One fine spring day last year I had my sartorial act together. My caramel cap-toed lace-ups matched my caramel briefcase which matched the caramel beads on my bracelet. A paricularly masculine colleague approached and remarked, “Steve, I love the way you accessorize!” Later that morning I nearly slipped and fell on the slick residue of sarcasm he left on the linoleum.
i understand the the skepticism of my hirsute friend. In our little corner of the world, a man who accesssorizes may be viewed as vain, superficial, and maybe a little feminine. They invent words like “metrosexual” to describe him, which literally denotes a man who has a sexual affinity for urban areas. That’s downright weird.
I think the argument goes something like this: A real man has no time for such frivolous pursuits. Everything he wears is functional, utilitarian. A real man has empires to build, buffalo to hunt and and wars to mismanage. Such dainty considerations are best left to the womenfolk.
To which I say, with all due respect, bull. First of all, most accessories are functional. That briefcase I was carrying? An accessory, but a necessary one for my line of work. Belts, which serve the noble purpose of holding up our pants, and watches, which tell us what time we should begin to put our pants on, are both accessories.
Second, most men do wear an accessory that is completely non-functional–ties. To my knowledge, the only function of ties is to apply unwanted pressure to one’s neck and to collect ketchup stains. Yet, heads of state and captains of industry have been wearing them for about 200 years. So men have long been wearing accessories, both functional and non-functional.
And why should women be the only ones ones who must accessorize? It’s not like they have less to do. Modern women have all the capabilities and responsibilities of men, and more. They are busy screwing up the world just as much as their male brethren. In fact, if anyone has free time on their hands, it’s men. Admit it, guys–there are some days where the biggest decision we have to make is which IPA will accompany our burger, or which club to choose for the par 5.
Fact is, this notion that men don’t wear accessories is not universally held. Plenty of resolutely virile men wear them in lands like Italy and Spain.
And througout the ages, men who actually did hunt buffalo and wage war were some of the most elaborately accessorized people you can imagine.
All of this dispels the notion that accessories are inherently emasculating. Still, the rule of appropriateness applies, as it does to all style considerations. That is, everything we wear should be appropriate in two ways: (1) appropriate for the occasion, and (2) appropriate for ourselves. For example, if you’re Michael Phelps, and you’re at a swimming pool, a pair of Speedos would be appropriate for both the occasion and the person. However, even if you’re Michael Phelps, Speedos would not be appropriate at, say, a wedding. And please, for the love of goodness, don’t wear them even at a swimming pool unless you look like Michael Phelps. (Although there are guys on the coast of France and Brazil who would disagree. They are wrong.)
So, when it comes to accessories, both factors must be taken into consideration. Chief Joseph looked great in his day, but if you wear full Indian headdress to a board meeting, it’ll probably be your last one. It’s not appropriate for the occasion. What’s worse, most men would feel so uncomfortable and self-conscious wearing it that they couldn’t concentrate on the meeting. It’s not apprpriate for you.
Applying that principle, most times I’ll wear a simple bracelet, even to work at my law office. But I won’t wear one in front of a jury. I want them to concentrate on what I’m saying, not what I’m wearing. What I have to say at that time is far more important than being stylish. It’s just not worth the risk. In other words, it’s not appropriate to the occasion.
On the other hand, some men look great in necklaces, but not me. I look like the nerdiest pimp in history. I feel so self-conscious in them that they’re not appropriate for me.
So should a a man accessorize? Absolutely. Or maybe not. It all depends on the occasion and the person. Now put on those feathers and go hunt some buffalo.