The More Perfect Man: a big guy’s guide to shirts.

Tis the season when celebration without moderation is turned into a newfound dedication to reformation. Thanksgiving feasts lead to Christmas candies all enjoyed while lounging in front of the fireplace because it’s too cold to go outside, and for many of us, this season of sharing love, tends to leave us ourselves, more loveable.

Emphasis on the more.

Then comes New Year’s where we go through the ritual of repentance, or resolutions, that send us back to the gym or on to a diet, in the hopes that we may appear more worthy of love. How love or worthiness might be measured is debatable, and I am not one to say what others should measure, but as for me, I have discovered, or learned, the value of smoke and mirrors. I would need less smoke and mirrors had I never discovered smoked meats and cheese, but I did.

So let me pass on one little tip, only because it took me while to learn, and perhaps it wouldn’t have taken so long had someone told me sooner.

If you have more middle than you would like to show, the best way to cover it is with clothes that fit- not by wearing clothes with extra fit.

The secret is sadly not so much in how good fitting clothes might make you look (and they might) but rather in realizing how much worse you look in baggy ones. Think of it this way, if you wish you were less, the answer isn’t in adding more. More clothes, more room in the waist, more pizza, more-more-more, will always just be more.

Wear shirts that end at your waist, or tuck them in. This one takes guts in that you may feel it reveals yours, but just know that a long shirt just allows more cloth to sag below your belly which draws even more attention to its existence, and also shortens the look of your legs, making you look more round than long.

V neck t shirts or the v of an open collar, hint at a v shape person, where boat necks roundness echo other things that might be round as well, and it is amazing how influential perceptions and hints can be.

Also, choose dark colors. They hide contours and shapes you don’t want seen.

If you wear a tie, the tip should just touch you belt buckle. Any longer and all attention will be drawn to however much material is hanging out in space like a rock climber who fell of the cliff and is now left dangling by a rope. Tie it shorter and you have an actual arrow pointing right at your midsection. That belt buckle is your best bet. Even if that buckle is, uh-hum, buried. Tip of the tie goes right on that precipice.

There you go, my holiday gift to whomever.

I hope it helps, and I know, I know- who Am I to give any advice. You may have seen me sitting at my desk, or more likely on my sofa, or in COVID times only seen me on Instagram, and you think to yourself, “but he still looks overweight”, and you are right.

But trust me…

I am much fatter than I look.

Like- a lot.

(If you are serious about clothes that fit, might I suggest a professional like Commonwealth Proper. They will treat you right)

When Editing a Closet Feels Like Failure

My hoarding clothing stems from two things:

One, the understanding that dressing appropriately is all about context. Where will you be and what will you be doing? This should determine the item, the color, the cut, the fabric, etc.

And two, the fantasy that my life is somehow much more interesting than it really is, or at least the fantasy, that it will be so at some point in the future. I need to be prepared right?

I still own a pair of rugby cleats though it has been ten years since I last played.

I own two pairs of snow pants though it has been 15 years since I last went snowboarding.

In fairness to the ten suits or odd jackets I own, such was daily wear for me pre-pandemic, though I must admit it has been multiple years since I half of them fit comfortably. I am convinced they will al fit again.

I realized the other day that while I have shoes in which to jog, I do not have the right shoes to play basketball. This is appropriate since I haven’t even touched a basketball in maybe five, wait, seven, years, but now that I see the clothing gap I am convinced the shoes are why I’m not playing 3-on-3 right this instant.

I saw an image yesterday of a small stadium where cars race around in a tight circle with a track banked at almost 90 degrees. It was wild. Spectators watch from seats right along the top of the track so they can look down and see cars zip by sticking to the wall as if with a high octane Spiderman superpower. While looking at this awesomeness what stuck out to me most was that one car had an obviously insane man sitting mostly outside the window of this moving car, and I cringed. Not because of the danger but because he was wearing this ill-fitting, multi-color striped, long sleeve golf shirt. It looked like a secondhand cast-off from Old Navy; like the wearer just grabbed something out of a pile with no thought as to size or taste. It robbed a little bit from the spectacle. Evel Knievel understood this. While I may not share his same taste for star spangled Elvis jumpsuits, Mr. Knievel understood how to dress in context. As to the driver in this motodrome, I am convinced that a leather motor cycle jacket, or a shirt in colors that matched the car, or maybe even no shirt at all would have made this whole scene so much more spectacular but instead of thinking this guy was just as cool as his stunt, I was pondering if perhaps this guy was only driving on a wall because he had no other options- because I had to assume he had no other shirts.

