Our Clothing Choices and Self-Respect

My wife and I recently spent the Valentine’s Day/President’s Day weekend in the new Guitar Hotel at the Hard Rock, Hollywood, Fl.

It was a fun weekend filled with laughter, intimacy, and connection. When we do trips like this we enjoy dressing nice and basically acting like adults sans kids for few days. I will expand in a future post on the importance of doing this periodically, and the positive effect it’s had on our marriage.

While we were walking from our room to dinner at the Italian restaurant on the casino floor we both noticed something interesting. Since it was Valentine’s Day, there were many couples walking around. We both noticed that, generally, the woman half of the couples were dressed well, usually wearing some kind of nice dress and shoes, and hair done up. The male halves, on the other hand, looked different. For the most part, they were not dressed well, nor were they groomed well, and the incongruency between how they presented themselves and how their wives/girlfriends did was jarring.

I fired off the following tweet without really thinking:

Soon after posting that my phone started blowing up with notifications. I apparently struck some kind of a chord and likes, retweets, and comments starting coming in. 

Some people agreed with her and some had alternate theories. One defended his right to wear sandals whenever and wherever he wanted. One woman believes I made the whole thing up and I was projecting some of my own insecurities (I’m still trying to figure out what that means since my wife doesn’t dress me, and I was dressed well).

Whatever the explanation, what we noticed does seem to be a problem today. One of the commenters expressed a view I think that is shared by many married men. He said he’s married, and he doesn’t give a fuck how he looks.

Indeed.

Men, we can do better

I am ashamed to say that if this were two years ago, I probably would have looked as bad as many as these men did. I would have thrown on my going out uniform consisting of a pair of badly fitting khaki chinos (always too long and bunching up on the bottom), a black polo shirt with a visible t-shirt underneath, and bad Payless footwear.

Why was that my uniform?

Because I simply didn’t care. I guess I subconsciously held the same view as the aforementioned commenter that since I’m married it simply didn’t matter. 

To me, clothes served the simple function of simply making me look presentable and it was my goal to spend as little as possible on them. I would wear these cheap ill-fitting clothes until they started to fray, and the soles of the cheap shoes started to come loose.

After all, I was a man and if I gave too many thoughts to what I wore I would somehow be less of a man.

This is how I went through life.

And, I now know it was the wrong attitude.

It demonstrated a veritable lack of self-respect.

I’ve learned that how we present ourselves to the world demonstrates the amount and quality of self-respect we have.

Why would anyone take me seriously if I don’t take myself seriously enough to even try? In a sense, like many of these guys I saw, I had simply given up.

It took my discovery of self-improvement Twitter to understand that how we present ourselves tells the world – and ourselves – a story.

To be clear, I don’t spend hours dressing myself, and I dress very simple now. Fitted shirts, slim-fit pants that I get tailored to ensure they don’t bunch up, and quality-footwear and outerwear is all it really takes to stand apart from the crowd.

I’m now not afraid to spend some money on better quality clothes.

In short, I now give it thought, but not an inordinate amount of thought.

And yes, there are times I will ask my wife if the blue shirt or grey shirt looks better or whether the double monks or Chelsea boots go better with the pants I’m wearing. I do appreciate and consider her opinion, but I’m not bound by it.

I do believe that she is right in some cases. There is some mate guarding that takes place where a wife jealously guards her relationship and wants to keep her man looking less than optimal to ensure no other woman looks.

Men generally want our wives to look hot and get a sense of pride when other men look. It’s a way of showing off. I’m coming to learn that a lot of women don’t look at it the same way and do engage in mate-guarding.

I also believe there is a tinge of competition anxiety. The woman knows she’s supposed to be the center of attention and wants to ensure she always is. So, she can’t be upstaged by her husband.

Both scenarios assume a level of insecurity on the woman’s part, and a lazy attitude on the man’s.  

Many men, also, simply don’t know how to do better. We are taught at a young age that we aren’t supposed to care how we look, and we internalize that and opt for pure function. This was always my problem. I simply didn’t know how to look good.

In this respect, the archetypes that Tanner Guzy speaks about often (refined, rugged, and rakish) really helped me nail down my own personal style, and I shop with that in mind.

Starting Over

About nine months ago I made a big decision – I gave away or threw away almost every article of clothing I had and started over. Some of them, I’m ashamed to say I had for a decade or more. Gone were my ill-fitting pants, crappy shoes, and oversized shirts.

I started buying new stuff and, yes, I spent more money than I am comfortable spending on myself. But, I see it as an investment in myself and it was important to smash through that comfort zone.

Along with my physical condition and my new style, I notice that I’m treated differently than I used to be. I’m not ashamed to say I have more gravitas, and no longer feel insecure when I’m out. I may not be wearing the most expensive clothes, but I have more self-respect, and this is communicated to the world.

Lifting weights and improving our style is the easiest way to improve our self-confidence. If you ask me to go anywhere I can probably put together an appropriate outfit for the occasion that will look better than most.

Self-improvement takes many forms. It includes our physical condition, our mindset, the people we surround ourselves with, and our clothing choices. I know that if I go to a Valentine’s Day dinner wearing poorly fitting cargo pants, a football jersey with another man’s name on my back, and sandals that I’m failing the style part, and failing myself.

I also know that if I drop off or pick up the kids from school in my pajamas looking like I just woke up that I’m sacrificing some of my own self-respect. It is not about impressing other people, since when everyone else is wearing pajamas in that situation I’m not impressing anyone by looking neat and put together. In fact, the opposite is probably true.  

Despite what others might think, the style part is so easy. For most occasions, no thought is involved other than which v-neck t-shirt or Henley I want to wear, which pair of well-fitting jeans, and which shoes. The personalization part is also easy. We know what we like. I know my own carries elements from several of Tanner’s archetypes, and I decide what to wear based on that.

Let’s all do better and step up our games. Being married or in an LTR doesn’t mean we have to fit into the cultural narrative of the sloppy dunce dad from so many TV shows.

The world will take you more seriously and, guess what, your wife or girlfriend will probably also want to step up her own game to keep up with you. This will inure to your own benefit.

Most importantly, you will feel better about yourself, and that is priceless.

Dressing well doesn’t have to break the bank. I personally use Rakuten (formerly called eBates) when I shop to get cash back. Two weeks ago, $100 appeared in my PayPal account as a result of shopping I did the past few months. If you join using the link above you will receive a $10 bonus after you spend $25.

For guys who lift, the best jeans out there I’ve found are from Barbell Apparel . Use the code JACKED for 10% off.