The Woes of a Wannabe Fashionista


donaldI have never really cared about fashion. Neither did my family. I grew up in a house of short Hobbit-like creatures whose wardrobes consisted of sweatpants ranked in ascending order of formality. “Eatin’ pants” were a soundly logical dress requirement.

Additionally, the males in my household wore shirts with condiment stains with such ubiquity that they were like inherited brooches.

Moreover, fashion is not exactly aimed at the short and stocky, anything being marketed towards my ilk typically offer a “straight out of the Shire” look. So I never really bothered all that much. And no doubt, for those of us not model-thin, “fashion sense” can mean an attempt to hide doughy parts of our anatomy, which often involves wearing dark, baggy, or large items of clothing in hopes of pulling off a smoke and mirrors sort of act.

In the past year or so through adherence to diet and rigorous exercise I have gotten into better shape, so I have gone from stocky to stocky. More specifically, I’ve gone from stocky (as a euphemism for fat) to stocky (broad and sturdily built – aka: its real meaning). There’s nothing like working hard for two years in order to make it out of euphemism.

Still, the clothes I owned were now so large and baggy that I looked like a little boy who had sneaked into his daddy’s closet and played a game of I’m Going to Work. These were not unpleasant realities, but the fact remained that I needed some new clothes.

It is no shocking news that people will openly judge others for what they are wearing. This summer I was mocked for wearing Teva sandals, cargo shorts, and for considering a goatee. I was genuinely baffled by such points and thought that since I was about to do a little shopping, I might research what was considered “fashionable.”

Additionally, women are being forced to remove burkinis on the beach, which means that the threat of a “Fashion Police” was very real. And while that branch of public safety officer might have their hands full with the droves wearing socks and sandals and fanny packs here in the Czech Republic, I thought it wise to get a head start on what to wear and what not to wear.

A quick survey of men’s fashions for autumn 2016 was enough to tell me that these trends were going to take off without my inclusion. I don’t own a bandana, I didn’t look good in 1970s clothing the first time around, and I wouldn’t wear something with sequins if I’d won a bedazzler in a raffle. Additionally, extra long sleeves are a fact of life for a short dude, and as a man who has deeply embraced the European man-bag I’m halfway to having a pocketbook (in my defense mine is a used Bulgarian gasmask bag bought in an Army-Navy store. My rule of thumb: if it’s seen combat it’s not a man purse).

Oh, and I couldn’t buy a sailor hat with a straight face. As I always had, I found What’s Hot to resemble clothing one might wear on a trip to Pluto or to a local pub’s BDSM night. I ultimately (nine seconds in) decided that What’s Hot wasn’t for a normal schmuck like myself and instead researched What’s Not in order to avoid any grave miscarriages of fashion justice.

I quickly learned that a lot of “what not to do” rules are common sense rules that I have been breaking for decades. No wrinkled shirts. Nothing too baggy. No socks with sandals (Forever Czech!). And no stains (sorry, mi familia).

My attention was grabbed by an article entitled “15 things women wish men would never wear” because my sisters are my go-to fashion advisers and women in general are the demographic I’d like to impress. I was relieved at first to find that many of the offending particles of clothing were things I would never ever wear. Wife-beaters, skull caps (never understood these in warm weather), turtlenecks, and something called “bling.” “Bling” for those of you who are white and over the age of forty-six, is expensive or ostentatious clothing or jewelry. The extent of my “bling” is a ring I bought in Jordan, a Fitbit, and a silver cavity in my lower right molar. I once wore a necklace, but I felt like a rapper, so I took it off.

I was surprised to see that skinny jeans had become a big no-no. This is surprising because every pair of pants and every shirt in stores seemed to be in the “skinny” or “slim fit” category. What kind of message was this? But the one that really shocked me was a big no-no to Dockers.

What’s wrong with Dockers?

According to the article, Dockers scream “I have a soul-crushing job” or “I work in a cubicle!” This was 50% accurate in my case, and it also explains why all Dockers were 40% off at Boscov’s, which in turn explains why I bought four pair of them.

Oh well.

no bling

no bling

By the time I had read the article, I had already gone shopping. I was in the U.S. and time was a consideration, as I usually need to allow a few days for a tailor to cut three inches off the bottom of new pants. I bought polo shirts, jeans, Dockers, a (slim-fit) zip up sweater, and two T-shirts that in the right light could be from the 1970s.

No bling. No baggy pants. No bandana. No wife-beaters. No sailor cap.

In the end I graduated from “out of the shire” to “good-natured sitcom comedian.”

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