What should men wear at 40? I feel at this age we are being boxed in.
We need a broader definition of what being a man is. I remember a female friend of mine many years ago trying to figure me out. She came to the conclusion that I was either a player or gay. I didn’t fit into her predetermined box of manliness. Why? Because I dressed well. Can you imagine that? Those were my two options. It wasn’t enough just to want to look good, there had to be something more to it… some other motivation. So I guess if I dressed like a slob I would be perceived as a heterosexual who respected monogamy. Good thing I’m not neat or it would be case closed.
I hate being put in a box like that. But that comment stuck with me and affected me in different ways over the years.
Breaking out of the box
I remembered the comment as I read a blog post from a US military vet who decided to go to fashion school. So many people assumed he was gay because of his new career path, that he was inclined to write a post explaining that it is possible for a straight man to care about how he looks, and to take a real interest in what he wears. I really empathized with this guy.
I remembered the comment this past weekend when my wife asked me what I was planning to wear to a wedding we were attending. My nonchalant response to her was “just a suit”. Then she reminded me that she knows exactly how much thought I put into what I wear and she knows its not “just a suit”. Of course she was right, and I felt bad when I realized the way I’d unconsciously minimized how important being well dressed really is to me.
So if I’m unconsciously minimizing the interest I take in my appearance and military men must take to the internet to defend their equal interest in fashion and women, I can understand why a man may be reluctant to change his look, get a new hair style or update his wardrobe. I can understand the awkwardness when a man begins to take an interest in himself.
The truth is, in general, men don’t do these things to attract the attention of women. They do these things to feel better about themselves. The side effect of that good feeling and the confidence it brings is that men become more attractive to women. I call it the “Peacock Effect”. It’s not necessarily the plumage that peahens are attracted to; it’s the strength and virility that the plumage represents.
Are you a Peacock?
I’m not a player, but I am confident and strong. I’m not gay, but I take care of myself and dress well.
I am the peacock, and there are many peacocks out there like me. Peacocks in a world that has a very narrow definition of men and manliness. And I think the definition significantly narrows for my peer group too – the middle-aged man. It’s not just dressing well, it’s everything. From the image of “Dad” as a bumbling buffoon or flatulent couch potato, to the fashionably challenged middle manager… Middle-aged men aren’t presented as cool, capable, strong, knowledgeable or hip. That’s a shame, because I know a lot of middle-aged men who are all of those things, as well as being good and attentive fathers and loving husbands.
In my travels through the blogosphere I’ve met many great middle-aged and soon to be middle-aged men who have taken care of everyone else and are now discovering that at this stage in life, it’s time to take care of themselves. Both inside and out. I hope with the help of this blog we can change the image of the middle-aged man to include these men.
Men like me… the peacocks.
* Pictures via The Armoury Lightbox