I’m doing a film analysis unit with my seniors, and we’re currently watching Rebel Without a Cause.
I’ve watched it a number of times before, but this time I was paying attention to what all the characters are wearing. Of course there’s the classic red windbreaker that James Dean wears. But he’s also wearing a skinny tie in the opening scene. A bunch of the characters have their jeans rolled up; they wear leather bomber jackets and boots.
It’s nothing revelatory, but I always find it interesting when I can see direct examples of fashion coming around full circle. Everywhere I look, guys are rolling up their pant legs. Just a small example of the cyclical nature of fashion.
But I’ll say it again: style is the foundation of fashion. James Dean is a style icon, one among many men have had throughout the decades from whom we can all take notes.
I don’t remember when I first heard my mom use this line, but I do remember asking her what it meant. She said, “It means that sometimes you have to sacrifice looking good to get things done efficiently.”
I’ve thought about this line again and again as I’ve grown older, especially as I’ve grown more conscious of how I appear to the outside world. Now, I know that there are times when we must, for the sake of expediency or efficiency, look like dopes. I don’t think I look good in a wetsuit, but when I surf in water that is fifty-seven degrees, you better believe I will be wearing one.
But for the most part, I do think it’s possible to be both functional and fashionable. For a long time, I carried a North Face backpack to work because it was convenient and comfortable. Finally, my fiance stated matter-of-factly (after giving me grief for it) that she would no longer go anywhere with me if I wore it. I could continue to use it, but she would have no part of it. Funny how fast I went and got a messenger bag. And, as usual, she was right. The bag looked way classier than my backpack, and it also held more stuff. Fashionable? Check. Functional? Check.
I believe that paying attention to style performs more abstract functions, such as setting one apart in a crowd, impressing people who are paying attention, and giving a person more self-confidence. All of these bring with them functional benefits, though less obvious than the superficial physical functions.
So next time you are about to leave the house wearing your running shoes to work, consider whether you might not have comfortable shoes that also look decent; next time you’re about to go anywhere but the gym wearing sweatpants, take two freakin’ seconds to put on jeans. Your running shoes sure are functional; your sweatpants sure are comfortable. But fashionable?
I doubt it.
I was at a shopping center near my work eating lunch and saw some men doing some do nots. In no particular order:
-Wearing sandals with socks.
-Wearing a bag that looked like Allen’s “satchel” in The Hangover.
-Wearing athletic shoes with slacks and a dress shirt.
-Wearing shorts that exposed the butt-crack.
-Wearing a Statue of Liberty t-shirt.
Now, I’m for developing personal style. But all of the above are terrible stylistically. We men have gotten a bad rap in the style department because, unfortunately, enough men have committed these and similar style blunders.
Thus, I shall note five fashion no-no’s I see in public places. I hope you do nothing on this and future lists, but if you do…
The title of this post is the answer I give my students at the beginning of the year when they ask me, “Why are you wearing pink?”
When I first started working at my school, one of my fellow English teachers came up to me one day and said, “Hey, we’re going to wear pink every Friday.” So when the next Friday rolled around, I wore one of my two shirts that had pink. My colleague was also wearing pink. And when the next Friday rolled around, I wore my other shirt with pink. And my colleague was also wearing pink.
On the third week, I went back to my first shirt, and I was dismayed to find that my colleague was not wearing pink. I asked him what the deal was; all he did was shrug. I thought it might be a mean trick he was playing on the new guy, but as I got to know him, I realized that he had probably just forgotten.
I’m closing out my fifth year at my school, and I’ve worn pink every Friday since that first Friday.
My pink collection has grown a good deal in those five years. I have many, many pink shirts, a pair of slip on Vans with pink soles, and I even purchased some pink shorts last year. My kids get a kick out of it, and it’s a nice way to celebrate the end of the week. Plus, I always use it as a conversation point during my unit on masculinity and femininity.
Starting next Friday, I will be posting pictures of the respective pink item I choose to wear on that day.
I encourage any of you man enough to sport anything pink to join me in celebrating the end of the work week (and don’t be afraid to share your pictures).
For those of you expecting a post on Ecclesiastes, I’m terribly sorry to disappoint you. I love Ecclesiastes, and I recommend reading it, but, alas, this a post on vanity.
It’s one of the seven deadlies, but, like the others on the list, it’s only negative if you let it control your life. I do believe that vanity is at the root of many of our actions, often unconsciously. If you’re new to my writings, let me tell you up front: I don’t believe in sin, so you’ll get no preaching from me (in that respect). Vanity can actually be quite a positive force in our lives.
I exercise five days a week. At the root of this is my desire to have more energy, gain strength, and live a longer life. But I would be a fool and a liar if I denied that vanity plays a part in working out. Everyone likes to look good, no matter what he or she might say, and I am no different. Looking good is a by-product of being healthy, and we want to look good to attract a mate (I could argue that a desire to procreate is actually at the center of all of our actions, but that will be left for another post). If it is solely vanity and nothing else that drives me to the gym, at least I will be healthier and more productive, which will benefit not only me but society as a whole.
If you’ve done any (even superficial) perusing of my posts, you will know that I pay close attention to what I wear. Some may say that this is a waste of time, that it is a superficial endeavor, that the inside is what counts. I say to that: I am, by no means, stating that what I wear is tantamount, but it is important, not just for me but for everyone. Like it or not, people judge others based upon their looks. In fact, it is an instinct. Humans judge symmetry down to the decimal point in other people; they calculate–unconsciously, of course–shoulder-to-waist and hip-to-waist ratios to determine fertility. And in our culture, they judge what you wear. You can be classified by your clothes alone. This classification may be false, but we all know what they say about first impressions: you only make one. Go into a job interview wearing sweats and a t-shirt and note the looks on the faces of your interviewers: it will be one of surprise, but not in a positive sense.
An old roommate of mine once said, when I commented on a guy’s clothes, “I thought you were supposed to be all philosophical and deep, Mr. Literature.” I am. I’ve read more books than most people I meet; I’ve written more poetry than most people I meet; I spend more time pondering impossible questions than most people I meet.
But I would be an idiot to deny that the way we look helps to determine who we are to others. Rage against the injustice of it if you will, but the sooner you accept it, the sooner you can get your ass into the gym and buy a wardrobe that accentuates all your hard work.
“Vanity, vanity, all is vanity!”
I visited the Fashion District in Los Angeles on Saturday. For those of you who have never been there, I suggest you go check it out. There are miles of streets and alleys you can walk and buy clothes and accessories for a good price, especially since you can practice the art of bargaining. Bring some cash because you’ll often get a better deal. You’re also going to need some stamina: it takes a while to sort through all of the vendors. Some of the stuff is poorly made; some of it is downright cheesy. But if you’re not concerned with name-brand clothes (though they do have some of that), and you’re okay with your stuff not lasting forever, head on out and walk the streets. There are way more vendors of female clothing, but that’s not really a surprise since females make up a large percentage of the fashion market.
I didn’t actually buy anything the other day, but I’m okay with that. It’s an experience just going down there (though this was not my first time), and if you enjoy people-watching, this is a good place for it.