Friday, March 31, 2006

Haberdashery

Pretty Lady has been inspired by the stylistic perfection of one of her colleagues to advance an unsupported, purely subjective personal opinion: Polo Shirts are a Blot. Either a Blot, or a Blight, take your pick.

I realize this may fill the hearts of many gentlemen with dismay. This is not a personal attack. It is simply that Pretty Lady felt she finally must speak out upon an issue that has been oppressing her psyche since junior high school. The Polo Shirt is the single least sexy item of clothing it is possible for a human being to own. To don a Polo Shirt is to instantaneously acquire the sex appeal of a paper doll, in Pretty Lady's warped perceptions. Particularly if said Shirt is knit of that crusty sort of acrylic-polyester knit that resembles industrial-grade carpets. The soft cotton Ralph Lauren kind is marginally superior, but it still makes Pretty Lady shudder.

Rugby shirts are okay. Pretty Lady can't exactly say what it is about stupid, thick little collars on would-be sports shirts that gives her hives; tightish elastic piping on short sleeve cuffs makes her equally queasy. No doubt this is a holdover from buried associations having to do with private school, buttressed by one or two unfortunate freshman-year dates with computer-science majors. However, she doesn't think extensive psychotherapy is likely to make any difference at this point; the fact is, Pretty Lady loathes Polo Shirts. So there.

So, then, what should a gentleman wear? His options are so limited!

Well, Pretty Lady herself has always been partial to the Mid-80's Demi-Punk look, due to associations equally arcane, and which got her teased in the mid-90's by a boyfriend who, unfortunately, had known her since the mid-80's. "You like guys to dress like Torvald," he accused her, acutely. Pretty Lady had to confess that he'd nailed it. We never really get over our first love.

Not that Torvald's aesthetic was anything spectacular. His look was basic and easy to achieve. Jeans: well-fitting, without any labels, flares, drainpipes, stone-washing, patterning, embroidery or other rot; weathered and torn by excessive use and honest washing, never purchased that way in the store. T-shirt: black, white, or the occasional thrift-store find bearing a cryptic legend such as 'Deer Camp Minnesota, 1979.' Flannel shirt, unbuttoned, in your choice of red or blue plaid. Converse All-Star Hi-Top sneakers, in any color you choose.

(In latter years, Pretty Lady has come to prefer a set of well-worn, good-quality, heavy work boots to the Converse. The Converse just became Too Trendy For Words, and their level of quality has consistently declined. In fact, she's not even sure if real Converse are made anymore. Does anybody know?)

(Never mind, she Googled them. They're still there, without the star, and boy do they look silly.)

The more creative types can get away with such things as cut-off army fatigues, secondhand high-top Doc Martens with blue shoelaces, odd and colorful vests, striped button-down shirts with the sleeves torn off, odd and colorful ties (as long as they are never worn with anything resembling a suit), hats with the brim bent back and stuck full of pins, strings of wooden beads, and patchouli. If you are one of these types, you already know it. If you don't know, don't try it.

Never wear a baseball cap unless it has never borne the legend of a baseball team, and the brim has never been worn facing forward.

Now, mind you, Pretty Lady has never said that gentlemen should not clean up. On the contrary, "he'd clean up nice" is high praise in her home town, and in Pretty Lady's opinion, modern gentlemen don't clean up nearly often enough. As long as they don't don the dreaded Polo, there are many options of clean, from Architecture Casual to Frack. She will now enumerate a few of them.

Aforementioned Architecture Casual: Black or white T-shirt, of higher quality than the T-shirt mentioned above; scoop neck, heavy-weight cotton. Pleated pants. Interesting belt. Footwear that does not too closely resemble that of an Italian gigolo.

Professorial: Chinos, slightly tattered blue button-down shirt (never white. Shudder), frayed tweed jacket with patched elbows, scuffed wingtips. This costume is best worn with a sense of knowing irony, and is not precisely sexy, but it's better than a polo.

Rugby shirt and bermuda shorts: only to be worn if one has the legs of a soccer player.

Needs-Must Business: Never wear an American suit. Americans cannot make suits; few Americans can wear suits. Those stiff, square serge things give Pretty Lady the screaming horrors. If you must wear a suit, for goodness' sake go to Savile Row and get a real one, or else go to Italy and get some Clothes.

There is nothing more horrifying than the sight of a gentleman who has been forced by economic desperation into dressing 'corporate' for the sake of low-level temporary employment. Pretty Lady has little advice for these hapless souls, except to pack a T-shirt in your backpack and change into it in the office bathroom at 5 PM. Try to get away with Architecture Casual, at the very least.

Frack: Dinner jacket and tails, black pants with black satin side stripe, pleated white button-down shirt, white tie, cummerbund. Black dress shoes shined to mirror-hue. Cufflinks. Viola case. Oops, betraying another personal preference, there.

Under no circumstances may a gentleman ever wear a pair of pants which expose any portion of his gluteal cleavage, by accident or on purpose, at any time. I do not know how to make myself clearer.

