The Influential Wife

I know of many men who turn to close female friends for ‘feminine’ advice. The words of comfort they seek are not, they would have me believe, available in the company of men. With the women they trust they exhibit fear, irrational thought and insecurity – all attributes they are eager to conceal from their closest chums. The other thing they are apt to ask their good-natured girls is how the dickens they should wear their cloth. “Women know about that sort of thing” they utter meekly, as if knowing how to dress properly were some black art, beyond the ken and understanding of man.
The devil is, women are generally better at choosing clothing for their plodding and uninterested male partners; they drag them around shops like toddlers, their faces dark in gloom. They are valiant, determined and, in comparison to their infantile husbands or boyfriends, radiant with unmerited optimism.

However, I have seen as many sat far from the changing rooms, drearily dressed and ill-disguising signs of ennui dismissing the cavalier choices of their other halves with but a yawn and a flick of the hand. One particular man happened to look very elegant in a pair of white trousers and as I was awarding him my silent approval, his wife, who was sitting punching keys on her phone gave one look and a slight ‘Nah’ sound escaped her lips. The result? Such was the power of even the briefest disapproval that I watched the man in question approach the till without the magnificent trousers that had fit him so well.

Were a man to hold such power over the wardrobe of his woman? I think not. Unless she happened to be wedded to a gentleman of great fashionable repute, a woman might seek some sort of approval or input, but she has generally more idea about what she wants and how she appears; to receive a blunt ‘Nah’ would be irksome but she is unlikely to waver from her charted course.

Men are very much under the sway of women in modern fashion. Men are very likely to copy the easy-going style of a Hollywood heart-throb not because they respect the clean lines, simple colours and elegant tailoring but because their wife does; and he is very likely to take a risk, with something unconventional (or uncomfortably conventional) if he is assured of close, and possibly distant, female approval.

I once asked a young lady how she would like the man of her dreams to dress. And, although she was very particular about his attire, it was not exactly what I would consider to be the careful calculations of crisp elegance; “…erm, nothing too smart; can’t stand that, just a short sleeved shirt…and definitely some surf shorts to show his legs and then…some trainers. And I like it when men wear leather jewellery.”
After obtaining these details, I asked her how important it was that a man configures to this specification. She replied that although it wasn’t everything and that she could live with ‘differences’, she wouldn’t be able to resist changing the man she loved into the figment of her imagination.

My study in this area is light and is generally based on some extraordinarily un-English eavesdropping and exchange of anecdote; I have never been susceptible to the machinations of a woman who disapproved of my wardrobe. There have been times when doubts have been allowed to prosper in my mind, where I have been ‘under the spell’ as it were, but I believe I have possessed the required guts, balls and barbed words to dismiss the howling harpy hyenas from my mind. The lesson through which I achieved this independence was the lesson which many are disinclined to endure; the prospect of shopping alone.

Wilde considered that “A man who allows himself to be convinced by an argument is a thoroughly unreasonable person.” Although it would be unwise and wasteful to ignore the valid caution of a loved companion, one who surely has one’s best interests at heart, Wilde’s words do touch on that ironic theme of his; ‘know thyself.’ Many men might be happy that their women paint their fantasy or fiction through their choice of clothes, or, more cynically, that they choose men’s clothing that looks sufficiently plain next to their laboured magnificence. I would trust many of my acquaintance, women and men, for their opinions but I would very rarely allow anyone to change who I am; who I know myself to be.


  1. Kai said:

    Exactly what I was wondering about. Whoever gave women the title of experts in men’s fashion. I guess it has something to do with the idea that men are dressing for women. Just wondering.

    August 4, 2008
  2. David Valenta said:

    I am color blind (red/green)I rely on her for that information. I almost bought a lavender shirt. Now it was nice and I would have put it to good use but I really needed a blue shirt. She saved me that error. After 30 years of marriage she has begun to understand that we work with differant rules sets.

    August 4, 2008
  3. Turling said:

    A woman should never dress you. Period. Ok, let me rephrase, a woman should never choose your purchases of clothing. If she chooses to actually dress you, consider yourself lucky. My wife will usually only comment on things from my wardrobe that she likes, so I take that as she would not mind seeing more of that (i.e. crew neck sweaters). However, I dress myself everyday and I have an idea as to how I want my style to be portrayed and I buy my clothes, accordingly. The last thing I pay attention to is any article citing “87% of women prefer a man in….” Know yourself. Be comfortable with yourself. And, for God’s sake, by your own clothes. Excellent post, Mr. Chesterfield.

    August 4, 2008
  4. Jenna said:

    I wonder if it is different around the world. I motice American women tend to tell there men what to wear but not Italian or latin men. They love to shop on there own, as do Arab men and Indian men.

    August 4, 2008
  5. C & D said:

    Women, through their complex juxtaposition of their ‘adornments’ and raiment have far more call for decision making in regard to colour coordination and overall combinations. Whilst I dont suggest that a women dresses you, a women can give you advice and guidance that would far exceed the average ability of man. Women are especially good in the use of tones and the teaming of them( probably largely because men recognise about 6 colours, red, blue… women know what puce and cerise.) A stylish womens guidance and gifts should be welcomed with open arms!

    August 5, 2008
  6. Cam said:

    I’m a men’s designer. It was my focus in school and (sometimes annoyingly) my male friends are always asking me to design things for them. I think it depends on the woman. Personally I like a man who has his own style and knows how to put himself together WITHOUT my help. Unfortunately there are some who really need it. I ask “What do you like, what style are you going for?” I get the same answer….”Can’t you just pick it for me? I like what you design”….uggh

    August 5, 2008
  7. Jenna said:

    I don’t know if I agree with C+D. Now I would agree with that statement for a normal situation, but if you are talking about the actuall fashion world I believe men are and have always been the driving force in fashion. Here in Paris gay men run everything, nobody would go to any other for advice, not even Giorgio Armani who is very strict and loves women.

    August 6, 2008

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