Latest 3 Things

Monday, April 16, 2012

3 New Douches

I swear I’ve written this essay a few times before.  No writer likes to cover old ground, repeating the same insights - which, the second time around, seem unoriginal and contrived.  And so it is with douchebaggery.  Given the number of times I’ve written about it, I feel like I should have it covered by now.  I’ve opined on this tragic male zeitgeist more than three times as many times as I’ve waxed philosophical on politics, and yet, the latter seems far more thoroughly covered.  It’s seems that the need for the self-aggrandizement of the modern male is a force so powerful that we are incapable of containing it.  No matter how shameful or ridiculous it is exposed to be, it endures.  No matter how many times we shout it down, it resurfaces: rebranded, redoubled and, impossibly enough, renewed.  But despite the overwhelming odds against me, I continue to rage against this unstoppable force.  Like the Spartan 300, I have confidence that while outnumbered, I am fighting for what it righteous and just, and that I can and will prevail.  And so, in the seemingly endless fight against asshatted chodery, here are 3 new douches that should be mocked into oblivion:

1. Hotness.  The tank top is already a staple of douchery.  One cannot even be considered an entry-level “bagger” without a significant number of these undershirts-come-outerwear in their wardrobe.  The same can be said for ill-fitting cargo shorts.  But whereas these fashion scourges and thoughtless homages to doughy physiques were previously something we were only forced to endure during summer months, they have recently become a year-round measure of visual pollution.  I imagine that wearing unseasonably warm clothing in sub-60 degree temperatures is meant to evoke a kind of awe in the toughness and abject badassery it must take to don the barest measures of cover when braving chilling temperatures, but when you’re doing it at the outdoor mall, it just makes you look (even more) like an idiot.  The worst part about this is that every moron that engages in this behavior seems to be the kind of guy (a) whose partial nudity is more likely to arouse disgust and disappointment than awe, and (b) who really should be covering up (for health reasons).  Watching people this intellectually under-equipped trying to manage the faux lack of discomfort over being dressed for temperatures twenty degrees cooler isn’t even entertaining, it’s just disappointing.  I can appreciate that sometimes ladies dressed for a night on the town can be caught in similar circumstances, but for gentlemen, where a jacket is always fashionable, there’s just no excuse.  Unless it’s discovered that hypothermia grows brain cells instead of killing them, this is yet another sign that the intellectual apocalypse is nigh.  

2. On The Toes.  I have a very simple rule when it comes to mens feet: the respect I have for another man is inversely proportional to the number of times I’ve seen his bare toes.  I’m not sure where this comes from, and I’m not sure if this is indicia of some kind of weird phobia, but I do know that I’m not a fan of feet.  In fact, of all the misinformation provided by the modern mens fashion industry, there is none more egregious than the idea that mens sandals (“mandals” if you will) are somehow acceptable formal (or even casual) footwear.  Of course, if dignity, pride or the initial impression of others are matters of no concern to you - feel free to ignore this advice.  The men who actually spend big dollars for this fashion mandals are a special kind of idiot, but more and more, I have begun to see sport sandals at the most inappropriate places.  To be clear, I’m not talking about flip-flops, because that’s ground we’ve already covered (i.e. unless you’re at or near the beach/pool, you’re doing it wrong), I’m talking about straight up, one strap across the whole foot shower shoes.  Now for the record, I have on two occasions, actually owned such footwear.  Once, when I was stationed aboard a submarine and using the same shower as 10-12 other guys, for use when going to and from the facilities and also while inside (so as to avoid any nasty fungus-based events); and once more, when playing a lot of field sports, to avoid wearing my cleats to and from the field, in the car, etc., and not having to don/doff the associated socks.  As far as I’m concerned, this concludes the list of acceptable places to wear this kind of shoe.  You will note, this list does not include: the gym (while using the cardio equipment/lifting weights), the grocery store, the mall or any restaurant -  all places where I have recently seen it done.  Being shoeless or sockless makes you about as badass as being homeless, and really just makes you seem clueless.