In conclusion: for those of you out there who are still confused as to matters of masculine attire, Pretty Lady directs you to the Dandy's trenchant and informative discussion of drag, complete with illustrations. She has only to add that despite whatever her abovementioned mid-90's boyfriend may have wanted to think, when she attends a party dressed as Humphrey Bogart, she is most definitely in drag.

9 comments:

Shrubbery said...

I saw a guy downtown today with a pink polo with the COLAR TURNED UP! I desperately wanted to slap him back to the 80's where he belongs. I grew up in that decade and won my fair share of feminine praise and I never was caught dead in a polo, unless I was playing rugby as the uniform requires a collared shirt. I was strictly a baggy shorts, t-shirt (Dr. Zogg's Sex Wax was my fave), Berkenstock sandles or no shoes kinda guy. Now the uniform du jour is a pair of loose fitting kacky or olive green pants, thermal shirt with a henley collar, small-framed glasses but not too small but eminently professorial. My work uni is a charcoal grey pin stripe suit, white shirt, green Jerry Garcia tie, and the same glasses.

EN said...

Dead or Tower of Power tee, shorts, carhartt pants, and and something American made for a funeral or wedding. Yeah, I'm boring, but one has to know his limitations.

My greatest advantage is that woman like PL will never notice what I'm wearing, and focus on the gorilla. No one called me a good dresser... or a bad dresser. No comments at all. Mostly woman like PL would admirer my lack of tats, which she was sure I had. The one woman in my life who did try and dress me wanted me to wear polo shirts, which is semi-interesting in light of your comments.

Morris said...

"Under no circumstances may a gentleman ever wear a pair of pants which expose any portion of his gluteal cleavage, by accident or on purpose, at any time."

Dead right. That's not a pretty sight on a man *or* a woman.

jackadandy said...

Polo shirts... *grimace*

I can cite no blighting traumatic youthful association that would explain my aversion. I have an image of myself in the initial months of life, an innocent in my mother's arms, first bringing eyes to focus on such a garment and feeling immediately, apropos of nothing, a sense that I was in the presence of something slimily serpent-like but at the same time numbingly bland. Why IS that? Could I possibly have developed this distaste in the womb? It's uncanny.

My aversion to Campbell's tomato soup I can trace to having a roaring case of the 24-hour flu after dinner one childhood night, following an afternoon of reading about deadly botulism lurking in canned goods. This is an association that has remained insurmountable but is at least crystal clear in its origins. The source of my lifelong feelings towards polos, however, is mysterious, and perhaps I must be satisfied attributing it to sartorial archetypes beyond our conscious reach.

I don't believe I've ever had a conversation with anyone wearing a polo shirt that didn't feel just a tad surreal.

I am gratified, Madame, for your mention of my humble post. And I suspect I speak for many when I thank you taking a strong stand in this most important matter.

prettylady said...

a sense that I was in the presence of something slimily serpent-like but at the same time numbingly bland.

My darling Dandy, you have trumped me. You have left me helpless on the floor. My hat is off to you. You Said It All. I only wish I could have done you greater justice. I am truly humbled.

I am sorry about the tomato soup; it, accompanied by a generous incursion of Premium Saltines, remains one of my bastions of comfort in the face of a hostile world. It saddens me to think of a life barren of such succor.

And I must confess that I have been Found Out in Faking It; I have never heard of any terms such as "henley collar" or "carhartt pants." Although I am sure I would recognize them if formally introduced.

Morgan said...

I gave up any fantasies of turning Larry into a fashion plate years ago when I realized that he had collected every T-shirt from every reptile seminar held in the U.S. since 1980. Not only that, he maintains many of them today, tattered and threadbare though they are. Now that he's going to plant seminars, he's bringing home botany related T-shirts, but it's a step up from the one with the rattlesnake on the front.
I can't talk, though. I make most of my clothes and the odder the better. We're a mis-match made in heaven.
But now I know, if I ever drag Larry to meet Pretty Lady, how not to dress him. ;-)
Seriously, I loved our post. It was bright, clever and laugh-out-loud funny.

BoysMom said...

I don't know what a polo shirt is. I assume this is because no one in our house plays polo? Either that or I am extreemly ignorant.

I do frequently have to explain to various female aquaintances that if they want their male companions to regularly wear tuxedos when they go out, as my husband does, they are best off searching out musicians. You can nearly always get them to dress in it for dinner if you schedule dinner for immediately pre or post concert.

The usual male attire (toddlers and adult) around here is t-shirt (sleaves optional, frequently mended), jeans (frequently with patches due to heavy use and the fact that I can't stand unmended clothes), and some sort of athletic shoes, generally in more need of repair than the jeans (however, I have no shoe repair skills).

Anonymous said...
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mitzibel said...

Come on, PL, you grew up in Texas, and the polo is the worst? What about those "Western Wear" shirts a'la Garth Brooks?

Or--the horror--Rocky Mountain jeans? You remember, the ones with no back pockets that came in eye-assaulting shades of turquoise and lipstick red and made even the slimmest size-3 look like she was carting around a trunk full of junk?