Dress Sense

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The Independent Culture
BRITISH MEN are not credited with much intelligence when it comes to getting dressed. Anyone would think they are children, the way the newly created "Menswear Council" has been talking. In recent weeks the council (made up of representatives of the clothing industry) has begun a crusade to improve the way British men dress. "Think shoes," it has advised. "Ensure they go with the rest of the outfit." Do men really need to be told this? For the majority of them, shoes mean either sensible lace-ups, casual slip-ons or trainers. Unless they happen to be wearing a ball-gown, they can't really go far wrong. Yet the Menswear Council obviously thinks the average British male has to be chased into the bath every night, and told to wash behind his ears and brush his teeth.

In fact, most of the men I know fall into one of two categories: either they don't care two cuff-links about the cut of their jib, or they are more obsessive about their clothes and personal appearance than their girlfriends. There are far more of the latter type. Such men are clean. They smell only rarely. And they iron their clothes. They know that, while women can dress slobby and be labelled "cool", men who don't make an effort are just slobs. Which is perhaps why this sort of man makes more of an effort than women do, spending more time in front of steamed-up bathroom mirrors, and more energy obsessing about such matters as the size and shape of a sweatshirt - "too wide", "too short", "too baggy". Then there's denims. Women will happily experiment with new brands. But for men, their fear of "getting it wrong" can turn something as simple as buying a pair of jeans into a 10-act drama. They have to be just so: just the right length ("Will they shrink?"), just the right shade of dark blue ("Will they fade?"). And, when it comes down to it, only Levi's will do. With a cinch-back.

Women are pretty flexible about where they buy their clothes, be it Freeman's catalogue or Nicole Farhi. But their partners are ham-strung by their need for the reassurance of an expensive label or a street-cred name. They also like to dwell on the finer details: the shape of a collar, the number of buttons on a cuff, the colour of their socks. Fabrics too are all-important. Shirts have to be 100 per cent cotton, jackets pure wool, and shoes must have leather soles. Unless, of course, they are trainers - but that's another story altogether. In short, most British men are really prissy about their clothes. Being told to "think shoes" is the last thing they need. They think about them quite enough as it is. !