3. Stockings Hung.  On balance, there aren’t a whole lot of good reasons for a grown man to be wearing a hat of any sort these days.  Aside from the few obvious exceptions: ball caps if you’re actually playing baseball (or at least at the ball park), cowboy hats if you’re an actual cowboy (e.g. you can ride a horse, rope a calf and fix a fence - without help from YouTube), or a helmet if you’re riding, well, just about anything; you’re really better off just going with your hair - no matter how ill-conceived it might be.  The one universal and unqualified exception I have always made to these rules was the stocking cap for inclement weather.  There’s just no reason for pride, vanity or fashion when it comes to keeping your brain, head, ears, etc. from actually freezing. That said, while I wasn’t paying attention, these most utilitarian head coverings appear to have gone from functional staple to hipster stupid.  And while you might think it difficult to tell the difference between these two diametrically opposed uses, it’s actually a quite simple test.  If you see someone adjusting their stocking cap in front of a mirror, that’s the douchey kind.  Because if you’re using this device to keep your head alive, you check if it’s working by walking outside and not by making sure your hair is poking out of it just so.  Seriously, if you’re getting your fashion ideas from Fat Albert re-runs, what do we really have to lose if your head freezes?

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Look, I want to stop writing about this.  I really do.  Much in the same way that cancer researchers would love to stop their efforts, food banks would enjoy not having to stockpile provisions, and police would appreciate not having to investigate violent crimes - because in each of those circumstances, we would have solved an epidemic.  The replacement of the traditional American male with the douche is not just about visual pollution, having to keep an even closer eye on the modern teenage female, or inexplicable bravado of youth.  It’s about the displacement of the most revered male archetype the world has ever known with a hastily thrown together and abortive amalgamation of Chris Angel, Levi Johnston and all the male cast members from the Jersey Shore.  By failing to guide the twenty first century young man, we’ve unwittingly created a facile and feckless twenty first century man.  But it may not yet be too late.  As while I’ve often said you can’t save the world with what you wear, it turns out that you might just be able save it with what you don’t.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

3 Dressing Do's

Over the past three years, I have offered all measure of fashion criticisms.  From the subtle to the ravingly overt, if nothing else, THREE THINGS has provided an intricate road map of what not to wear.  As society has all but eliminated even the slightest bit of personal shame, I have endured a visual onslaught of the unimaginably poorly dressed at sometimes so disgusting as to literally eliminate my appetite.  But for all this identification, and foolish attempts to inspire consideration by way of pointing out the obvious, I have offered little, if any, in the way of constructive suggestion.  After all, what good is a critic if he can’t provide at least a modicum of solution to the problems he identifies?  Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t the slightest idea of how to remedy the deep-seated and systemic social issues which have gotten us to a place where it’s a acceptable for men to wear skinny jeans, for women to poorly-knit ponchos or for anyone to wear their sunglasses inside at night, but I do know a few things that you can wear and not look like an asshat.  That’s right, after a three decades of dressing myself, and usually not doing it well, I have learned a few things (mostly thanks to patient advice of the women in my life) about what to wear.  And so, in the interests of pointing out a few solutions to the countless problems I have ranted about, here are 3 things to wear to keep everyone from laughing at you:

1. The Plain White Tees.  Men’s fashion has a love-hate relationship with the gay community.  On one hand, they have delivered a profoundly greater level of personal grooming to their straight counterparts, and more than a few style ideas that keep us all from dressing like we did in the seventh grade.  On the other hand, they have also misled a number of otherwise well-intended fashion convertees into androgynous fashion disasters (not everyone looks good with a pocket square).  On balance, though, the Queer Eye for the Straight Guy phenomenon has been a good thing for us.  At the pinnacle of this mountain of gay contribution to the straight community is the v-neck t-shirt as a fashion staple.  Now I know that this has already been taken too far by some.  The deep v-neck is an ill-advised an idea for your average man as as a Speedo swimsuit.  But, your standard v-neck t-shirt is about thing to happen to the male torso since the t-shirt itself.  If there is a universal panacea to the screen-printed apocalypse that is Affliction (and similarly douchey brands of skulls, crosses, crowns, swords, etc.) it is the plain v-neck shirt.  And by plain, I mean plain.  All the same color.  No printing, no fancy stitching, and for God’s sake, the right size.  I first discovered this beautifully simple solution while observing the actually successful crowd in LA (as opposed to the wanna-be/poser crowd).  It’s brilliant, understated, masculine and simple.  If you know someone who can’t stop wearing 80 dollar shirts that look like the art project of an 8th grade boy who watches too much TV, do them a favor, burn their shirts and leave them with a 3-pack of Calving Klein V-necks.  It’ll be the best twenty bucks you ever spend (and it counts as your wedding gift if this finally lands them a girl who doesn’t think Twilight is “literature”)

