A collaboration with Nora Wallis over at I Bought It, and I Loved It.
LEE: Nora! I am glad you are here! I was just thinking about the snowmelt and the coming of spring and the return of warm weather. NOT BECAUSE I LIKE IT! but because, among other things, it means that woolen scarves can no longer be employed as accessories for men. Soon, it will be too warm for anything but jeans and graphic-print T-shirts. Is there any solution for this conundrum other than garish hats?
In return for your assistance, I will give you what every Cosmo has promised but failed to deliver: A Glimpse, Of Your Choosing, Into The Male Brain!
NORA: I choose to glimpse at the Male Brain through the ears, with an otoscope. And since the weather insists on remaining at temperatures that, back in Louisiana, would be considered the height of winter (ohgodpleasecanitbewarmalready?) you'd better prepare yourself, because the minute that cold metal hits your ear canal, it's going to send a shiver down your spine that can only be countered by...
Gender-Specific-Clothing Judo, Vol. 1!
I'd like to go on the record as being wary of graphic-print tees. When they're good, they're great (why, what?) but I find that people rely too heavily on a graphic to be a stand-in for their personality. I'm quite partial to un-cluttered expanses of fabric.
And fabric! Now there's a topic I can talk about for hours. I especially don't care what your t-shirt says if it's soft. (At this point I'd like to make an exception for offensive or just plain stupid statements. If you're wearing a t-shirt that could also be worn by a fourteen-year-old boy or the next Ted Bundy, it could be 12-gauge cashmere but I still won't want to be within a mile of you.) This is an important thing to remember: soft fabric is one of the top-three things in the world. Period. The other two are Roger Daltrey's scream at 7:45 of "Won't Get Fooled Again" and perfectly-chilled Veuve Clicquot.
LEE: Why Thank You, Nora, for plugging my blog on my own behalf! That t-shirt is one of my most favorite of all time. On the opposite end of the spectrum, you can always find offensive AND stupid shirts at shirtaday.com (except for one they did that said "Tebow Cried for Our Sins" and was offensive except that it didn't offend any demographic I am a member of because I hate Tim Tebow). I hate Tim Tebow.
But I must take issue with your assertion about graphic tees (at least in part because they compose most of my casual wardrobe, but also because I am a Big Fan of them for dumb guys like me just trying to get by without looking garishly uncoordinated and without spending an arm and a leg). What other palatable option is there? For example, in my light-speed scannings of the menswear blogs and sites on The Internets, I have determined that those shirts worn by Venetian gondoliers and French beret-wearers (skinny black-and-white horizontal stripes) are going to be "stylish" this year. WOULD YOU HAVE ME WEAR ONE OF THOSE? I THOUGHT WE WERE FRIENDS. Solid-color tees seem so stolid.
NORA: I would disagree about solids. I am actually quite partial to solid colors, both because they never go out of style and because they're much more likely to be flattering. It's a universally-agreed-upon statement that monochromatic color selections are always a safe choice. And, frankly, I don't want to take risks with casual clothes. "Casual," per Merriam-Webster, can be defined as "feeling or showing little concern." And I think that is an excellent description of my attitude towards casual wear.
Here I should interject that I don't mean "feeling or showing little concern" insofar as I walk around in the same clothes for three days, not having showered. Rather, it means I don't want to put too much thought or effort into looking beautiful. I want to look beautiful, effortlessly. Which, hopefully, gives me that "effortlessly beautiful" look they talk about in magazines.
Which is why I love the solid-color tee. I love James Perse tees; they cost, but believe me when I say they're worth it. I own four short-sleeved JP tees (one white v-neck and crew-necks in white, red, and navy blue - how patriotic of me) and a much-beloved long-sleeved white v-neck. And - lo and behold - they make a men's line as well! JP t-shirts not only fit beautifully, but they also last forever and improve exponentially with age.
At this point I'd also like to make a plug for lightweight cashmere. Cashmere is my one true love. (When I was fourteen, it was Paul Walker, but as an adult, it's cashmere.) Lightweight (2-ply) cashmere is a glorious thing to behold, and can be worn in nearly all seasons, DC's sweltering mid-summer notwithstanding. A man in a well-fitting, classic t-shirt or a well-fitting, super-soft sweater? Well, that's just wonderful.
LEE: I like the point you're making, Nora, which is one that I often forget: Texture has as much "differentiating" character as color and pattern, so a gray, uniquely textured T-shirt can be as interesting as one that says "AFFLICTION" in giant letters all over it (and by interesting I mean, in the case of the latter, not interesting). I grew up with 100% cotton, generic, boxy-cut T-shirts. There are other options, such as the American Apparel henley.
However! Your James Perse tees are too expensive for the kind of daily, multiple-shirts-in-the-rotation wear I foresee when Old Man Humidity and Brutal Heat visits us again. What are we men to do? The same thing we do every night, Pinky...cruise eBay and the Internet and stores like Filene's, and Think Outside The Box. Closing thoughts?
NORA: I think you're spot-on. I don't know that I've ever purchased a James Perse t-shirt full price. I have a variety of sources through which I comb to find JP goodness. You mentioned eBay, and much like your love of Filene's, I have a soft spot for Loehmann's as a source of discounted niceties. Additionally, I find lots of incredible deals for online shopping by searching retailmenot.com. (A plug! You should all stop what you're donig and go see what I mean.) In closing, I suppose my advice to the stronger/hairier sex would be not to settle into any one go-to outfit, claiming that the fact that you changed your shirt makes the outfit different. If, on Saturday night, you wear a graphic tee with jeans and Pumas, and on Sunday night you wear a different graphic tee with different jeans and Adidas, you're still wearing the same damn thing. This is important to know. ¿Y tu, señor?
LEE: I must protest. By your logic, when I wear two different suits with two different shirts and different pairs of shoes two days in a row, I am wearing the same outfit! And that is not true! But I appreciate the point you are making, i.e., that we should vary as much as possible our fabrics, colors, and pieces.
Re Loehmann's, I have been to the one in Friendship Heights, and while their female stock is awe-inspiring, their men's section is about the size of my old apartment. Good stuff, though, at somewhat reasonable prices.
Looks like that’s all the time we have, folks. We’ve learned a lot together—mainly, that graphic-print tees are probably not as individualistic as we had hoped, and that we should explore new fabrics and textures when it comes to covering our upper bodies.
So, in conclusion, Nora used to have a crush on Paul Walker, which is just unforgivable. Keanu Reeves is a better actor than that dude.
NORA: Pssshaw! Paul Walker's abdominal muscles could act circles around Keanu.