I love the idea of owning a tuxedo. I get that wearing a tux tailored to fit, will make me look and feel better, and in any setting where a tux is called for, one would of course want to look and feel their best. I have read and learned enough to know the little details that matter, texture, tailoring, lapel style and jacket length. I need to do more testing to really decide the size of bowtie that works best with my face, but I do know how to tie one, and know that I should.

But then also, I have already lived most of my life, and in all this time have only experienced four occasions where my wearing a tuxedo was appropriate.

So. Should I do a better job honestly curating my closet, or do I find some way to get a yacht to go with my boat shoes?

It’s The LA Moment x2: Commonwealth Proper

“I’ve said it a million times and I’ll say it again, It’s the L.A. moment. It’s the L.A. moment.” Craig stated with enthusiasm.

He did indeed say it twice and probably has repeated that repeated phrase a million times- because it’s true.

Craig said it to me in an easy-going sort of way, looking over at Mike with a smile. The two of them had just spent the entire night painting the interior walls of Commonwealth Proper’s new showroom in DTLA.

The space used to be the backstage area of Al’s Bar, one-time hot spot to see artists like Beck, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and the Replacements. You can still see what used to be the stage in what is now a clothing shop next door. When I was there I could also see a white board with a sketch of the new floor plan and a list of all the construction still left to be completed before they open. It looks to be the kind of classy with an intentionally unfinished rough edge sort of place that I would expect from Commonwealth Proper.

Commonwealth Proper has matured since it started back in 2008. It has grown up in that there will now be 4 showrooms (Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Atlanta, LA), and matured in that the brand doesn’t have to try to be anything other than what it is. They have established themselves and are free to be whatever sort of menswear design shop they want to be.

And I kind of love what they have become. Commonwealth Proper has done this odd thing where they have learned the skill of bespoke tailoring appropriate for Wall Street and too good for Congress, while maintaining both a sense of humor and an edge.

I am not a floral corduroy jacket or full plaid suit wearing guy, I’m too physically large for that much pattern, but I love that Craig makes and wears those things. I love even more, and am the sort of guy, that would wear a fitted navy suit with the two Ron’s, Swanson and Burgundy, printed on the lining. I would wear that to death. If someone pitched that idea to me in advance I would snicker with self-righteous doubt, which of course shows how little I know and how skilled these guys are.

Rest in Peace Glenn O’Brien

As a 14 year old struggling for a small slice of social acceptance I used to flip through the pages of GQ magazine. Mostly I would just look at ads in search of the perfect haircut thinking that if I could get my own just right, maybe I could one day be as cool as these guys looked. No. That isn’t quite true. I was mostly just hoping to get just a little bit closer to cool but I knew I would never really get there. So I just flipped through the pages looking not reading.IMG_2747

Except for this one column, “The Style Guy”.

I grew up in a world where people were very much judged by what they were wearing, but almost no one knew a thing about style. It was just her skirt is too short, His pants are too saggy, and what brand is that? I was aware enough to know I was clueless and too ignorant to really know where to look for guidance. My father could tell me exactly what someone might have been wearing in 1825 Wyoming, or the importance of socks while hiking, but would then communicate that thinking about clothes at school was too trivial to be concerned with. Mom could point out a Mondrian or a Rembrandt but had no interest in either Coco or Chanel.

My only hope was Matt Hilbig.36654_1511282859621_2937488_n

Matt lived around the corner and taught me that you could buy boat shoes at Payless and no one would ever know they weren’t Bass. He also taught me that you could find everything from GQ ads in Nordstrom, but that my money was probably more in line with J. Riggins. Matt was the source of all of my practical and tactical sartorial lessons- but he was also 14.

Then I discovered the Style Guy.backyardbill_glenObrien42

As I got older it was The Style Guy that answered questions I never knew I should ask, and that even if I knew to ask, I had no one around who could answer. He explained to me the difference between a barrel and a French cuff, which one might assume everyone would know but I didn’t. He taught me what a contrast collar is and helped me understand that they probably aren’t for me. Above all he taught me that I could think about this kind of stuff without just trying to imitate some external norm or marching in some sort of conformist regimental order… and how to do so without being an idiot.IMG_1916

I had been reading the Style Guy for quite some time before I learned that he was that one grown up who used to show up on MTV talking about news. It was long after that when I learned this guy grew out of the Andy Warhol Basquiat punk rock New York and into the suit wearing wingtip world of GQ, without doing some sort of image dance that wasn’t really him. This man was amazing.

