.
One friend strategically pulls out a series of hangers in their closet if she knows that she and her husband are going out. She’s well aware he’s going to reach for whatever he sees first. Another friend leaves an outfit ready at the end of her husband’s clothing rack. All the pieces separate as though voila, like a rabbit out of a hat, they just showed up and happen to work together. Another shared that her successful husband routinely dresses insanely. Most recently sporting a rainbow-striped shirt underneath a military styled jacket peppered in pockets, epaulets and brass buttons. Her words were that it was “dizzying.” He’s a doctor in the mental health profession. Eyebrows at her address are permanently raised. Another friend’s husband would be content attending any event whatsoever in jeans and a stained t-shirt. She claims he is worse than their two-year-old grandson. A Chairman no less. Another friends husband wore a tuxedo, with his favourite slippers. He brilliantly undermined the magic that naturally goes with this otherwise sexy outfit.
These men are amazing human beings. Loving, smart, generous, compassionate and funny but if left to their own devices when it comes to their wardrobe they would package that dynamic persona and magnificence into something that looks like Forest Gump. Ultimately, unaware and could care less as long as they are comfortable. Should mustard fall on a shirt, they want to be able to lick it off or have a pattern into which it can blend. Giving a crap doesn’t even make the radar. As you’re sitting at a dinner party smiling at the love of your life whose dressed no better than the crazy old bat who lives down the street watering her grass in pin curls, a hairnet, fuzzy slippers and a housecoat. His aesthetic the masculine version of hers. His oversized chinos, wrinkled linen shirt and tired shoes that he’s strangely attached to adorn him as he lovingly winks back at you.
The biggest violators are what I call the ‘Walmart Crew.’ Middle-aged men, you find shopping at Walmart perfectly styled for central casting, captured in their cropped t-shirts, exposing their beer belly, the envy of a mother carrying to term; tired pyjama bottoms with a jean jacket or surfer shorts sported by someone who looks like they don’t swim. One of the more offensive visuals burned into one’s brain is the super short Adidas running shorts from the seventies that look like they came from the Frederick’s of Hollywood line for middle-aged men. Now on a body screaming. Their fibres taxed, forced to cover a piece of real estate for which they were never designed. The three stripes now separate, unrecognizable from its original logo, all to compensate a false sense of stretch. Complimenting that look are hair cuts rooted in habit, void of style, dress shirts with muffin tops and baseball caps which are not the little black dress that goes with everything.
My husband has a great sense of style; however on the rare occasion it eludes him, and the ride to wherever we’re going can be long and silent. This idea of men and their choices in clothing has similarities to men asking for directions. They don’t. They resist asking for any guidance when it comes to dressing despite the fact they live with life partners who could be personal stylists. Instead, they miss the train station of ‘magnificence’ exiting instead at the ‘Goodwill’ platform.
Having a tight wardrobe where everything goes together is the solution, pieces that can work for a meeting and of course, sports and leisure. It’s not about having a lot but making sure each piece is highly versatile. It goes with the price per wear idea. A pair of pants that do three things might cost more, but there’s a lot more wear, and the savings are not exclusive to the garment. It’s about not being embarrassed at a dinner party. Mixing high fashion with low doesn’t even exist in this stratosphere, only a small cry for a tiny bit of style.
The single guys around me are either surprisingly dapper or not. Two gentlemen, in particular, are highly skilled at layering their clothes, understanding textures, fabrics, patterns, colour palettes and even the cuts of clothing. Both men over 60, are extremely elegant wearing their attire with such ease, as though they fell off the pages of GQ. The others have lost all comprehension with the definition of style. Completely content that they can comfortably pull at their underwear from between their butt cheeks.
There is also a critical part in this equation where you pick your battles with your spouse. Clothing is a low priority unless the outfit is so outrageous for the occasion that one requires an intervention. At our age, like them, we don’t have the energy to give a crap. Instead, we love them for who they are and know well our sisterhood is dealing with the same dilemma.
Over the years, I’ve come to appreciate that the phrase “you’re not wearing that are you?” is the kind way of saying “what the f@ck!”