Couture for Men February 12, 2007Posted by federalist in Open Questions.
The fashion industry has been utterly coopted by the female perspective. I believe there is a latent market for clothing that appeals to the innate interests of men: Namely, technologically advanced and concretely useful apparel, rather than arbitrarily trendy and frilly patterns and designs.
To first illustrate key gender differences I offer as examples my wife and my self. It is particularly amusing how our disparate interests can render one of us virtually blind to things that are central to the vocabulary of the other. For example, my wife is oblivious to vehicles. If I ask her, “What kind of rental were you driving this past week?”, I am bound to end up with a response along the lines of, “Um, it was white, sort of an SUV. I think the logo was an oval with something inside it.” Meanwhile, with just a glimpse of part of a car I can flesh out any number of details, including the brand, model, approximate model year, and probably a good number of trim features. I can tell you why one car or feature is better or more expensive than another. But I don’t naturally notice clothes. I can’t remember what I wore yesterday. Even after I spend an afternoon with somebody I probably couldn’t remember what they were wearing in any more than the most general terms. In contrast, my wife can remember what she was wearing on almost any occasion in her life. She can usually remember what I was wearing. She knows if clothes are expensive or fashionable, even if she doesn’t own them. (All I know is that some of my clothes don’t fit very well, and that others have to be dry cleaned if I get them dirty.)
But if I may be premitted to generalize from my wife, women are like that: They wear makeup and earrings. They adorn themselves with accoutrements that serve no useful purpose — and in many cases are anti-utilitarian. And this is the reason that men need their own couture: It’s not that men like me don’t care about clothes as much as women. It’s just that we care about them in different ways.
If I could indulge in couture the first thing I would do is banish all accoutrements that do not serve a useful function. Belts and ties are out; after all, the height of fashion should be the ability to design and buy clothes that fit without the need for extraneous straps. Like suspenders and garters, these are surely just accessories that came into custom because mass-produced clothes weren’t designed to fit well enough on their own. Likewise, non-fastening collars and other superfluous buttons and flaps are to be cut out. Today’s collars are limp vestiges of removable collars that could be laundered more frequently than the shirt they protected. Lapels that in previous ages could be buttoned up against the weather today are useless; they may as well be painted onto jackets.
Male couture should pay more attention to the properties and technology of fabric than to its color or shape. I am thrilled that I can now buy non-shrinking, wrinkle-free, stain-resistant clothes that I can throw in a washer and dryer without worrying about how hot or hard I run the machines. Semi-permeable and breathable fabrics like Gore-Tex are starting to look passe compared to materials that incorporate anti-microbial properties. I would gladly shell out even more money for clothes that are lint-free, and would expect true male couture to incorporate more exotic features like anti-static fibers or embedded metal filament like those conductive suits worn by high-voltage linemen. (“Volt-Tex — because you never know when you’ll be struck by lightning.” These marketing slogans practically write themselves!)
Male fashion should extend beyond the materials to address form and function in ways that men naturally care about. Colors should be incorporated only at a basic level for purely utilitarian purposes — white for a clean image, black to conceal or subdue, bright red or yellow for safety or attention. Any patterning of color can be permitted only as part of an explicit camoflauge strategy.
As for the form of the clothing, I’d be perfectly happy if everything were a one-piece jumpsuit. The only options should be whether the sleaves are short or long, how warm or cool the fabric will keep me, and how many clever pockets there are.