What the well dressed man is wearing
Many things have perplexed me throughout life. The Riemann Hypothesis, Marylin Manson and George W Bush, just to quote three examples. (Ok, so I didn’t really wonder about the Riemann Hypothesis, but I have watched two TV episodes around it). But nothing really throws me off as much as fashion… a constantly redefined set of arbitrary rules and parameters shaping conformance to appearance.
For a while, I relaxed on the delusion that fashion and vogue were exclusively female territory, and the male invasion into the forbidden land was through craning their necks at the aforementioned women. Apparently, that is not the case. There is apparently some threshold of compliance everybody should adhere to…. and I still don’t get it.
And most people know that I don’t get it. Every friend I’ve ever known and most of the people who has seen me for over five minutes would readily testify that my dress sense is off all known charts. The last time I was dressed up properly was when I was five; back when the role of personal fashion designer and consultant was played by mommy dearest. After tradition dictated that the responsibility be passed on to me, my idea of being presentable was to find a shirt that has been laundered in the past week.
“Hammy… are you REALLY wearing that black shirt with your black pants??”
“Yeah. Why not? They’re both clean…. I think.”
“Hammy, either you are trying to bring back retro, or you’re wearing your dad’s shirts.”
“Oh, please! These are not my dad’s shirts… Not anymore. He wouldn’t be caught dead wearing these!”
Anyway, my fashion sense or lack thereof has not really been shrouded in mystery. So why bring this up now? Hmm… Because… because… I guess I started this article from the wrong side. Ever do that? I mean not know where to begin… This can be particularly frustrating to the listener
“Here’s this bar, ok? And there’s this bartender guy around. And the dog says – “
“Whoa! Wait a minute. What dog?”
“There’s this dog that comes into the bar. He says – “I’m looking for the man who shot my paw”
“Huh? His paw’s shot?”
“Oh, yeah. Didn’t I mention? The dog was on crutches.”
See? Totally ruined the punchline. So it’s important to start at the beginning… unless you’re Christopher Nolan making ‘Memento‘; one of the awesomest movie directions of all time. But I digress. I tend to do that at times.
My recent soliloquy on my fashionable ignorance on fashion was triggered by a chat I had the other day with my old buddy Greg. Greg is one of my oldest friends and we’ve been shoulder-to-shoulder buddies ever since we were so high (Note: I am holding my palm about three and a half feet above the ground right now) I’ve written about him before. We used to be as inseparable as we were insufferable back in the golden years. We shared the same bench at class hours, exchanged our packed food during lunch hours, and fought fiercely every five days only to make up with a firm handshake on the sixth. It was the textbook best-bud situation.
In our mid teens, we parted ways, though we still kept in touch. Greg moved on to the wonderfully exotic Port Blair for a few years, where the latest movie that runs in their ONE movie theater is 1973’s Enter The Dragon and then moved on to the epicenter of teenage coming-of-age centers, Pune, and followed that up with his current job at India’s largest metropolis, Mumbai. With such a wide cultural exposure, it is hardly surprising that at the end of the day… even in the middle of the day, Greg is fashion conscious.
So here we were, chatting online after God knows how long, and one of the first things he said was – “You’re a nice guy, but I must admit – you have a terrible dressing sense.” Old news, of course, but still… I didn’t quite get why he brought that up at that point. So I asked him to elaborate. Then he graciously proceeded to give me the lowdown on the matter. He gave me his patented pointers.
- “You ought to hit a gym” – Sound advice. But gyms are effective only when you have rigor, patience, discipline, willpower, and determination. Otherwise, it is usually more efficient to simply burn some money on the first of every month.
- “Your shirts! They are simply saaad.” – Strange. I never heard them complain. But anyway, I decided to check it out. I put a few of my shirts side by side on the bed and tried to have an objective view about it. Dammit. They WERE sad. I could almost see the ‘🙁‘ smiley face… or rather, frowney face etched right on them. And I never knew. This is exactly the kind of thing you should be vigilant about. If you neglect the happiness of your shirts, one day you’re going to come home to find that your favorite Van Heusen cotton shirt has gone and done itself in. Probably even left a suicide note blaming you for the whole thing. And then Greg will call you up and go “Tsk tsk tsk.. I told you so.” This will be really annoying. Particularly since you don’t know Greg.
- “Buddy, Formal is NOT the only attire a guy can put on” – I’m sure it’s not. But it saves time. I don’t have to spend time thinking about what suits which occasion. I can walk in to a party in a plain old shirt – worst case – I get branded as a geeky uncool bore and nobody starts chatting up with me and gives me more time to concentrate my attention on the buffet line with all my tummy. But I really can’t wear my T shirt, jeans, and some bizzare color-altering sunglasses and walk into a client meeting – worst case scenario – My client grinds his teeth to rubble, my boss pops a vein in the neck, my company black-marks my name in the industry, I get thrown out into the street, catch pneumonia, and some snotty snob of a doctor refuses to treat me because I won’t wear a tie. A pretty sad state of affairs. Why take the risk? Hence, ‘formals for all occasions‘ is the lazy man’s thumb rule, and I am the quintessential ‘lazy man’ with an exceptionally large thumb. But anyway, I’ll keep Greg’s note in consideration.
- “And sometimes you wear your pants so high that one day I think it will go all the way up to your neck!!” – Hmm… At least that would hide my saaad shirts. Ok, ok… so I sometimes hike my pants up. Life would be so much simpler if we were born with a line around our waist – a ‘Pants Level Indicator’, if you will. Right now, I don’t worry about how I look. I just put something on and don’t bother about the waistline. I didn’t even know it was a matter of concern. But Greg assures me that it is an important concern in the land of well dressed men. So ok. I should lower my pants. Check. Of course, I’ll first have to decide on a proper level I can lower it to; Life’s never simple.
- “I’m not asking you to be a dandy, but you should at least take basic steps” – And I said “Ok”, nodding my head up and down, in the sort of manner you would use to indicate you have understood everything and has turned over a new leaf, when secretly, deep inside, you are wondering what the hell a dandy is.
- “And for the love of God, don’t wear your sports shoes with your formals!” – Hey, that was only one time… well, ok. That was one of several times, but that happens ONLY when I can’t find my formal shoes. Admittedly that happens more frequently than Greg would like, but he doesn’t know how much of a mess my room is in.
If he knew that at the time of our little internet chat, I was sporting a week old stubble on my chin and that my hair seemed to be modeled by Albert Einstein’s hairstylist, he would have popped a vein in his neck. Long live the internet. Anyway, he put in all the tips for me to appear civilized.
The first step towards redemption, apparently, is to admit I have a problem. I believe I’ve already done that. Hell, I’m the champion of the first step. Been doing that for over two decades now. Bring on step 2. Step 2 is to get a new wardrobe. Hmm… Shopping for clothes… Not my favourite pastime, you know. Sixteen minutes is the maximum time I’ve been able to stay clothing store without getting bored out of my skull, and even that was because I had a portable video game with me at the time. In fact, this is why I steal my dad’s old shirts in the first place. So anyway, I’m stuck on step 2 here.
The way out is to get my brother to shop for me. Yeah. That ought to work. He’s got a sense about these things. So let him bother about the wardrobe. Just don’t tell Greg about this.