A piece by Theodore Dalrymple extols the importance of dressing well and how he came to this conclusion after his youthful immaturity on the subject.
One question on which I have changed my mind is that of dress. In my youth I thought that it mattered not at all, and that to be concerned with it was a sign of egotism and triviality of mind. I cannot point to any conversion experience after which I came to believe the opposite, but I now see my former opinion as shallow in the way that so many youthful opinions are shallow …
… But I have come to the rather obvious conclusion that our mode of dress is a message to others, and taking some care over it to appear with reasonable smartness is an act of social responsibility and respect for others rather than egotism. Not to take such care is egotism, insofar as the message conveyed by the lack of care is “I am not going to make an effort just for you, mate. You have to accept me as I am.”
In fact, we cannot but convey a message by the way we dress (it is amazing how something so obvious should have escaped me for so many years). And if you walk down the street of any Western city, what you see is a society of individualists, though not of people of strong individuality.
This passage mirrors what I wrote on the topic on the 17th trait of the modern man.
A man is a member of a tribe. You may believe that it does not matter how you dress, but it does. You may think that people should not judge by appearances, but they do. You might well consider yourself to be special and above the hierarchies of social status, but you are not.
Too many men today think that stepping out of the house dressed as if they had just rolled out of bed is acceptable. You can get away with it; nobody is going to say anything to you, but you will have created unnecessary hurdles for yourself. Dressing well communicates respect both for yourself and for those around you. It signifies that you are prepared to make an effort, and if you make an effort while the majority of men do not then you are already out in front of the pack. Just as the modern man shaves every day, he also makes a sartorial effort appropriate to the circumstances.
Today is a casual Sunday, and I have already done some work pottering around outside in the shed. Cleaned out some of the detritus that had collected over the last several months. Before that I took a brief trip to the supermarket for some fresh food items for the coming week. Shoppers straining behind carts overflowing with supplies gave me strange looks of disbelief as I made my way to pay, just a small basket in my hand with some yoghurt, milk, and a few other items.
A number of them were wearing sweatpants, which made me think of a commenter on the blog recently who quoted Karl Lagerfeld on the subject:
“Sweatpants are a sign of defeat. You lost control of your life so you bought some sweatpants.”
Lagerfeld is correct, but his own site sells sweatpants so he doesn’t have much skin in the game on this one. For myself today I am dressed in RRL blue jeans, a much loved old Marlboro Classics turtleneck sweater, and my R.M. Williams black Chelsea boots. Smart and relaxed casual with a hint of going out to shoot the neighbor’s dog.
So many men agonise over how to get da girls while they look like they just got home from a Dungeons & Dragons convention that included a sleepover without a change of clothes. Dressing well isn’t about dressing up. Rather, it’s about cultivating a style and a look that you wear exactly like the second skin that it is.
Recently I was talking about cars with a couple of friends and I mentioned the Jaguar XK8 in British racing green. They looked up the image on their respective phones and they both agreed that it was a most desirable object.
“You should buy it,” one of them said to me. “It’s the definitive Adam car. Cranky and stylish”
I’ll take that.