“Suit-able” Attire

Although women’s fashions are seasonally “announced” and paraded through New York, Paris, Madrid, and Milan, the average men’s fashion trends are largely replications of two primary influences–the president of the United States and men in the movies and on TV.

What does your sartorial choice say about you?

While it is a good suggestion to loosely follow these icons, today’s executive has to be cognizant of how far to align himself with trends.

Take, for example, the Jimmy Carter era that ushered in people like John Denver and the characters of The Waltons TV series. Overalls and flannel shirts became abundantly available. Icons like Gentle Ben the bear were treated with the same respect as movies depicting men who lived off the land, like Jeremiah Johnson. It was a rugged, outdoor moment in history. The Carter White House was rumored to host people like Willie Nelson and had staff members walking around barefoot.

However, a relaxed image does not always conjure up a leader who can be trusted to attend to every detail. History has found Carter to be rather weak and unresponsive during key moments in his moment in the sun.

Not surprisingly, the anti-country boy look faded once John Travolta developed a case of Saturday Night Fever. Dacron and polyester replaced denim and flannel in a matter of days, and Tony Manero’s fever, indeed, must have been a strong case since it caused men to wear shades of pink, pale-yellow, and powder-blue “leisure suits” to every wedding, baptism, and formal affair, as well as to wear tons of hairspray. The ultimate look was dressing up the leisure suit with a necktie. Now there was a winning style that today makes looking at old movies a scream.

Fads In Fashion

Eventually, Carter left and the tux-sporting Ronald Reagan emerged. He may have influenced Alex Keaton on Family Ties and series like Dallas and Dynasty, where the lifestyles of the rich and shameless were paraded for all to see. Men began wearing tuxedo shirts and bow ties to bars and clubs, and looked more like butlers and waiters than J. R. Ewing and Blake Carrington.

Men did, thankfully, embrace suits, ties, and (after Michael Douglas taught us that “greed is good” in Wall Street) suspenders.

When all this formality proved to be too much for the American male to handle, Don Johnson zoomed in–tucked low in his Ferrari with a heavy 5 o’clock shadow–and gave us the Miami Vice look. The classic combination of suit jackets with T-shirts looked like a half-dressed man who just rolled out of bed.

This was augmented by Tom Cruise’s rebel-without-a-clue portrayal in Top Gun. Tom, too, went from disheveled to dress military “whites” several times in the film, giving guys the versatility to play both sides (proper and rowdy), and look cool either way.

As the presidents changed (Bush, then Clinton, and then more Bush), the urban-cowboy look came and went, as did the punk, techno thing, and the Australian look with Crocodile Dundee. All were imitations of what was generally accepted and approved at the moment.

Mistakes were made, though, when folks tried to wear some of that to the office. It might have been acceptable for the office “party,” but please, no leather ties at the Wednesday manager’s meeting, OK, ace?

But you can’t blame men for trying. For so many years the “right” thing to wear was whatever Mom laid out on the bed before school, but many of us were dumbfounded when we were left to our own judgment. I recall telling my college buddies more than once, “Dude, you can’t wear a Coors hat with a Budweiser T-shirt! One or the other! You must commit!”

Make A Statement

So where does that leave us today? President Obama is a younger man. He followed the George W. Bush example of a powder-blue, open-neck, button-down shirt when going “informal.” This seems acceptable to the more casual executive of this era.

Page 1 of 2 | Next page

Related posts:

  1. Reaping Rewards
  2. The New You
  3. Shedding Cement Shoes
  4. Pushing The Limits
  5. Clues
  • Columns
  • Departments