Men either have less freedom or more freedom when it comes to dress than women do. True, anybody can dress however they want, adorning themselves with all sorts of shapes and colors that fit their imagination, but to dress stylishly, one has to consider the existing, acceptable stylish genres for their gender.

For men in a cosmopolitan city, there are anywhere from 2-4 genres of attire that, when followed fully, lead to something that could be considered a stylish ensemble. For example, in Austin, TX, there are three genres to choose from. There is the hipster adorned with a willfully eclectic mix of styles, retro or ironic sunglasses, and unusual, but of-the-moment colors (at one point, it was purple, and recently it was maroon). There is the uniform that could be called "white liberal" from those who shop at Whole Foods, who like the hipness of hipsters, but don't like how loud they are, and at the moment, tend to wear shoes sold by Toms, the company that donates a pair of shoes for every one you buy. Thirdly, there is the stylish dress of the more traditionally employed, such as those working in finance, who tend to pick a blur of styles from the hipsters and white liberals, but from 5-10 years ago, while throwing in flairs of attitude and class, such as maintaining a popped collar, or still wearing Lacoste shirts.

If a man doesn't dress in a genre associated with his demographic, he can only create a facsimile of style. He can have matching colors, have forms that fit well, and pay for a coherent haircut, but if he doesn't fit within those above three genres, something will always seems off or incomplete about his ensemble.

Women also have genres to choose from. Two of the genres for men mentioned above also exist for women: the hipster and the white liberal. However, the number of genres for women are not on the order of 2-4, but on the order of 12-16. And since women spend more effort outdoing each other in fashion, appearing unique has larger currency for them. For a woman to appear stylish, she really has two options: to either choose from a pre-made genre for her demographic (whether it's a platinum-blonde inspired from The O.C. or a bangs-bedecked cutie-pie à la Zooey Deschanel), or she can create her own genre and ensemble, as long as it adheres to general principles of aesthetics.


posted by phil on Sunday Feb 10, 2013 8:24 PM

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