I have to say was because yesterday he passed away and I have lost the best teacher I ever had in how to be less of a dork, while still being me. He was the best.

 

 

 

Matt, you were second best. Just sayin.

@Sunflowerman

image2Matthew Miller is a semi-nomadic menswear illustrator. He is the only one I have ever met, which is according to him, because he is the only one. This is probably true. Now there may be some illustrators who work in fashion including menswear, or some semi-nomads who also paint, but I believe Matt when he says he is the only one who actually makes a living off of doing just that one thing-menswear illustration. This making a living thing is important here because by all accounts he does in fact make one and is semi-nomadic because he can be and not because he is homeless.  I have not done any market research or investigation of my own, mostly because I don’t care; I just find his work and his story interesting.

Miller is a Midwestern kid who was always into art and when he came of age he decided to go off to college. No one in his family had ever been to college before so when he chose to go to art school as opposed to business or pre-law, no one was concerned. It was after all, still college. It was while at SCAD in Atlanta that the artist took an interest in clothing. Oddly enough this interest started with his first pair of Chuck Taylor All-Stars. They were the first item of clothing he loved and he wore them to death. He has since learned to love hats and watches as well. And as is the case with most artists who are young and not yet financially burdened, he painted what he loved.

Now comes the interesting part.IMG_3279

This young art student started walking into menswear shops and pitching his work. It worked. He painted for H. Stockton, did a bit of blogging via Instagram and such, till Marcus Troy invited him to a trade show and ta-da, he was a professional. Now he does work for Maurice Lacroix, Carlos Santos, ONS Clothing, and M. Gemi. Thanks to these folks Miller  and his companion have been globetrotting, painting, and if our meeting at LA’s Grand Central Market is any indication, they have been generally enjoying themselves.IMG_3283

Miller does not present himself as a menswear expert, nor am I convinced he is trying to become one. He did not pontificate on this aesthetic or that, nor did he critique my shoes. He did say he thinks watches are “magical” but I think he was talking about gears not fashion.image1

Manly Men are and Have Been Dandies

… and for the record I own none of these images nor have I had a hand in their creation. They are just here to illustrate a point.

Dandy is not normally meant as a compliment when directed toward a man. It is considered calling the masculinity of the accused into question. I find this curious.DandyCutout

Maybe the man’s clothing show a little too much flair, a bit too fancy, overly decorated, maybe even froofy in the opinion of manliness police. Calling someone a dandy is often the same as, or at least overlapping with, soft, feminine… gay. Interesting.armor

Now in most cases, someone who would call another man a dandy- or metrosexual, or flamboyant, or prissy- in a derogatory way would also think gay to be bad. I have no intention of dealing with anyone’s opinion of homosexuality here, but I would like to address this curious connection with hetero normative masculinity and fancy clothes.custer-portrait

Clothing does not in fact make the man, or even make someone a man. I say this not to deny that humans signal or communicate when clothing themselves (very much the opposite), but rather to challenge what many think the messaging of frilly clothing means relating to hetero-normative masculinity.george-catlin-iowas

There is a stream of popular American culture that for some reason thinks decorated clothes, or colors such as pink, communicate femininity or weakness. This makes me chuckle. It makes me laugh not because anyone has accused me of dressing less manly (I don’t personally like flamboyant clothes or excessively decorated outfits), but rather because it is historically silly.Teddy-Roosevelt-Was-the-Toughest-Person-Ever

This tends to be normal for anyone mocking someone else for not fitting some imagined standard. Most mockers are ignoring their own shortcomings, however they measure that standard.

Warriors throughout the ages and across many cultures, have exerted hetero masculinity, strength, and aggressiveness… as well as an abundance of feathers, ribbons, and makeup.samuraiWe kid ourselves that armor and military regalia is utilitarian. Plumes on helms deflect sword blows. A forged metal face plate is only for protection, or maybe a touch of intimidation. Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiight.

Guys wear that stuff because they think it looks cool.hawaiian-tattoo-on-left-chest

Which is great because in most, or at least many, cases it does look cool… but also super fancy. Super decorated, just for looks, non utilitarian, fancy. I’m okay with this. I understand that such clothing tells me little, or likely nothing, about anyone’s orientation, strength, virility… but it does tell me quite a bit about their taste.Birdman-rapper

And I don’t need to have the same tastes as you. That is okay.mma-karma-elite-daily-800x400

I don’t have to be like you, or like you, but if I don’t (like you) my complaints should not be tied to your clothes.slide_308704_2702404_free