Tuesday, October 7, 2008

shopping with dudes

I realized this weekend that I was living under the false premise that dudes have it a lot easier when it comes to the important things in life, like getting due pay for the work they do on the job, gaining respect for their minds in the classroom and, most importantly, finding clothes that fit them in the shopping mall. Man (ha!), was I wrong. Well, about that last one, at least. That is, shopping sucks for guys, too.

I never really thought of men having a body type that they needed to dress, like women do. For instance, women are apple-shaped, pear-shaped, long-torso'd, short-torso'd, hourglass, flat-chested, bosomy, long-necked, short-necked, etc. I'd even go so far as to say such details like the circumference of a woman's ankles play into style choice. After all, nary a shoe do cankles compliment.

But men? I've never seen a dude with cankles. Not only that, but since the Sears and JCPenney's catalogues started coming to my family's house when I was a kid, I always thought guys fit into three simple categories -- slim, regular or husky. And save for the far extremes of "slim" and "husky," I figured dudes could wear whatever they wanted without worrying about downplaying or enhancing pesky things like hips, breastesses and overall proportion if they just bought the right size.

But good effing guh-od, was I wrong -- wronger than I've been since that one time I thought it was a good idea to hop into a strange Mercedes in St. Petersburg, Russia, at 4 a.m. thinking it was a cab. (Consequently, that was the first time I ever had to test my rolling-out-of-a-moving-vehicle skills. I nailed it.).

Horrible decisions aside, I'm sure every dude who doesn't dress like a tool is scoffing at my ignorance, but for some reason this concept of men having proportion issues never crossed my mind. That is, until last Saturday when a male friend, a Canadian, asked my friend The Law and me to help him "de-douche" himself and make him look like he "listens to indie rock," which, single ladies if your interested (wink!), he actually does.

It seemed easy enough. We'd just outfit him in some American Apparel type gear, layer a raggy-looking cardigan over a flannel or something, add some skinny cords and some Chucks and voila! Instant indie caché. We started off at Filene's Basement to git 'er 'im done. However, it turns out, our friend has the best worst body issue a guy could ever deal with -- he's too in shape. He lacks the skinny lankiness that compliments the intentionally disheveled aesthetic he was going for, so the items we chose either made him look like a lumberjack or a jock dressing up for Halloween. FAIL.

So we moved on to get some professional advice from the pros at Saks Fifth Avenue. We told him what we originally were going for, at which point the Canadian noted, "I basically want to be the male version of her," pointing at me, which was apparently comic gold because the sales associate helping us started cackling. Not sure whether I should've been insulted (was my outfit that ridiculous?), I explained that we had tried a series of cardigans that didn't work and were looking to see some sweatervests (YES!).

Apparently not listening, the clerk fetched zero sweatervests and a cardigan, which happened to boast a price of -- ready? -- $1,200.00. Seriously. I'm not sure what the $1,200.00 price tag was all about. Sure, it was Ermenegildo Zegna and, yes, it was nice, but $1,200? Unless that sh*t was woven from the pubes of actual angels, I'm not sure any cardigan is worth that many bones. (Wow, I think I just discovered a new level of blasphemy.) This Canadian did, however, find a nice Hugo Boss military-inspired wool coat for a decent price, which both The Law and I approved of.

With that fine purchase in hand and a look formulating in our collective minds, we finally shuffled over to J.Crew, which to everyone's slight surprise offered an array of good-looking men's sweatervests from which to choose. While the J.Crew label will hardly de-douche a fellow, at least our Canadian friend wouldn't be known as "cardigan guy," as he had feared when seriously contemplating purchasing that $1,200 cardigan: "If I buy this, I'd have to wear it every day. I'd be cardigan guy..."

And strangely, standing in J.Crew surrounded by argyle sweaters, corduroy blazers and button-down shirts, it finally dawned on us. Our friend would de-douche and represent his musical leanings by becoming "Vampire Weekend Professor," a look not only suited for his listening pleasure, but also for his broad-shoulder, narrow-hipped frame.

What the hell is "Vampire Weekend Professor," you ask? It's sweatervests (DOUBLE YES!), elbow-patch jackets, textured fabrics, scarves and Topsiders! It's basically Band of Outsiders (see right), but with a bit more testosterone.

Sadly, finding Band of Outsiders looks around here didn't prove easy. Of course, that may be because we only had two hours and were in Bethesda (I know...). But still. If shopping for men in DC is anything like shopping for women here, then it's probably a safe assumption to say it might be hard achieving this look at an affordable price in these parts. (Although, apparently some store in Georgetown called "Lost Boys" sells actual Band of Outsiders gear. Who knew!?)

But perhaps shopping on a slightly tighter budget is not a total loss. Again, like women's shopping, maybe finding decent men's clothing is a matter of turning to DC-area vintage and thrift stores, which I in the past and The Law very recently have had some damn fine luck with. (In fact, on that same Saturday, The Law snapped up a vintage YSL casual coat from Listopad's permanent pop-up shop in Mercedes Bien. It looks like Members Only circa 1982 but for millionaires, yet it was still only like $40 or something. Definitely blog-worthy.)

But back to the topic at hand: As e-fate would have it, according to the DC Goodwill Fashionista, men's vintage shopping is the way to go! I love it when sh*t works out like that.

Anyway, in closing, for lack of something more wordy, here is Brad Pitt in Band of Outsiders. I told you it's a damn good look.

If nothing else, at least notice the slim fit of his slacks.

10 comments:

Jack said...

You are a good writer. This coming from a dude who hates shoping BTW.

J

http://adventuresinvoluntarysimplicity.blogspot.com/

DC Goodwill Fashionista said...

Get OUT! -high five- -the DCGF

Tmoney said...

