The best thing about modern technology—the very best thing—is not robotic surgery or laser weapons or coupons from the grocery store that are predicated on what you habitually buy. No, the best thing about modern technology is that I can email a photo of an outfit and send it to my friend Kim along with the time-honored message, “Does this go with this?” The second best thing about modern technology is that I can be assured of an almost instantaneous response because Kim is never more than one centimeter away from her phone. And this is a good thing.
As anyone who knows me can attest, I have not invested a great deal of time in studying fashion. This minimal effort stopped almost altogether when I read in the glossy pages of some magazine that the number one fashion accessory for women is a flesh-colored thong. I am not making this up. Makes a person shudder to ponder what the number two fashion accessory is. This revelation (no pun intended) did cause me to switch my attention to men’s fashions which may be the definition of irony. A person (me) who cannot get dressed without at least two consultations, one of whom is the ever-patient Kim, is about to hold forth on fashion advice for men. Women’s fashion is far too confusing. Since I am genetically programmed to give advice about something—anything—men’s fashion it is.
The very same magazine that is proposing uncomfortable and vaguely disgusting underwear also encourages women to live as fashion individuals. “Have your own style!” “Be an original!” (Fashion magazines account for ninety per cent of all exclamation points in use today.) Yet, should a woman be just a speck too much of a trend-setter, she will find herself with blacked-out eyes featured on the “Don’t” page. The “Don’t” page is where fashion reputations go to die. So you can see there is much to be confused about.
But just because I cannot figure out what looks okay on me does not in any way mean I am unsuited to critique the clothes that others wear. Recognizing bad fashion is a lot like Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart’s definition of pornography…I know it when I see it. Again, that doesn’t mean I understand it. One of the many things I don’t understand is bra straps. Lots of women treat bra straps as their number one fashion accessory. I realize I am crossing some sort of irreversible threshold when I preface a statement with “When I was their age…” But when I was their age (and there I go over the precipice—-just let me borrow one of those punctuation marks from Cosmo—-!), girls would rather have given up their Bonne Bell Lip Smacker strawberry-flavored gloss than show the merest glimpse of a bra strap. We went so far as to hand-sew little tabs in our shirts to keep a strap from straying out into the public view. Today you cannot swing a chat mort (as we say in France) without hitting a colorful array of what used to quaintly be referred to as unmentionables. Now they are not only mentionable, they are right there in your face ahead of you in line at McDonald’s.
While women commit plenty of their own fashion fax pas, men display a few habits that defy explanation. At least a bra strap is functional. What isn’t functional is black socks with sandals. Knee-high black socks with sandals. There is simply nothing like knee-high black socks with sandals that just screams, “Retired old geezer who drives around with his turn signal on.” Another puzzler is the sleeveless, scooped-neck t-shirt known variably as the tank top, the wife-beater, or ugly. See a guy’s untidy upper physique on a beach and no one gives it a second thought. See a guy’s untidy upper physique sticking out through all boundaries of a tank top and it’s off-putting. Extremely off-putting. So off-putting that golf courses, the place that invented and then encouraged the wearing of the ugliest pants in the universe, have banned them. They are not just disgusting, they are flesh-colored thong disgusting. The ultimate Don’t. If you won’t take my word for it, ask Kim.
Marla Boone writes for the Troy Daily News and Piqua Daily Call