Just as some men find it difficult to feel relaxed in their clothes, some men feel that they should not be interested in their clothes in the first place and, like de Balzac’s ‘beast’, they just cover themselves. I suppose that they do have a kind of authority on their side, including Hardy Amies, with his dictum about choosing one’s clothes with intelligence, putting them on with care and then forgetting all about them but the trouble is that these men miss out the first two stages.
The fear seems to be for a man to seem to be interested in his own clothes. This fear is often put about and enforced by couch potatoes who ask for nothing more from life than to watch football on the television, with a twelve pack of pilsner beer, muttering, in defence of their idleness, that this is what real men do and real men do not care about clothes; real men don’t dance, and real men certainly don’t cry.
Let’s think about it in reverse order: if we accept that Sir Winston Churchill was a real man, then there is an example of a real man who often burst into tears, even on public platforms. If real men don’t dance, what was George Raft doing (and doing superbly well), with Carole Lombard, in the film Rumba?
If real men don’t care about clothes, what are Muhammad Ali and Manny Pacquiao doing dressing as they do?
Accordingly, let the couch potatoes sneer as they like. They sneer because they want to avoid full engagement in the act of living and their condemning of certain activities enables them: first, to avoid the effort involved in taking part and, secondly, to keep in their quiet corners, hoping that they won’t be asked to show the world what they can do. If they (at least occasionally) actually stood up and took part in something other than the vicarious enjoyment of the sporting achievements of others, they might understand the simple pleasure to be derived from striving to achieve something worthwhile. Dressing well is a part of that striving for achievement. Come to that, knowing how to dance (even if not as well as George Raft) is worthwhile because, when the couch potatoes are wallflowers at a ‘do’, you won’t be and, while I don’t suggest bursting into tears at a tough business meeting, if someone close to you (even a well-loved pet) suddenly dies, one misses out on a part of living in stifling natural grief with a fear of feeling.
-Text by Nicholas Storey
-Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images/AFP