Skirting the issue of men's fashion


The look for next spring is wrap skirts, hair pulled back in brightly colored scarfs . . . sheer blouses under man-tailored jackets and lots of sexy decolletage.

Trouble is, we're talking about men.

-- New York Times News Service.

Well, I don't know. Some men, maybe. Men who are bold. Men with a sense of, oh, mischief. Men who -- and I hope this isn't taken the wrong way -- aren't afraid to get in touch with the softer side of their personalities.

L Many men, though, might not feel quite so . . . adventurous.

Personally, I don't see your average Steelworker coming home from work and holding a paisley skirt up to the mirror and thinking: "Hmmm, too busy for the Orioles game . . ."

Yet the point of the article from which the above paragraph is lifted is (I think) that men are dressing more casually these days, which is opening up exciting (if that's the word) new fashion possibilities.

The other point is that some designers who traditionally work on women's clothing are now muscling their way into men's fashions. This apparently explains that business about the wrap skirts, which sort of caught my eye in a hurry.

Here I was wondering if I could still get away with khaki pants next spring and they're talking about skirts for men.

Well, it turns out that the wrap skirts are actually something called pareos, which are Polynesian-styled sarongs.

For my money, though, the only men who tend to look good in Polynesian-styled sarongs are, well, Polynesians.

Sturdy and well-muscled, Polynesian men exude exactly the right blend of masculinity and insouciance to make the look work.

Whereas an American man in a sarong, even if he's thumbing through Field and Stream while waiting for the paint on his gun rack to dry, will basically look out of sorts.

Then, too, Americans have always been uncomfortable with the idea of men wearing skirts.

That reminds me of the time I was at the St. Patrick's Day parade in New York when a Scottish regiment of bagpipers in kilts marched by.

With that, a man in the crowd of spectators began heckling them. Naturally, he was pretty well oiled and kept yelling something profound like: "Haw, haw, look at the girlies in their skirts!"

The drunk's friends were not a whole lot brighter, laughing hysterically like the guy was Jay Leno working the Sahara.

Suddenly, this huge bagpiper -- think of a Sequoia, only bigger -- quietly detached himself from the regiment and leaned down into the drunk's face and growled: "Is thir a problem 'ere, laddie?"

The drunk's face drained of color. So did the faces of the budding chain gang members he was with. No one said a word, and finally the giant lumbered back to his place in the parade.

The point being, I guess, that no matter what your thoughts are about men wearing skirts, you should think twice about sharing them with certain people -- especially large men not blessed with a great deal of tolerance toward idiots.

As for the rest of the hot new fashion looks quoted above, well, I wouldn't get too pumped up about lots of American men embracing them, either.

No matter how artfully tied, a scarf worn in the hair tends to give a man the appearance of a young Suzanne Pleshette, not the look most men are striving for.

Sheer blouses have a similarly rocky history with men. During the disco era, shirts of a transparent texture were often worn, sans necktie, with cream-colored suits in the hideous look popularized by serial-greaseball John Travolta.

Thankfully, disco died a quick death and most of those shirts -- along with every KC and the Sunshine Band album ever made -- were burned in towering bonfires across the country.

Then again, as a newspaperman, I am about the last person in the world anyone would look to for fashion advice.

The fact is, most reporters generally look as though their clothes were just fished out of a Goodwill bin -- if they even look that snazzy.

I am fairly certain that during my 15 years in this business, no one has ever watched me enter a room and thought: "How does he do it? How does he put that look together day after day after day?"

One time, though, I was wearing a new sweater and a female colleague began staring at me from across the newsroom.

"Look sharp, feel sharp," I thought, puffing out my chest.

Finally, she stood and walked over to my desk and said: "What are those things on your sweater, little ducks?"

"Reindeer," I said brightly. "Tiny reindeer."

"Oh," she said.

Then she turned and walked back to her desk.

Nevertheless, I felt it was a start.

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