Fashion Senseless

This month’s edition of the magazine was designed to appeal to the taste and sensibilities of our fashion-conscious readers. It was left to me to speak for the fashion-unconscious.

Most men—the great, slovenly majority—are born in a fashion coma and never wake up, no matter how many times a spouse or girlfriend looks at them before leaving for a party and says, “Are you going to wear that?”
Of course not. What was I thinking?

But that’s the thing: We weren’t thinking, and we never will. Because we…don’t…care.

I asked John Siegel, 65, third generation of the family that owns Siegel’s Clothing Co. in Winter Park, why so many men have a fashion death wish.

“It’s not that you don’t dress well,” he says diplomatically. “You’re in your comfort zone. Men are creatures of habit.”

You can no more teach the average man to care—really care—about what he wears than you can train a dog not to bark at the UPS truck. It’s the way we are wired. Before losing every male reader who has not been wearing the same tan Dockers and nylon polo shirts for the past two decades, I concede that there are men, a metrosexual minority, who do not fit this stereotype.

“Some guys can’t wait to see what new tie patterns are coming out,” Siegel says.

I just don’t know any of them. No, wait—there’s Darryl. He is my only male friend who could be called “dapper.’’ He wears fine slacks with creases that could cut glass, dress shirts with no food stains, and ties he did not find in his Christmas stocking. His belt and shoes always match.

When I worked at the Orlando Sentinel, Darryl was in a group of guys who played pickup basketball on the lunch hour. Lockers were scarce, and it wasn’t uncommon for several of us to cram our rumpled khakis and Old Navy sports shirts into the same locker.

Quietly appalled, Darryl always put his clothes on a hanger, which he hung near the showers. He would rather risk his clothes being stolen than stuff them into steerage with our dreadful duds.
But Darryl is the exception. Siegel says that most men, even among his clientele, find “a new set of golf clubs more exciting than the latest fashions.”

We are indeed creatures of habit who have not evolved sartorially since the first caveman found a one-piece leopard skin he liked and stuck with it for the next few millenniums.

Staying in my comfort zone has saved me thousands of shopping hours, precious extra time for sleeping, watching sports on TV, moving junk around the garage, digging up dead sod, killing fire ants—all things I would rather do than shop for clothes.
When our daughter Aimee was growing up, my wife, Candy, always took her shopping for school clothes. They would leave at noon and roll in at dinnertime exhausted from marathon fitting sessions at multiple stores.

One year Candy was busy and sent me shopping with Aimee. We went to JC Penney, where she picked out things she liked and tried them on in the fitting room while I waited outside and flipped through magazines. She emerged with a giddy smile, I slapped down the credit card, and we were done: 90 minutes, door to door.

When we got home and Aimee modeled her choices—some of them admittedly dubious—Candy realized there is a reason moms take daughters shopping. It’s the same reason wives accompany their husbands: to protect them from themselves.
Siegel says a “high percentage” of the men who come into the store bring a wife or girlfriend, confirming my theory that behind nearly every well-dressed man is a vigilant woman with “OMG” on the tip of her tongue.

But sometimes you just can’t take a woman along, which leads to what Siegel ranks as the No. 1 fashion faux pas committed by men:

“Not treating themselves to something nice for a special occasion,” Siegel says.

I asked him to be more specific.

“Looking for a gym outfit to wear to that anniversary dinner. They need a fashion advisor to tell them that’s not a good idea.”

Oh, great—now he tells me. I hope I kept the receipt from Sports Authority.

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