The hype over Fashion Week and Academy Award fashion choices has passed. That leaves us with those who are often the afterthought of the style scene: men. Now, they have an opportunity to scrape the blandness and timidness from their personal style.
Where women dominate the fashion scene, you’d think that men have no interest in it – And that’s often true. But, according to a woman who has been helping to clothe men at a British-themed boutique that’s inside a national retailer, some men are clueless about dressing up or dressing for work.
I went shopping for shirts that would be welcome in business circles but also make me stand out as distinctive. My wallet is tight. In my less than $70 range I found only the typical and timid choices: white and blue shirts with pointed down collars. I sought spread collars that would deemphasize my skinny frame. If you are a man who is self-possessed, sees meager value in dressing to fit in then a place where conformity is prized is the wrong one place to hope to find department stores that carry daring clothes.
When I passed a British boutique that’s housed within a nationally known retailer in downtown Minneapolis I met a young woman who asked if she could help. With my sartorial ambition, I asked her why so many men make the safest, most conservative choices instead of those that distinguish them.
The candor of her response was novel: “I think that some men are afraid to dress well because they don’t wanna be mistaken for gay, and have men flirt with them,” Michaela said.
Then after having been pressed to elaborate, she said that the Millennials in Minnesota are a very different generation, and haven’t been taught to dress up. I don’t wanna generalize, and I don’t wanna say all men, because I don’t think all men are like that,” Michaela said. “But if a guy comes in I will ask him ‘is pink is a color he’d wear for a dress shirt”. Maybe he’ll say ‘yes’. I still have to preface the situation with… ‘would you do a pink, would you do a paisley, would you do a floral?’ And I ask these questions because I’ve learned to”, Michaela said.
Even though this essay is about men’s style and them dressing to make memorable first impressions, women also wear clothing that makes you want to knock your head against a brick wall.
“Oh, my god. My husband and I were driving home and… So we’re at a stop light and to the right of us there’s a bus stop for the #10. And it’s dark out. And this woman is smoking a cigarette. She has her coat on. Underneath she has her hoody. But she has these pajama pants on…tucked into her boots, and then she has a pale pink hoody to match.”
“And Rob (her husband) was like, ‘Oh, my god, when did it become acceptable to wear pajamas in public?’” And I went ‘yeah, you’re right’. And he’s a man. Doesn’t have to dress up for his job. But he clearly gets it. You know.”
Speaking generally, and avoiding judgment, “I also wanna say where are people’s priorities? I get it: Not everyone can afford to dress up..,” she said.
At some point during the conversation, she mentioned Pantones, and the Color of the Year. These being news, you have to ask a couple of questions: What is Pantones? What is the Color of the Year. If those are work-a-day words for you then you’re one up on this essayist.
Pantones is a paint company. What is the Color of the Year? Michaela said that any paint company can chose a Color of the Year. But just because a paint company chooses a color to emphasize for the year, who are they say what color you should wear?
Her answer was solid: Because we have been, and historically they’ve been right on the money. I was talking about that Marsala color. These bright colors that are making a statement, and then you have something you would not expect.
Knowing about Pantone, why should men both younger and older care to know what Pantone is or what the Color of the Year is? “Men should know stylistically what’s going on in the world? The more you now about a color and how it works with you, she said.”
The hype over Academy Awards fashion emphasize women’s style. That’s because most men simply take a typical route by wearing something that is suitable, but not sensual: a typical tuxedo. Some of those men who attended the Academy Awards ventured beyond that banal black tuxedo; for some of them it was a success, for some not, and still others (Jared Leto) it was debatable. The Los Angeles Times reported on those choices.
The star of Selma, David Oyelowo, wore tuxedo, yes. But what color was it? Black? No. White? No. It was Marsala. What’s that? It’s a shade of red. While Pantone may not admit to it, burgandy is synonymous. Mr. Oyelowo’s choice was dapper, daring and smart. And it complimented his brown skin.
Michaela saw a photo of him from the red carpet. Did it work? “Definitely, I think like a deeper jewel tone. It’s beautiful. I think it’s fun. I like how the vest and bowtie are set of just a little bit. A shade lighter, a shade richer.”
Using Pantone’s Color of the Year worked phenomenally with his skin color. That’s one reason why anyone who wears clothes should care about how they make them look, and needs to appreciate which colors flatter their skin, eye and hair colors.
But how doe the guy whose friends cling to college-age wardrobe, and who believes fashion is a code he can’t break? Well, dress for the occasion. But up a notch. Dress more smartly. Dress to make yourself feel a cut above the rest.