Taki’s Magazine, which never encountered a controversial opinion it wouldn’t print, has an article called “An Idiot’s Guide to Getting Dressed“. (Hat tip to Maggies Farm.) Gavin McInness targets hypothetical young men (“idiots”; but that’s a tautology) and explains how to stop looking like ignorant low class dipshits. I read his article while wearing cheap boots, ballroom jeans, a sweatshirt, and sporting a beard manly enough to shove San Francisco halfway to Hawaii. I haven’t worn a tie in years.
You’re expecting me to go on a rant. Maybe say something like “Ties are for wimps. A young man should spend that money on a socket set.” Nope. Not gonna’ do it.
In general (and at a socio-economic class far lower than McInness’ poolboy) I agree with what he has to say. Right now I look like a serial killer who woke up in a gutter. But that’s a situation I control and I have earned. When I was younger I didn’t have a track record. I hadn’t had the time to demonstrate my intelligence, skills, trustworthiness, or merit, to employees, business connections, etc… I spent most of my days looking like a derelict but attempted to maintain at least the ability to look civilized. (For an ape like me it wasn’t easy!)
That doesn’t mean that as a young collegiate serf I wore a tie to my job at the mill or I pumped gas wearing Oxfords (whatever they are). That’s stupid. McInness’ advice is for business. However, on rare occasions, not more than quarterly, all young men need to look like adults. I did my best. I stuffed myself into the best clothes I had (which sucked but I had a budget of $0) and walked into that situation like I knew my head from my ass. It worked.
The point is I didn’t go “full ugly” until it was time. It’s a disservice to the youth of the nation when they are not properly introduced to the difference between choosing to look like shit and being shit. It matters.
I’m here to help. This Curmudgeonly advice is for young men who’ve never done anything more than be rumpled. If you’ve been hanging with Biff at the yacht club you’ve already mastered this and should quit reading right now.
What the broke, blue collar, inexperienced, young man needs to know for formal situations:
- If the situation involves either of these phrases “will the defendant please rise” or “do you take this woman” it is officially go time. Blow it and you’re doomed. Be ready for it!
- You’re not James Bond. You’re not rich, you’re not suave, you can’t dance worth shit, and you’re not fooling anybody. Dress as well as you can afford and do your best to act like a civilized human but shoot for mid range. If you were urbane and super cool you wouldn’t be reading my blog.
- If you’ve cultivated inner sophistication your outward appearance matters less. What is the last book you read? Was it “Spiderman” or was it “Moby Dick”?
- Good clothes are necessary to get you in the door. A good mind is why you belong there.
- Use appropriate vocabulary but only at the level you truly posses. If you’ve done nothing but watch TV you have nothing to say and lack the words to say it. Shut up and smile. If you’ve read considerably and thought more, then you’ll have things worth saying. Don’t try vocabulary you don’t merit. Bluffing will only impress other idiots. If you can’t complete a sentence without slang or swearing, shut up and nod… especially if your day starts with “will the defendant please rise”.
- Table manners aren’t just fretting about which fork to use. If it’s lunch with the boss; even if it’s a Big Mac on a paper plate, eat like a grown up.
- At fancy restaurants people eat weird stuff. If you wear a tie many times a month you already know this. Otherwise it’ll be a surprise. If the meal looks like that scene in Indiana Jones try a morsel and smile. (Man up and taste the escargot!) If you’re a gluten averse vegan chickenshit, nibble at the salad and don’t make a fuss. If you’re a bubba, choke down some damn vegetables and don’t try ordering a cheeseburger. If you aspire to sit at the big boy’s table act like you already belong there.
- Social drinking in a business context is deadly. Of course I did it all the time. As a young man you will too because you’re a dumbass. Since you’re already playing with fire make sure to follow social cues. If the boss wants Merlot or neat whiskey don’t order Budweiser or an banana daiquiri. In fact, never order a banana daiquiri in any crowd unless you exceed the median age by 20% or are trying to get laid. If you want a Mountain Dew, drink water. If you have a sudden urge to tell the boss he’s a chump, switch to water. If you’re feeling particularly handsome, rich, dashing, or intelligent, switch to water. It’s rarely a bad idea to shut your yap.
- Traditional church was once a training ground for dressing and acting civilized. Hippie church doesn’t count. If the preacher doesn’t mention damnation and hell several times an hour, you’re in hippie church and are probably wearing sneakers. I didn’t avail myself of church Sundays so I had to overcome a deficit. If you’ve been putting on “Sunday best” 52 weeks a year you’ll do fine and don’t need my advice.
- Looking civilized is a perishable skill. The less you practice the less you can pull it off. I’ve been slacking off on this life skill. I may someday regret it.
- It might help to think of “fancy clothes” as wise survivalist preparations for certain social challenges. You’ve got a rifle and ammo in case the zombies take over. Why not an ironed shirt in case the other kind of zombies make their move?
- The inability to clean up and act well is never an improvement. If you can look like James Bond on the weekend and shovel shit Monday morning you’re truly a stud.
God speed to all young men. Hopefully the next time a tie must be deployed you’ll nail it. Sometimes you’re only a business luncheon or public presentation from something new. Conversely no bride, employer, or judge is going to be impressed with your sweatpants.