It’s not the most scientific of experiments, but I believe my theory on menswear can be proved by one photo: a man strutting down the catwalk in a floral embroidered linen shorts-suit.
One look at The New York Times’ fashion-week coverage, and it was clear why most men couldn’t care less about fashion. The hooded windbreaker under mesh blazer? Not so much. Cotton voile V-neck over plaid shirt and white shorts? Looks like something my mom would’ve nixed at Chico’s. All this, and more, dubbed “sports fashion.” I can just see it now — Kevin Youkilis in ribbon-thin suspenders, pegged skinny jeans and a skin-tight polo.
For a long time, I’ve wondered why even the most adventurous guys I know stick to the basics: khakis, jeans, button-down, polo. But the photo spread really said it all: When you wear a wild tie, a co-worker might make fun of you. Throw on a floral linen shorts-suit and all hell could break loose.
This also explains the fierce loyalty I see among the guys in my life. The phrase “men in uniform” hardly is limited to those in the military and public safety professions. Don’t believe me? Take a look around at your male friends, colleagues and acquaintances. They may stick to an outfit. Or a brand. Or an entire “look.” But they will not stray.
My cartoonist friend George keeps it simple with classic khakis and a blue Oxford. The outfit is such a given that an entire department at the Bangor Daily News named a holiday in his honor and all arrived at the office wearing the same outfit. My editor friend Dale prefers jeans and a T-shirt or button-down. My columnist friend Chris swears by Banana Republic chinos and a dark shirt. And my pal Jon used to wear his Carhartts so often, we joked that they’d walk away on their own if they could.
Over Labor Day weekend, ShopGuy and I had a wedding to attend. Due to the trials he puts his clothes through, this required a shopping trip. Or several shopping trips, as the case may be.
He struck it rich early on when he found Banana Republic classic chinos at Marden’s for $7, and he bought every pair in his size. Why? Because they normally cost $58, and he swears they’re the best. He would know — he does not believe in changing before working around the house, which means the same pair of pants transitions seamlessly from weddings to weedwhacking, golf to gutter repair.
Oh, and the chinos at the outlet? Not nearly as durable.
Finding high-quality, affordable clothes for men in Bangor can sometimes be a dicey proposition. We went to T.J.’s and Marshalls five, maybe six times before ShopGuy found
one blue shirt and one white shirt that wasn’t see-through thin. Ties also required a few trips, but he did find a black silk Brooks Brothers tie for $5 at Marshalls and a striped Nautica tie as well.
The sportcoat was a different story. He wanted something that would last years and years, and in his pursuit, I think he tried on every jacket and blazer in the Bangor area — there was a nice classic navy blazer at the L.L. Bean outlet, but the cut wasn’t quite right. We found a few OK suits, but very few separates. We surfed the Web for ages, but even the best discounters — Sierra Trading Post and Overstock.com among them — didn’t have much for under $200.
So we decided to press our luck and head to Freeport. The gods must’ve been smiling on us, because we found a parking space directly in front of the Brooks Brothers outlet. When we walked in, we found exactly the jacket he wanted — and everything in the store was on sale. It ended up costing about as much as the jackets online, but a mere fraction of the regular $600 price tag.
The brass buttons are a little too preppy for ShopGuy, but I’m in the process of searching for a replacement. I’ll ask the guys at www.askandyaboutclothes.com, a forum about men’s clothing. They’ll help me out. And fortunately, brass buttons are easy to fix. Which is more than I can say for a floral shorts-suit.
Let’s hear it from the boys!
Guys have been known to stand by their brand, so I want to know what men in the Bangor area and beyond are wearing. Visit the ShopBlog (http://shopblogbdn.blogspot.com) and drop me a line. Let me know what brands you love and which stores you’d like to see here. If you want, you can post anonymously, and gals, you can post on behalf of your man, too. As always, happy shopping!