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Thursday, August 19, 2004

In the land where jeans and sneakers is "trying too hard"

The discussion after my post about women's clothing was interesting, and an ancillary discussion sprung up about men's clothing and the exasperating trend of slovenly straight guys. I found the whole topic pretty entertaining, so instead of just posting another reply, I thought I'd bring it up to the top and post about it here. First, Eric V.'s comments:

Somewhat off topic , I'm sure there's a good book or at least doctoral thesis waiting to be written on the process by which many heterosexual men at least in North America seem to have reacted to the emergence of gays out of the closet by ditching all concern for aethetics , subtlty , culture etc.. and adopting this sick caricature of masculinity exemplified by Arnie the Gropinator and George the Shrub.

To be fair, the Shrub and the Gropinator are on TV all the time, so they are usually dressed nicely by their stylists. But the general point is totally on target. The message is long overdue, so even though this will change nothing, I will have to come out and say it.

Attention, straight men! Being attractive to women does not make you gay.

I have actually heard some straight men express the anxiety that embracing the soap, water, and the razor blade on a regular basis will run women off. Okay, I'm exaggerating. But there is a palpable anxiety about getting caught trying to look good. Now Austin is a laid-back town with a permanent casual dress code, but within that dress code there is more freedom for men to actually dress to be pleasing. Hell, one of my good friends has a long and funny story about his thrift store adventure with a pair of red pants. But yeah, in more artistic circles, it's ridiculous to think that anyone would judge you for having an aesthetic sense. But the tide began to turn overall here with the stampede of tech people into the city during the 90's. And now that we live in an uber-masculine zeitgeist, the city and especially the campus is overrun with frat boy types (Shrubs in training) who try really hard to look like they don't try at all. If I see one more guy in a brand-new Longhorn hoodie with running shorts and flip-flops on..... For god's sake, when did jeans and sneakers become too much effort?

The flip side of that is that girls around here seem to be putting way more effort into how they dress than they did when I was in college. (We still haven't reached Dallas levels of vanity and I don't think we ever will.) The latest calling card of the fashion victim, the puffy mini-skirt with the painful high heels is all over the place, in broad daylight. In some places downtown it's a sea of girls dressed like Paris Hilton and wearing way too much make-up. It's really unfair.

I think that's why "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" is such a hit, with men and women. For women, it's a pleasure watching a guy actually realize that it's a good idea to try to please the opposite sex if he wants their affection, considering that basic concept is a big part of our lives, if not the dominate factor. For straight guys, it's appealing because it takes on this huge fear, that actually caring about your looks a little means you are gay, and shows how ridiculous and really how homophobic that fear really is. And it gives them permission to let go of that fear, if only in increments.

29 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is in response to both of your posts about clothing. One point that occurred to me lately is that dressing isn't just about how you good you look, but about what message you're sending. So even if a particular woman doesn't happen to look that good in high heels and a miniskirt, even if some other outfit might flatter her more, the message of those clothes is "it is important to me to find approval in your eyes," and *that message* makes her attractive. I think that is what is most 'unattractive' in not shaving your legs, it says, 'I'm not going out of my way for your approval.' It's not about how it actually looks.

At least, that's my theory. So when a man goes out of his way not to dress well, it's not about how he looks, it's about the message he's sending. 'Dressing up' is a kind of vulnerability, a kind of opening of yourself for the judgement of others, that our culture prescribs for women and not men.

8/19/2004

 
Blogger Ron said...

Damm you and your big brain Amanda - I've gotten sucked in for longer than I should. I too wish more men exibited a little more style or at least grooming without being labelled metrosexual - an emasculating word if you ask me. My father and grandfather taught me to care for my appearance. I wonder if that doesn't happen anymore or they get ignored. Even in my long-hair hippie days I'd get teased a little for trimming my hair or shaving in the parking lot before a Dead show.

But now I'm wondering how can I get my girlfriend to clean up the dog hair piles more often? It gets all over my clothes. BTW it's her dog and her apartment I'm talking about. I don't expect her to be a cleaning lady.

8/19/2004

 
Blogger BlondeSense Liz said...

Is that what this is really about for men? They don't want to appear gay so they purposely look like shit?

8/19/2004

 
Blogger Amanda said...

Yes, that is exactly what it is. I have no idea what gay men who are slobs use as an excuse.
Anon, that is so true. Clothing choices are best understood with semantics--they are symbolic and chosen with roughly the same process as words are chosen when speaking. It all depends on context.

8/19/2004

 
Blogger Jason said...

Well, trying to be hipper than I am in an indie-rock crowd in a slacker town like Austin means dressing down. Have you been to shows in Austin lately?

Bedhead (a hair product designed to make it look like you litereally just rolled out of bed) sells out at high-end salons, here. I'm just saying. It's just a fashion trend. At least we are in a COMFORTABLE trend right now.

8/19/2004

 
Blogger Earnest said...

I think that the trend of "slovenly" straight guys is a harsh overgeneralization. I mean, I would say that dressing down is something most people of both genders do with regularity. When going to the club or on a date, most guys I know, myself included, go to great efforts to look not only presentable but attractive. There are, of course, some pockets of society that look a little worse than others in the tidiness dept. (know any indierock kids? Put 'em on that list), but I think we just tend to try to dress appropriately. Do women try harder? Most definitely. New York has reached a critical mass of Paris Hiltonites, and I won't say that I mind-- it's nice to see women wearing skirts and blouses, but even I recognize that sometimes these women are a little overdressed for their occassion. I wish that the stereotype of the sloppy male would disappear because I really don't find much truth in it. I also wish that the near-decade-old term metrosexual would die. I think that it's used to show distinction from the regular heterosexual male, and I find that offensive.

A question, though. Should women not try as hard to look attractive, or should men try harder?

8/19/2004

 
Blogger Amanda said...

Dressing down is not what I'm talking about. I live in a dressed-down city and I like it. That's why I titled this "jeans and sneakers", etc. No, I am referring to straight guys that go out of their way to let everyone know they don't give a damn about frou-frou girlie stuff like looking decent or actually trying to be attractive. Case in point--f*cking flip flops and running shorts.
I will say this about the bedhead indie look--hey, at least they're *trying* to be sexy.

8/19/2004

 
Blogger Astarte said...

It's a whole cultural trend. What drives me the most nuts are the guys who let their hair grow out to about their ears so that they look like 70s cast-offs, or people who just plain forgot to go to the barber.

It makes them look not only unattractive, but ungroomed, and ungroomed to me is a dirty thing. For instance, I don't shave my legs because I expect anyone to /see/ them... I get far too cold in shorts, so mostly wear pants (and I hate skirts), I shave them because clean shaven legs make me feel clean.

A man with a two-day-old shadow, hair that needs cutting, holey T-shirt, trucker's hat and "phat" pants really just looks ... stupid.

One of my exes loved the phat pants and big shirts thing. He also loved rap music a great deal, and ... chewed ... yuck. I asked him why he got those pants one day (they always drove me nuts) and he gave me a slow look and said "they're comfortable".

Yuck. And metrosexual is really nearly a decade old? I only heard it for the first time last year, LOL. Shows you where I've been. :)

8/19/2004

 
Blogger Amanda said...

Yeah, those trucker hats have to go. In general, the whole white-trash look from the NY Indierata drives me up the wall, too. Goddamit, that's how we live down here, and it's not a fashion statement!

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