Dressing well for a man is easy if money is no object. Dressing well for cheap is much much harder.

It has been my experience that women get far better sales and clearances any day of the week then men. I assume this is because male fashion is pretty steady and their is no "new look" which forces the retailer to clear their shelves. Instead everything just sits because the stores no they will sell eventually. Seriously take a look at a clearance rack of men's clothes anywhere, it will be filled with the most hideous and odd sized clothes ever.

So if you ever discover someplace cheap in your effort to dress your friend other than places like Filene's please make a post. You would be doing DC men and the city itself a favor.

Skywalker said...

Shopping for men and with men is HARD! I used to work for Dillards in the men section - men and the women who shop for them are PICKY!!!!

Mensware rarely goes on sale because lets face facts - men don't shop. If you absolutely have to make another trip - try GAP, Banana Republic, JCrew - I know the antithesis of all things AntiDC but hey, they know how to fit a man well. And yes you can get your "Vampire Weekend" look on too.

Preppy girls holla!

Victor9000 said...

Oh snap. Today's post is the guttural screed against men's clothes that has languished too long in my head, often countered by a voice suggesting "maybe it's not the world, it's you." To that voice: When you're getting slapped, you'll take it and like it.
Props squared for giving flight to this caged bird of infinite truth.
I've got a Euro build - tall, but not so wide, and I can vouch that even with some tailoring, 87% of 'merican clothes are simply gone from consideration. The most common offender is the shirt that fits my shoulders, and has long enough sleeves, but it's designer apparently ran some Health and Human Services numbers, and decided that the torso should double as a catamaran sail. It's been many years since I've tried to make it work, but damn Gina, I feel like an NA member in Wasilla when I walk around a department store - place ain't for me.
I could elaborate further, but I fear for what might spill out after decades of bottled up discontent.
If you start a church, I am in.

Arjewtino said...

So no pleated khakis. Got it.

Matt said...

Guys...
If you wanna look good (on the cheap, and as good as "<-- her",... Godd luck!) here's your golden ticket tip:
Get yourself to the nearest ghetto-level second-hand store, look for pants that are your size and pick one out... Then, and this is most important, find a pant that looks like them but is one size larger. It may not seem like a big deal, but it is... If your pasts look like they are just a bit too big for you (not a lot, but a bit), it makes you look like you've just lost a bit of weight and are probably going to lose a little more.
Then, go to the button-down shirt section of that same crumby store and find the most comfortable looking shirt tht fits. Make sure it is NOT a flannel shirt, and make sure it is not a single color. Plaid is your friend, in this endevor... Plaid confounds the eye and makes whatever judgement being casted your way (out in public) say, "Eh, I can't be bothered with desciphering that. He must be alright."
I swear I speak the truth here.

Oh, and consult Marissa on footwear, but make sure you aren't wearing the same shoes as her Gramma. It works for her, but not for dudes. Chucks are always ok, but let your conscience be your guide....

Marissa said...

j--

Why, thanks! That might be the highest compliment someone could ever pay me online or off.

dc goodwill--

Great minds...!

tmoney--

Interesting. I never thought about the sale/clearance rack differences. But we did notice Filene's (at least the one in Bethesda) lacked diversity in the men's section. I guess maybe they cater to one style up there. Who knows. I would suggest scouring vintage or thrift stores for the best and most unique stuff, but that's just a guess. I'll get back to you if I discovery anything concrete. Thanks for stopping by!

skywalker--

Yeah, we were reluctant to set foot in J.Crew, but honestly, they had not the worst selection. I used to work at the B.Rep up in Boston during grad school, and remember thinking that their men's selection was much better looking than their women's. Then again, that was during a time when they were basing their women's collection on Memoirs with a Geisha. Um, it didn't work out...

v9k--

Your comments are so good they make my blog look bad.

The most common offender is the shirt that fits my shoulders, and has long enough sleeves, but it's designer apparently ran some Health and Human Services numbers, and decided that the torso should double as a catamaran sail. It's been many years since I've tried to make it work, but damn Gina, I feel like an NA member in Wasilla when I walk around a department store - place ain't for me.

That made my day. Not even joking. Seriously, many hat tips to you.

arjewtino--

Thou shalt not wear pleated khakis! (Commandment 11)

mike--

OH NO! NO NO NO! I wholly disagree with that advice. Since discovering the similarities in proportion issues when dressing men and women, I must say it is NEVER a good idea to buy sizes that are too big, especially on the lower half. It will actually make you look bigger! The extra bulk doesn't hide extra bulk, it just (at the sake of being annoyingly repetitive) adds extra bulk! Expert tailoring, vertical stripes, nice fabrics and a good fit will do wonders to disguise extra poundage. I'm sorry, Mark, I understand we both love the great state of MN and appreciate its 10,000-plus lakes, but this -- this pants misinformation -- I cannot get behind you on.

As for shirts, I'm not against a well-fitting flannel if it works with the overall look and somehow veers away from Paul Bunyan (I trust you appreciate the MN ref) territory.

I suppose, like women's styling though, men's styling is all a matter of looking at clothes as a reflection of oneself. Choosing items with care and pairing them with thought, and acting like a collector of art when you shop, will probably produce the best look whether it involves slim-fit trousers or not. Deep.

maryjanejeff said...

Cool! Rock! Huzzah! The majority of my work pants (khakis) are not pleated! They are flat fronted or whatever it's called!!!

And I own whatever you get when you multiply 1.5 million by zero articles of clothing from JCrew or A&F. I must be cooler than I thought!

maryjanejeff said...

Cool! Rock! Huzzah! The majority of my work pants (khakis) are not pleated! They are flat fronted or whatever it's called!!!

And I own whatever you get when you multiply 1.5 million by zero articles of clothing from JCrew or A&F. I must be cooler than I thought!