ALPHA MALE: Every Man Wants To Be A Well-Dressed Man
Wednesday, March 13, 2013
Sources of the "shift"
Mr. Tremblay sites various sources of this shift, from Esquire Senior Fashion Editor Wendell Brown's anecdote of a colleague's "frat boy" boyfriend asking for a designer label suit up to NBA star Carmelo Anthony showing up at Fashion Week in Milan. His main source of inspiration for the story is "Everyman" Joe Namath in the 1960's, who shirked the star athlete stereotypes, truly embraced his personal style and made men's fashion topical.
But, whether Mr. Tremblay cites evidence posed by Deputy Editor and best-selling author Michael Hainey from GQ or Tom Kalenderian, Executive Vice President of Barney's New York, what he fails to show is the actual shift by the real "Everyman". Despite his sources—whether the Esquire co-worker with a boyfriend, senior editors and executives within the fashion industry or superstar athletes (even one as pedestrian as, "Broadway Joe")—they all share 2 things that make them a poor argument for his case—awareness and accessibility.
The typical "Everyman"?
Sure, the anecdote of the "frat boy" boyfriend is your typical "Everyman" to whom all we average Joes can relate. But the difference in this case is said boyfriend is dating a fashion magazine employee. There's a level of awareness (and expectations) of frat boy's style IQ far above the norm said boyfriend would likely maintain independently should he not be dating someone who goes to work in New York City for one of the foremost men's style magazines in the country.
And, with all due respect to Mr. Brown and Mr. Hainey—both of whom I respect immensely—they live and work in a style vacuum of sorts. They are marching in and out of offices with people trying to constantly impress aesthetically, meeting for fashion shoots of the latest seasonal trends and traveling on book tours to promote a New York Times bestseller (in the case of Mr. Hainey presently). These are not exactly the anecdotes of the "Everyman" on which Mr. Tremblay relies to make his point that highlights how your average husband, friend or neighbor is upping his style game.
But, regardless of the skewed perspective in "The Rise of the Well-Dressed Man," the author is still absolutely correct. I see the "Everyman" every day walking into my store. It is why I started my men's retail business in the first place. I could not find locally what I wanted to wear and I was tired of the “trial and error” of buying online.
"Everyman" is me
While somehow I may some day be considered on the front of this current shift in men's style in a historical context, I too am your "Everyman". I had a very suburban adolescence, went to a public high school and decent college; I was even a "frat boy". After graduating, I had “normal” positions in marketing and sales for over a decade, got married (and later divorced), had kids and bought a house. Basically, I did the things any average American guy expects to do in his lifetime. But what I found out about myself when reflecting on all those “typical” life events is that I always had a propensity to reach a little higher, be a little more self-aware and wanted to feel and look a little better.
I always say, my store is a summation of all my life experience—my family and upbringing, my professional career and my personal interests—all coming together in this public expression on a little corner in Providence. But I am no different from the guy who is deciding for the first time to wear a size down in his shirt or buy premium selvedge jeans. I just have a bigger platform now to express my personal shift, and make every man who walks into the store feel they can do the same.
"Everyman" is the Providence Police offer, the college student, the father
So who is the “Everyman” who is shedding said “schlumpiness” for style? Well, experience in my profession now tells me it is the Providence Police officer who buys form-fitting outerwear in my store, the college student in Pennsylvania buying a new pair of boots from me online, and the father traveling from Venezuela to visit his son—a regular customer—attending graduate school who buys a new casual blazer while they spend time together. The "Everyman" is everywhere and he is dressing more sharply.
I do not believe there is a rise in the number of men who want to dress well. I believe, on some level, most guys "get it". What I believe is that the rise of the number of guys willing to express their desire to look better, to feel better and maybe even score a compliment or two in the process has dramatically risen and will continue to do so. It is why the staffs at the major men's magazines, designer labels and department stores have accepted a new generation of “Everyman” into their ranks as editors, designers and buyers. I am proud to call many of these average Joe's my friends.
Case in point: Lawrence Schlossman
Take a young man like Lawrence Schlossman (the subject of this article's photo, coincidentally shot by “everyman” financier-turned-phographer, Justin Bridges of TuckedStyle.com). Lawrence (or “L.A.S.” as he is known to friends and “haters” alike) originally worked outside the industry in North Carolina, started a fun blog, turned it into another popular blog named, F**k Yeah Menswear, which was turned into a perfectly satirical book of the same name, published by Simon & Schuster and also landed him a position at the off-price site Gilt.com's men's site GiltMANual, which led him to the Editor's position for Complex Magazines's new endeavor Four-Pins.com, one of the leading influencers in today's menswear media craze.
Oh, and you may just see him this Spring as a model in GANT's international ad campaign for their popular Rugger line. Or guys like Billy Moore—founder of Cause and Effect Leather Goods who lives in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee, the son of a blue collar family from Pennsylvania who makes all his product by hand. Even a fashion editor like the aforementioned Mr. Hainey had aspirations beyond the style realm he and others now preside over long before he came to GQ. (Mr. Hainey's best-seller, “After Visiting Friends,” is in part fulfilling his lifelong dream of being a writer and journalist, following in his father's footsteps.)
Average ability, astronomical confidence
Maybe "Broadway Joe" was really a great example for Mr. Tremblay to highlight in his T Magazine piece after all. In context the story of Super Bowl III is the “Everyman”. Joe Namath, he of average ability, but astronomical confidence and swagger was able to outshine the prototypical athlete (Johnny Unitas, albeit injured) and the best team (the Baltimore Colts) even if it was for just one game. But that one moment in time—and because of it, Joe Namath—is remembered decades later as larger than life. Is that not a feeling and position to which we all aspire?
I am not suggesting the current shift in men's style is larger than life or of significant lasting value. I cannot predict how long it will last or even if it will. But one thing is certain and that I believe is lasting—every man has some desire to look better, feel better about himself and simply be a little better today than he was yesterday. Sometimes it takes a New York-sized personality like Namath or a gaggle of influencers as found in Williamsburg, Brooklyn to ignite the shift.
Everyman is everywhere
But today, the era of the Internet, has forged a new form of awareness and accessibility- one that caters to the “Everyman”. The flood of 24-hour media, the return of men's boutiques and haberdasheries, the off-price sites and Ebay deals on everything from Kiton luxury shirts to Thom Browne suits. All of these channels have made every man a little more aware and, more importantly, a little more comfortable expressing himself. With such an array of access granted to the devices through which he can express his sequestered confidence, the “Everyman” of today is on “Main Streets” across the United States like Providence, RI or Raleigh, NC or Madison, WI. This is where the fire is being fed and the shift sustained. Brooklyn, beware.
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