Somewhere in the world – at this exact moment – a smart, sophisticated, highly fashionable woman in killer Manolo Blahnik shoes is being ruthlessly pursued
by a snaggle-toothed, flannel-wearing man with Wal-Mart boxers from 1986 wedged tightly into his posterior. Unfortunately, there is nothing legally wrong with that and the aforesaid man cannot be thrown in jail for his actions.
But it does pose a societal anomaly: Why do so many women spend an obscene amount of time and money attempting to look good while so many men don’t even bother to change their underwear on a daily basis?
“Because women dress for other women,” as the fashion adage goes. That was the way half a dozen Temple students who were interviewed chose to put it. It’s a real shocker that all of those students were men. The female students who were interviewed balked at this theory – and rightfully so according to experts.
“I think that for women, impressing the opposite sex publicly probably takes some precedent over competing with the same sex,” said sociology professor Dustin Kidd, who teaches a popular culture class at Temple. So if women risk bankruptcy to buy circulation-cutting denim and five-inch torture chambers (also known as high heels) to allure men, why can’t men return the favor?
“I don’t know,” said sociology professor Michael Altimore, shrugging his shoulders.
“It’d be very interesting to ask young guys about that – why they’re dressing down,” he continued. “It’s such a prevalent thing. Take a look at me,” he said, gesturing to his white T-shirt and jeans.
Ironically, Kidd said that when men do dress up, they do it to beat out other men.
“I wouldn’t say that say that men don’t dress up,” said Kidd, smartly attired in a crisp brown blazer and dress shirt.
“I do believe that men don’t often dress up for women. I think if anything, men actually dress up for other men [because] a big part of male culture is competition with other men.”
It’s enough to conjure up an image of cavemen cavorting around a bonfire, each one grunting loudly and beating his chest to proclaim that he has the hairiest armpits.
Meanwhile, scantily clad cavewomen swoon as they watch the spectacle. Are men really that primitive? Do they really need women to primp and pose just to fulfill their own machismo?
Kidd and Altimore both suggest that thousands of years of evolution really hasn’t made much of a difference.
Millennia later, women have careers of their own and have conquered traditional gender boundaries to become totally self-sufficient shopaholics. Now, we can pay for our miniskirts and man-trapping hooker boots all by ourselves.
“So the theory would be that men would have to dress up more to get prestige and so forth,” Altimore said. “But it seems with young men, that’s not happening.” That’s the double standard when it comes to fashion. A man who wears flannel and goes for days without shaving is considered to be attractively “rugged.” But a woman who chooses the same lumberjack look is considered to be “really good at football.”
Still, men shouldn’t receive all the blame. Women are just as guilty. “Women follow certain expectations that were set up by men that we don’t necessarily have to follow anymore,” said Joyce A. Joyce, a women’s studies professor who teaches a course on black lesbian writers.
“We can do more to set our own standards, to set our own goals and rules in terms of what we want to wear. I think there are women who dress for themselves. I’m one of those. I dress for me,” said Joyce, sporting dreadlocks and a denim jacket. So ladies, forget about what’s on the runway, forget about those pesky fashion magazines and forget about what your boyfriend wants. Wear what you want. Confidence is the cutest accessory.
And guys, take a lesson from Sam Aleshinloye, a junior computer science major.
“If they feel comfortable looking nice and dressing nice, then I think that’s good for them,” he said. “Even if they dress in sweatpants.”
Venuri Siriwardane can be reached at