Monday, June 16, 2014

Things I Don't Get #3: Writing on Clothes

For all the reasons man may feel constrained, it seems impossible to me that he could find himself without sufficient variety of attire to suit his needs. Shirts and trousers of myriad material, color, and cut accommodate every condition of weather and circumstance and upon this he can layer a still greater variety of waistcoats or vests, finally tailoring-off the look with coats of the dress, frock, tail, or morning variety. This enumeration leaves out additional accouterments of style such as ties and belts, which come in multifarious variety and may themselves be adorned with still more regalia from clips and pins to feathers. Is this array of choices so insufficient that people find it necessary to write on their clothes?

I don't know when or where this sad spectacle began, but I propose it is an unwholesome look. Chiefly, wearing words makes your presence aggressive, to varying degrees to be sure, but aggressive nonetheless. It presumes upon strangers in society to read your message when in polite society words should pass in the course of conversation and according to the good sense of the parties, not by visual command.

Second, the body is not a vessel of expression (thought it can be expressive in painting and dance) and a man's presence should betoken just that, presence. No more or less. When I see my friend, I wish to see my friend, not any other idea however lofty.

Third, consider the messages which clothing carries. Plenty of shirts are mere advertisements for brands, from Tommy Hilfiger to Coach, the pinnacles for social climbers. More and more though I've seen t-shirts–which are undergarments, for the record–with the names of countries on them. Now perhaps some element of national pride is involved, but I've seen people wearing shirts which suggest for them a highly unlikely genealogy. Why would someone who is not Chinese, say, wear a shirt that says China? Speaking of nationalism, what's the deal with flags on shirts and clothing with patterns of flags? If you're wearing a flag, be prepared to be strung up.

As far as sports attire goes, the only people who should be wearing it are the players. They wear the team colors so in the confusion of the game they can tell one another apart. Similar reasoning stands against wearing camouflage-patterns: unless you're hunting or hiding, it's not appropriate. The last fashion statement which needs flogging is that of college and university attire. Aside from the conundrum of why any respectable institution would sell hoodies printed with the school crest, we ought to remember that the institution is a school, not a cult. It's not a good fit for everyone and even if it were, why would you want to endorse it to strangers? Even if your alma mater is worth the title, why would you put its name on a shirt? Would you put your actual mother's face on a shirt?

Since the sorry status quote would seem to indicate we say the obvious, one especially shouldn't put writing over delicate parts of the body. Such a tasteless habit not only encourages what appears to be leering, and even justifies it it, but it invites attention which is often quite unwarranted, a nasty trap for those with the natural inclination to read what is before them.

How do we show support then? you ask. Well, men generally prefer the unorthodox arrangement of words into units called sentences, which are then published. Alternatively we verbally express ideas to willing audiences at select occasions and venues. If you are determined to make a visual statement, though, the time-honored means are buttons, pennants, and flags. Should you need to make a show of whimsy at a party, a mask might serve your humor with more dignity.

Yes, there is probably room for whimsical, worded clothing at casual gatherings of intimates, but we should reserve attire for the spare, dignified expression of the gentleman, who brings but himself.

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