When a man doesn’t know me very well but knows, perhaps a little too well, what I write about, he often seeks to bond with me by chorusing my views on the general decline of menswear. “Most people” they begin “haven’t got a clue how to dress anymore, have they? It’s all too-long trousers worn like jeans, isn’t it? Clip-on bow ties and rented morning dress…”
Much to their surprise, I do not rejoice in this sorry state of affairs. Being a man who, for the most part, wishes that he lived in a bygone age in order not to stand out for being so interested in outward appearance, I despair with a heavy heart. Aestheticism is now an underground world; a secret, smoky society of like-minded individuals who know the value of dressing well and have, for the most part, given up in recruiting new members to the club.
Who can blame them? Most of the well-dressed chaps I know receive more mockery than praise and it is hardly surprising that they would seek out those who offer sympathetic company and an easy ear. The world is a dark and decaying place full of branded sweatshirts and luminous trainers; the company of a fellow aesthete, in agreeable surroundings, offers escape and a chance to reinforce self-esteem. The key to stoic defiance in maintaining good attire is lashings of self-confidence.
Self-confidence in such matters is not easy to come by. Though many women assume men have been afforded an unsporting advantage when it comes to confidence, dressing with self-assuredness is an area in which women consistently outshine men.
I was recently introduced to the husband of a work colleague who recounted to me his lifelong worries of the wardrobe. One girlfriend had been so viciously critical of his attire that she had, quite without his knowledge, begun to pile all the items that she didn’t like into a bin bag which she was due to throw out. When he discovered her in the act, she merely repeated her claim that he wore terrible clothing and that he didn’t know what he was doing when it came to sartorial matters.
Had such an unfortunate event befallen me, quite another bag would have been duly stuffed and sent on its way. I would have defended my taste and style to the hilt. As it was, and indeed is with so many men, the confidence required for this defence cannot be summoned. Believing themselves to be outflanked, they simply comply, keep calm and carry on.
Style is personal, but it starts with research. This research builds into knowledge and with knowledge, a man can arm himself when entering the fray of what is, to women, a paradise but, to many men, a battlefield; the world of clothing retail. Knowledge, properly applied, builds confidence and confidence is the key to developing, with or without the assistance of others, a personal aesthetic that is unassailable. For even when they cry that you have it wrong, you are well equipped to issue the rebuttal.