The salutary lesson of Shane Warne. In 2010 the Australian cricketer, a virile symbol of masculinity to many Aussies, hooked up with English actress Elizabeth Hurley. Not long after, tabloid press accounts started piling up on how Warne’s rough-and-ready, beer-swilling image was being reshaped by his new girlfriend, and social media had itself a field day at the way Warne seemed to be being rebranded as a metrosexual. Although the couple broke off their engagement a few years later, Warne has never quite recovered in the public eye.
This sums up the, at times, confusing question facing modern men. For whom are you dressing up? Yourself, or the opposite sex? When you buy clothes, whether it’s some casual jeans, a pair of trainers, or formal wear from Dobell men’s blazers, is it for your own benefit because you like the way they make you look, or because you’re hoping to attract a partner?
A lot is said about the way advertising puts an emphasis on sex to sell products, especially for men. Whether a company is hawking clothes, aftershave, cars or alcohol, you will often see a woman in the ad, smiling approvingly as the guy uses said company’s product.
That perception in advertising, that what a man wears, drives or drinks, will depend on what women will make of it, has been carried through into other forms of media, such as movies and TV, where you’ll frequently see some poor sloppy dresser realise the error of his ways and smarten himself up just in time to win the girl of his dreams. Obviously this is not to say that the problem only exists with advertising for men – it patently is much the same with women’s advertising too.
Since the Internet came along, and with it e-commerce, style blogs have proliferated. There are now hundreds of articles posted online every day by experts, informed amateurs and average Joes concerning how they think men should dress, and why they think men should put the effort in. What’s obvious is that in most cases it’s clearly a lot more complicated than ‘to get girls.’
Men place an emphasis on personal style because they want to better reflect their personalities; because it will help them fit in better, or create the right impression, at work or social functions, and because they want to show off their wealth or taste – among a myriad other reasons.
Yet if you asked these guys whether, at the root of it all, if subconsciously they weren’t trying to look their best in order to attract someone, the chances are that many would admit that yes, that does play a part. Because as Mad Men, that arbiter of cool and inspiration to suit-wearers everywhere, has confirmed – although advertising exaggerates, muddies the issue, and sometimes downright lies, at the heart of it there is usually a nugget of truth. Sex does have something to do with it.
What women want
It’s not just potential partners, or wives and girlfriends, who influence the way men dress though. A lot of it stems from our childhoods. You learn at your mother’s knee. If you were brought up in a household where at the weekend you wore your best, or you were never let out of the house without shining your shoes and brushing your hair, and every scuff, tear or hole in your clothing was instantly spotted and criticised, then naturally that will carry through into the way you take care of yourself as an adult.
Ultimately there’s no harm in letting women influence the way you dress, but you’re going to have problems if this is the only reason you have for looking smart, because different women might have very different views on what you should be wearing. Ask yourself this: whose opinion matters most?
The answer: Your own.