In the world of fashion for men, I’m pretty sure that I would be considered a genuine country bumpkin. As someone who was born and raised in Northwest Indiana, I’ve kept what I’d like to call a down-to-earth, practical view on what men wear. Of course, we men generally have a different, perhaps more comfortable view on this subject from views that women have. Though we can be very competitive in other areas of endeavor, most men, if they’re being honest, consider clothing a necessity for warmth, coolness (regarding temperature), and modesty. Often, women are the ones who choose our neckties (those silk items that add a hint of color and interest to suits that otherwise all look pretty much the same). If we could, we men would wear faded blue jeans and flannel shirts to weddings, funerals, banquets, cocktail parties, ball games and church. Swimming might be the only activity for us that could require different attire.
I taught high school for thirty-five years, collecting over fifty silk neckties as gifts and personal purchases by me. I wore those neckties mostly with sport coats and sweaters and occasional dress suits over those years, but when I retired, I had a friend quilt those ties into toss pillows, which the dog and cat both enjoy now as cushions for napping. I saved one black silk necktie for funerals and another more colorful tie for any dress-up emergency for which I am expected to be more formal without looking too much like a Puritan minister.
The world in general has become much more casual, especially here in Colorado, where there are horses and ranches everywhere, so I seldom see suits and neckties, except as the iron maiden apparel of bankers and lawyers, who evidently feel more trustworthy through the stiffer dignity of Armani ensembles than through the relatively looser and more casual comfort of the Pa Kettle look, which happens to be a favorite of mine.
My real surprise comes from my occasional reading of publications based mostly in New York City with ads for Prada, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Bottega Veneta, Versace, Dior for men, and Hermes. Simple suits in these ads cost many thousands of dollars, and even a silk necktie can cost more than I’ve paid for some of the cars I’ve owned. Prestige is perhaps the most expensive commodity on earth and something for which many people are willing to pay almost any price.
This morning I saw an ad for Versace slip-on sneakers that looked for all the world like ones I’ve also seen at Target for less than $80. The Versace price tag was $1125. My Hoosier, homespun common sense kicked in, and I felt revolted. My apparently corn-fed value system saw this and other such ads as useless excesses in a world of starving children and abandoned pets needing rescue. Something strongly Midwestern grabbed my conscience and unsophisticated sense of fashion. There’s no hope for me, I guess.
Maybe I should be more grateful that there are at least some creative deviations in men’s clothing, which otherwise has not really changed much during the past century. I should also be thankful that we are no longer expected to wear knee britches, powdered wigs, or buckled shoes. Finally, men’s fashion for me is a kind of spectator sport, one that I observe happily from a distance, and at which I observe $700 silk neckties and $1200 sneakers as through a Hubble telescope…from many light years away. JB