Menswear today isn’t just about clothes. That would just be plain old silly. Instead, it’s really about one thing: your junk.
And by junk, I mean your manhood. You see, a key aspect of postmodernity is that the old structures and institutions that once framed the world are no longer. Now women wear pants. Cats chase dogs. Good is the new evil, and evil is the new helvetica. Confused? As you should be.
A huge majority of menswear blogs have a section on how to be a man. Indeed, entire websites dedicate themselves to this very pursuit. Not knowing how to behave in certain contexts is not new. There have been books of etiquette for years. What separates this generation’s guidelines from its father’s and father’s father’s is the existentialism of it all. Does a man need open a door for a woman? Is it considered condescending to stand at the table? We live in a world of equality, and yet manners inherently smacks of power struggle. And so, males are often confused as to what to do, say, and, yes, even wear.
I mean, what DO you wear when class, race, and gender supposedly don’t matter** any longer? When any schmuck with access to an Urban Outfitter can rock repp ties once reserved for only the rarified? Indeed, it is exciting because now a man need not have to be born of means in order to dress how he wants. Without rules, we can do what we want with fashion. Sneakers and bespoke suit? Yes! Sweater and biker shorts? You go for it, Spike Lee.
But it also explains why men are beginning to adhere so strongly to style rules. I can no longer judge a man by his pedigree. He may have come to his wealth by inheritance or by running a dirty donkey sex site. In capitalist terms, these are the same thing. So instead, I can judge him by how he adheres to style rules like whether or not he has enough (or too much) break in his slacks. By how much sleeve cuff he has. By which buttons he has decided to button on his jackets.
True, rules are made to be broken. But only insofar as it demonstrates a clear understanding of said rules. We are a generation of paper: the first to write down our rules of manliness and THEN follow them. Those before us were men first, and only then wrote down their journey.
At risk of tossing a match into a hurricane, may I add what I think is the only rule a man need follow:
**I would argue that actually they matter even more so than ever before, but then again I’m a dirty liberal