Thursday, October 28, 2010

Of Men and Makeovers

About a week ago, I attended “Fit to Flatter,” this month’s free styling event hosted by Style 2020, a fashion consultation firm here in Orange County. What first impressed me was that this was not just some hour-long sales pitch. The stylists were actually interested in educating the guests on how to improve their look. But what I really appreciated was that the first half of the presentation was entirely devoted to men, arguably an underserviced demographic when it comes to teaching about appropriate dress. Too bad the male sex only made up probably 1% of the audience.

Most women will agree that most men need serious help in the fashion department. Most men, I think also agree. But unfortunately very little gets done about it. It’s not that men never ask for advice. I’ve been called upon by friends numerous times to make suggestions, but rarely have I seen a significant effort made to follow through on any of them. Men will admit they have problems, but then refuse to do anything about it. Looking good is a low priority.

There are a number of reasons for this. Men have been indoctrinated with the false notion that looks don’t matter to women. They realize they could use a makeover, but they don’t think of it as a necessity. Whether in the dating market or the job market, men expect to be valued by everything but that related to dress and grooming. Then they’re hurt and offended when they’re judged by their appearances. No, nice clothes and a fit body aren’t mere proxies for money and power. Women like good-looking men. So do employers and clients. It’s a well-proven fact.

I remember once having an otherwise good-looking student who seemed to be unsuccessful hitting on the girls in the class. I really wanted to inform him that his standard wear – disheveled and unwashed hair, tank-top-like undershirts with armpit and chest hair peaking out, worn flip-flops, and too-thin swim trunks – was probably a major turnoff. But he apparently put more trust in his smarts and winning personality. Hopefully, a job search has changed things. (It did for me!) But I know many more like him. You, dear reader, probably do too.

Unfortunately, some men just aren’t motivated to change even when they recognize much can be gained by the process. It’s more fun to criticize women’s dress: too immodest, too old-fashioned, too frumpy, too revealing, too whatever. All the while, men ignore the logs in their own eyes. Case in point: A friend of mine has been very supportive of people creating new books, magazines, and websites devoted to beauty and fashion for Christian women. However, when I once suggested creating a resource for Christian men (soon after Men’s Vogue met its tragic end), he shot that idea down in a flash. Why? He didn’t think it was needed! Hello? I can spend a whole day in LA without spotting a guy wearing a shirt or suit jacket that actually fits well. Yet men think women need another magazine to tell them what to wear?

Many women are low class when it comes to fashion, but it’s the men who are below the poverty level. Who really should get the charity? Many Christian and secular resources are out there telling women “what men want.” Men probably live in fear of retaliation. We don’t see the Harris boys doing a Modesty Survey about what guys wear that disgusts and embarrasses girls! Would giving up sagging pants and “bicep seams”* really be too much of a sacrifice? Maybe it’s true that men can “dish it out” when it comes to criticizing women’s figures and swimsuits but can’t “take it” themselves?

I sincerely believe that, despite the lack of resources, men can learn to dress appropriately. Admit that baggy clothes don’t hide thin frames or belly fat. As one Style 2020 consultant pointed out, clothes are supposed to touch your body. And we need to strike “metrosexual” from the English language. It’s become a catch-all negative label for “anything I don’t usually wear.” And, by all means, men should take solicited advice seriously. It wasn’t provided for them to pick and choose what sounds like the least amount of work.

Now, there are a few brave souls who ask for advice, but they usually doubt its validity and usefulness. Men seem to require at least two female witnesses before accepting that showing off their backsides is disgusting. I’m not saying that all women are fashion geniuses. (After all, I was the one attending a style event!) But there needs to be more resources offering help to men, especially Christian men.

So here’s my idea: the Men and Makeovers Survey – Part I. Women, this is your opportunity to provide your Christian brothers with constructive criticism about men’s fashion, grooming, and modesty (or lack of it). And men can participate too, by submitting questions that women can answer in Part II. The survey’s anonymous on both ends, so there’s no reason to not to participate. Mean comments will be edited. I expect that few men will participate or read the results, but at least there will be a platform for discussion. I’m looking forward to reading your thoughts and sharing them in the future.

*That was a Style 2020 consultant’s term for the shoulder seam on a shirt that’s definitely too large for the wearer!