Fashion Sans Suits

Hey, folks. Today’s Daily Prompt is all about confidence. Specifically, the outfits that make you feel the most confident. It’d be easy to say three-piece suits, but I actually dislike wearing them. They feel restrictive and bland at best; I’ve never understood their appeal. Is it because they’re form-fitting? They supposedly make you look like a million bucks – it’s amazing how much positive attention wearing a clean suit jacket can get you – but they just seem…boring. And uncomfortable; why can’t someone make a suit that feels good to wear? I can get away with going full-on Johnny Cash Man In Black-style with my suits, but that requires little effort and attention to detail. Even if I do go with other colors, I don’t want to look like every other suit-and-tie ensemble walking down the street. Shouldn’t we strive for more unique looks? Men’s formal fashion hasn’t changed much in the last century, which is something I wish more designers would further develop. Guys are capable of matching and contrasting colors and fabrics, you know.

Anyways.

I feel most confident wearing business casual. I’ve got a nice, comfortable pair of black loafers, which are polished enough for meetings and sturdy enough for long walks. Black, calf-high dress socks to match. The slacks are usually either black or dark brown, just long enough to keep everything covered if I cross my legs while sitting, but not so long I accidentally walk on the cuffs and shred them to pieces. If I’m traveling, they’ll be cargos. A belt with at least three or four notches of leeway, with simple silver buckle. A t-shirt for the first layer, preferably black, white, dark brown, or dark green. I usually have a forest green dress shirt over it; it complements my olive skin tone and brings out my eyes and hair color. I also have a burgundy cotton shirt that’s more flashy and better in the heat. Both are left untucked, with the first and last buttons left open. Whichever shirt I’m wearing, I’ll always have the sleeves rolled up. It’s a carryover from my early banking days; I worked with money hands-on, and didn’t want to get ink or sweat stains. Rolling them up keeps my body cooler while accentuating my arms and shoulders. If I have to wear a tie, I go with silk in a single shade;  loathe the loud, tacky designs sold in most stores. If it’s cold out, I don a black trench coat with a removable inner layer. If the weather warms up, I can just unzip the inner part and use the coat as a stylish windbreaker. Put on my glasses and let down my hair, and I’m ready to get my style on.

…Yeah, it’s not exactly a three-piece suit, but I like it. As much as we like to deny it, people do judge each other based on personal appearance. It’s funny getting reactions when I’m out and about. I get called “Miss” often. Stares and compliments from women are common, with a few rare catcalls. I get mistaken a librarian or professor, while others think I’m a businessman with a hippie streak. I occasionally get asked if I moonlight in a rock band, and what instruments I play. Others – including my coworkers! – think I look like a vampire or goth. I could probably pull that look off, come to think of it…But at least no one has said I look bad. They can believe whatever they want, but I make it look good.

A Style All My Own

Hey, folks. Today’s Daily Prompt is all about style. This one’s pretty awkward for me, because my personal style isn’t exactly…normal. I could never afford anything really fancy growing up, so the designer/label fads meant little to me. Instead, I’ve always focused more on simplicity. I’d take a good, sturdy pair of walking shoes over the latest Nikes any day. If I’m traveling somewhere and need to carry some extra gear, I’ll usually stick with cargo pants and a backpack. I typically wear a t-shirt as an underlayer, then have a dress shirt partially buttoned and untucked over it. The sleeves are always rolled up in case I need to do something potentially messy, or if I start sweating. No patterns or loud colors; I just mix and match my plain-colored clothes depending on the weather and how well they go together. I stick with combinations of green and brown shades to complement my olive skin tone and bring out my eye color. If I want a more formal look, I wear mostly black, but bust out a maroon dress shirt just to keep things interesting. During the winter, I use my black trench coat – which has a removable insulated layer for warmer temperatures! – and a nice, long scarf. Such ensembles are simple, elegant, and (most importantly) comfortable.

Alucard being one of my favorite game characters might have been an influence.

For some reason, such outfits make me stand out. I think it has a lot to do with expectations and stereotypes. As much as we all like to think we can see past physical appearances, such beliefs are still a huge part of our culture. Hey, here’s a little game to play the next time you’re watching prime time television: during the commercials, keep track of how many of them use beauty, age, or sexuality within the subtext. Remember that Nespresso ad? Because caffeine is supposed to be sensual and alluring. Gee, I sure wish I could have glamorous coffee time like (and hopefully with!) Penelope Cruz…and I don’t even drink coffee. There are similar commercials for eating yogurt, bathing, clothes shopping, cleaning the kitchen, etc. Forget being valued as a person; there’s nothing more important than being “perfect” in every way! Commercials are similarly condescending to men, albeit in different ways. Of course you want that new truck! Your worth is based on virility and ownership, so of course you want the most powerful, impressive thing out there. Of course men just wanna drink beer and act stupid. No self-respecting man would ever dare know about hygiene, cooking, culture, responsibility, parenting, emotions, or, you know, pretty much anything.

Sarcasm is such a wonderful thing.

Needless to say, I’m not comfortable with such expectations. That’s why I try to subvert them with my own style. I could easily get away with looking slovenly and mismatched. But I don’t, and people notice. Sometimes stare. “Real men” aren’t supposed to care, so I guess it makes me an anomaly. Men aren’t held to the same ridiculous appearance standards as women, but that also means less variety and individuality. How many bland suit and tie ensembles have you seen today? If it were socially acceptable and physically safe, I could probably rock a skirt and stockings. Since I can’t without risking a hate crime, I try to stand out more with shading and color contrasts. I also grew out my hair to create a more defining appearance. The two feet of curly, wavy hair have gotten me plenty of attention, in both good and bad ways. Women ask me about it all the time. I get called “miss” frequently. Occasionally someone will ask if I’m a rock guitarist, goth, gay, lesbian, or a Captain Hook cosplayer. It never occurs to anyone that maybe, just maybe, I didn’t like appearing as Mr. Another Generic Bland Guy and decided to do something more. Even if it means I’m more beautiful than handsome. If it makes people confused and intimidated, that’s fine. It’ll get them thinking. Ambiguity has a funny way of doing that.

Besides, I look and feel good. When it comes to style, that’s what really matters.