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Some Things Just Aren't Done

Sorry I haven't posted lately. I've been up to my jade-green fedora in work. Hopefully I will return to a more genteel existence soon. This overworked condition is making me cranky, and when I'm cranky I start noticing things that bother me. Here are a few of them.

Leather hippie hats: Absolutely no one can get away with wearing a leather-brimmed hat. You know, those leather, cowboy-type hats. I saw a guy walking down Houston Street in one yesterday, and if I had been wearing a sword… Well, this is not the type of headgear that should be worn in an urban area, or even, when you think about it, on a pig farm. I don't care if you are wearing fringed buckskin pants and riding a Harley Davidson or if you are in the the Doobie Brothers, you are not getting away it. I don't care if you have feathers from some rare bird stuck in the hat's band. The only character who ever got away with wearing a leather hippie hat was Freewheelin' Franklin of the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers, and that's because he was a cartoon. Even Crocodile Dundee wouldn't wear one.



Square-toed shoes: I know this will be controversial, but I've been thinking about it for ten years. Square-toed shoes are jive. I am not talking about Lou "the Toe" Groza's kicking shoe (left), which has been obsolete anyway since Garo Yepremian demonstrated once and for all the superiority of soccer-style kicking for distance and accuracy. I am not talking about Frye Boots or any other footwear with an industrial or practical excuse for their existence. I am talking about fashion. Square shoes make you look like a Dutch insurance adjuster. The only character who could get away with square-toed shoes is Donald Duck. Or maybe Howard the Duck.

Sneakers that look influenced by science fiction: I'm not naming any names here because we've got advertisers, but shoes with hydraulics, springs, and various scientific, pseudo-scientific, or architectural influences are simply trying too hard. The same for shoes which are sold in accordance with some sort of philosophy. I don't spend a lot of time listening to the collected works of Sean Combs or Jay-Z, but I do have to admire them for one thing. They made it cool not to wear sneakers. They dress like gentlemen. Wearing sneakers to the job—unless you are an athlete—is a clear sign that you have given up on advancement or on being taken seriously. Or if your name happens to be something like "Turtle." There are, of course, some exceptions. White Keds slip-ons. Anything designed by Comme des Garçons or Dries van Noten. And, of course, classic Air Jordans, Converse All-Stars, or Jack Purcells can be worn when taking the dog for a walk or polishing the rims. But yesterday I saw a pair of clear plastic sneakers. Now those might be interesting if worn sockless with earthworms or something added, but basically athletic shoes dependent on the concept of modernism are a dicey proposition. Sure, they are comfortable. But so are any shoes that cost more than five hundred dollars. Save your money. I have noticed lately that I see far fewer men wearing baseball caps on the streets of New York. I take full credit for shaming them out of it. Let's see what we can do here, guys.

Showing chest: There are times when this is okay, like when you're on the back porch having a bloody mary and trying to keep the newspaper from shaking, but there is a guy in my office who wears V-neck sweaters with no shirt underneath. He is so never getting a raise.

Vestigial Pockets: Maybe I'm an old-fashioned form-follows-function guy, but shouldn't pockets be usable? And if they are well below ass level, well, what do you put in them? I feel like I'm seeing less extreme boxer-shorts-display via low-riding jeans (except among white suburban ebonics students), but this has been replaced by designer jeans with pockets on the hamstrings. When I see this that old Clash song keeps popping into my head, "I'm So Bored with the U.S.A."

Tube socks: There is no excuse for wearing tube socks. Ever. Even to the gym. All socks must have heels. I wouldn't even use a tube sock as an emergency head-cover for my 5-wood.

Pants be draggin': If there were a law against your trousers bunching up on your shoes then most of Congress would be in the slammer. Which might be a good thing. Maybe a real "fashion police" could do more for this country than tough law enforcement types like Rudy Giuliani and Eliot Spitzer. I will never wear my pants in the style that my grandmother called "highwater," as some fashion leaders like the radical dandy Thom Browne do, but far better to show some sock or lack thereof than to tromp around with ten-percent of your trousers bagged around the ankles and polishing your shoes. Although the Presidential valet seems to have cleaned up George W.'s act in his second term, he came into office looking like a hick CEO, with pants bunched up and sleeves heading toward knuckles. Who here doesn't understand the difference between "break" and "bunch?"


Brand-new distressed: I've harped on this before, too, but the real meaning of decadence has nothing to do with sex, drugs, or rock and roll. It has to do with stuff like carbon footprints and artificially worn-out clothes. A man should wear out his own jeans, otherwise he is a poseur. The markings on one's jeans should reflect the hours spent kneeling on a roof replacing cedar shingles, or the fall you took off your BSA Lightning where you skidded over fifty yards of asphalt. Not long ago I was walking on the Bowery, where one used to encounter what we blithely called bums and which still has its share of disadvantaged, and I ran into a legendary rock-and-roll manager. His jeans were torn, he was wearing frayed Converse sneakers with no laces, and he was wearing a pea coat that was in shreds. I asked him if everything was all right, and he pointed out that each item he was wearing was new and from a top designer. He even showed me the label in the pea coat, which obviously cost four figures. I advised him to immediately brush his teeth and comb his hair so people might realize that this was a fashion look.

By the way, I just got a fantastic digital Leica and would have loved to document these horrid abuses myself, but I haven't figured out how to use the thing yet.


I disagree with you on the sneakers. I'm a sucker for good sneakers with a great suit. I just posted examples from "A GQ guide to breaking the rules"!


Not to add "overly zealous nitpickers" to the things-that-annoy-me list, but in response to the sentiment that no one can get away with a leather brimmed hat, I must refer to your last photo of the late Pierre Trudeau.

Thanks very much for the blog.

Yes! I can not stand "new" clothing with rips and tears in it either. J. Crew is guilty of that pre-distressed look. It is hideous! I have no idea why they get away with it; their prices are 150% of normal, and the clothes you're getting only have 50% of their lifespan left. You are absolutely right, "anyone who buys this is a poseur." Right on.

On sneakers: I work in publishing, where business-causal is the byword. So while I was admiring a pair of Paul Smith lace-ups a couple weeks ago, I had to pass out of worry of the old adage of dressing nicer than my boss. I went with the black leather sneakers as a compromise.

How would one go about interning for a style columnist at a major men's magazine. I've been humping around with an English degree from Howard U. in DC and some sample clips for a year now, and have only a pocket full of wardrobe compliments to console myself. Any advice?

Fred McKindra

Amen, Glenn. Amen.

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