2. Up to the Chuck.  If there’s one area of fashion where men are almost permanently doomed to being behind their female counterparts, it’s in footwear.  Women know shoes like a native language - a way they learned to communicate that predated their ability to speak.  And men?  We treat shoes like our car keys - something we grab at the last second while heading out the door - and only because we have to.  Men have a hard time even matching their shoes to their particular utility.  Because if this isn’t the case, then there are a lot more people heading off to a skateboarding session than you can tell from watching the local skate parks.  Seriously, skateboard shoes are the footwear equivalent of Underoos - and yet, I see them on grown men daily.  But I get it, dress shoes are about as comfortable as a healthy punch to the groin, and even less cool.  The brands that attempt to create a hybrid (Sketchers, Aldo, Clarks) end up making you look like that asshole that used to work at Chess King in the mall, and (hopefully) you feel ridiculous in flip-flops.  So what to do?  Look to the 1930’s.  The Chuck Taylor All-Star is the most universally acceptable shoe since they started making them.  They come in literally thousands of varieties, and they are, at once, grown-up without being too grown up, stylish without being too stylish, and comfortable without being, well, Crocs.  They also cost less than $40, so you can own more than one pair without being that guy.  Wanna know something you’ll never hear? “Hey look at that guy’s Chucks, what an ass.”  If there’s another kind of shoe you can say that about, I’d like to hear it.     

3. A Great Pair.  There was a time when jeans for men was a simpler concept, and my theory is that this was due in large part to the fact that it was very difficult to screw this up.  Jeans came in pretty much one style, a handful of colors and the sizing was relatively simple.  In fact, the worst thing we ever did with our jeans was to “peg” them against our ankles, in a suburban homage to the hip hop artists of our time.  But while we weren’t paying attention jeans got completely out of control.  They actually developed different “cuts” for men.  Of course, if you’re looking for the ones we used to just call “jeans”, those are now listed under “straight leg”; but now there are also “bootcut” (your girlfriends jeans in your size); “relaxed fit” (previously listed under “husky”); “skinny” (heaven help you if you think this is a good idea) and “slim fit” (listed as - no joke - “for those who want the hipster style of skinny jeans but don't make the cut weight-wise”; if this is you please stop reading now).  Here’s what you need: one great pair of jeans.  If you’re doing well and have the coin, maybe two.  They’re straight leg.  The following things on your jeans are considered an abject failure (and in a world where I was king would result in an immediate rake-slapping): rhinestones, studs, pre-cut holes, flaps on any pocket, embroidery that spells anything or makes a picture and decorative buttons/snaps.  You’re going to spend over a hundred bucks - just suck it up - after all, you’re only going to have to do this once a year or so.  You’re going to make sure they fit - and by fit, I mean, it doesn’t look like you’ve crapped your pants but I also shouldn’t be able to reliably opine on your genital grooming from a glance below your waist.  You’re going to get them hemmed by a professional and you’re going to take good care of them.  With these simple steps, you’ll find they spend a lot more time crumpled up on the floor in the company of their female counterparts than just protecting your couch from your ass.  

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I know what you’re thinking: these tips won’t work for everyone.  What about young guys?  What about older guys?  And to this I would say:  maybe you’re right.  After all, I can’t say that I didn’t violate all of these rules/suggestions during my second decade, and my own retirement may bring on a fashion malaise so profound that I abandon wearing pants altogether.  But (as you might expect) I would ask that you remember three things:  first, if any of my readers are gentlemen in their 20’s, they’re certainly well ahead of their peer group intellectually (as my work rarely includes lingerie photos, fart jokes or nut-shot videos) so they’re probably up for dressing ahead; second, the only guy in his 60’s that reads my stuff is my dad, and he taught me all this stuff; and third, I’m not sure the world wouldn’t be a whole lot better place if men acted a little more like men and I’m not sure I’d mind if that started with dressing the part.