Thursday, August 25, 2005

The aesthetics of men's jeans. (For Glen) You may remember that a while back, I waxed lyrical on men's t-shirts. Now the time has come for the obvious companion post: How I Like Men in Pants. Valiantly, I will resist the urge to riff on that.

1. Toe much information.

Not even Bon Scott can make cameltoe work. It really embarrasses me to be able to tell how someone is hanging. We do not live in codpiece times where you must literalise your masculinity. Also, there's a nasty rumour that it gives you cancer of the poy-nis. Although once I was at work idly Google Image searching and I found this website, whose owner believes very, very differently. And now for the main cause of cameltoe: the waist.

2. Afraid of heights.

That's right: high pants. Yikes! It looks very bad to wear high pants. It looked bad in the 80s and it looks bad now. And then there is the opposite:

Dolce & Gabbana, Fall 2005/06, presented at Milan Fashion Week in January.

Very few women can get away with super-low-waisted jeans, and end up with muffin-tops or visible g-strings. Well, they look good on very few men, too. You need to have a flat stomach and lean hips. But the thing that fascinates me is that so many women wear low-waisted pants even though they look terrible. It's not about fashion - designers have been trying to bring back high pants for years, but women won't 'ave it. And they're willing to try new styles, regardless of whether they'll look good.

By contrast, (heterosexual?) men appear to use the complete opposite strategy. If they are even the slightest bit uncertain about the style, they won't wear it. And they're more prone to buying the same style again and again, because they know it suits them. So their fashion cycle is much slower and subtler than women's. To cut a long fly short, only a minority of men can and do wear those really low-waisted jeans. Some guys who like this style wear women's pants instead.

For my money, the best place for the waist of men's jeans to sit is right on the hips. It's most flattering for everyone from super-buff to pudgy. Because you can also take the waist issue waaaay too far...

3. My niggas don't dance, they just pull up their pants. Oh Marky Mark, you are to blame for introducing whitey to that 'urban' phenomenon of underpant display.

Check out the guy on the left. He is suffering from an unfortunate sickness that I like to call "Hipster's Trouser". It is what happens when subcultures collide. He is not wearing ultra-baggy homie jeans, yet he thinks it is cool to reveal two inches of underpant. I've remarked many a time on the black-stovepipe-denim-wearers at St Jerome's whose belts are mysteriously no help at all. Sometimes their waistbands even slip below the arse and sit underneath it. And from the back, it looks as though they've had an arse amputation.

It says a lot about the ambiguous semiotics of this look that some people on the Dr Jay's street style forum were saying "Your pants are too tight", "ya clothes is too small son" and "could be looser", while others said "You got that Kanye goin' on". (Kanye West is among the "post-bling" wave of rap stars.) Anyway, it makes the body look very strange and its proportions all wrong. Just buy jeans that fit you in the waist, and use a belt as a practical device.

4. Gotta keep my body... tight. So, should you go baggy or tight? Here you are kind of at the mercy of what sort of legs you have. My personal view is that you should wear the most fitted jeans you can get away with. By 'fitted' I don't mean 'tight'. The jeans should look slouchy and comfortable, as if they permit movement. Athletes have to wear baggy jeans because they just can't get their heaving comic-book thighs over tight ones. But just because you have really skinny legs doesn't mean you should wear:

I dunno. David Bowie and Iggy Pop can wear 'em, I suppose. But really tight jeans remind me of those tight Regency-era trousers that earned the Prince Albert piercing its name. (Albert didn't particularly want to do a Bon Scott.)

5. Long way to the top. (Sorry, Bon Scott reminded me!) The jeans cannot be too short. It looks cool on Elvis and Michael Jackson, but most guys just look like dufuses if their pants are too short. Now I do realise that tall men have difficulty in this department. I thought about this for a while, and the only alternative I could see was Solway: the Big and Tall Man's Store. This is no alternative at all for the fashionable yet tall man about town. I can only suggest a relaxation of my previous waist height recommendation so that the pants will sit lower but end up being long enough.

As for pants that are too long, it looks really crap when they drag along the ground and eventually wear a hole in the back that your heel sticks through. It depends how 'directional' you want to look - some streetwear looks call for the jeans to be quite tight at the knee but then baggy and 'crunchy' at the ankle. Personally I think a happy medium is to have one 'crunch', then sit lightly over your shoe (but not touching the ground at the back. That way, when you sit down your ankle will still be covered.

6. Distress signals.

Obviously you must steer away from the worst excesses of dufuswear: all that ridiculous embroidery and weird bleach effects and fake holes and bad screen-printed motifs. It makes the jeans look cheap.

7. The colour of your money. Any colour is fine, but again, few people can get away with the really pale blue jeans. When I think of those, I think of suburban accountants who are in the Army Reserve and who wear them with a chambray shirt with a white t-shirt underneath and boat shoes. Also steer away from white jeans. Also, I think I am getting drunk on the power of Google Image Search. Everyone knows you don't iron your jeans, but here is a cautionary photo anyway:

Also, just check this guy. Can I also just say that I love his look? Even though he's wearing double denim and has his polo collar up. (Will, where are you???) I used to 'rock' an alarmingly similar colour combination in 1989, only I did it by wearing an orange t-shirt underneath an aqua t-shirt with buttons down the front, then I rolled up the sleeves to reveal the contrasting orange. I also really like his matching pocket square. So street, yet so dapper! It kinda freaked out the peeps at Dr Jay's, though!

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