Fall Into Style, Gents

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I ran into an old classmate the other day. Rob was a guy from my college dorm – I remember him as a callow freshman, rushing off to his computer science classes and taking on an odd array of extracurricular activities ranging from ballroom dancing to chess club.

He was an odd guy, even then. One of those little guys who works out constantly and lords it over his chubbier fellows, and tries to chum it up with the real jocks – in Rob’s case, some of them adopted him like a funny little mascot, and some of them actually shoved him around a bit.

My favorite memory of Rob was that he had this really inflated opinion of himself that made him believe that really beautiful women would really love to date him if only they got to know how smart and funny he was, and how much he worked out. There was a gym at the time for which Heather Locklear served as spokeswoman (it was early in her career). Her picture was in their newspaper ads, one of which appeared each week in our campus newspaper.

Rob pestered that gym for three months trying to get Heather’s phone number. He didn’t own a television at that time, and had never seen her on television, so he really did believe that she was just some babe who worked out at the place. He joined the gym and went religiously to aerobics classes, which were big at the time, in hopes of Jazzercising next to his blonde wish girl.

Finally, the guy who owned the gym got it through to Rob that he was not going to meet Heather Locklear during his twice-daily workout.

That’s really all I remember about him – that and just the general feeling you have when you’ve dealt with someone you don’t really like for a long time but can’t escape them because you’ve been in close quarters. By my sophomore year, I had an apartment and Rob was still in the dorms, so it was really only in passing that I spoke with him.

After all these years, we met at the airport, between flights. It is times like these that I really despise airport terminals – stuck with people you’d rather not talk to for the duration. Rob is one of those guys who will follow you around you so that you can’t get rid of him: “Going to the men’s room? I need to go, too;” Getting a sandwich – starved myself;” “Magazine rack – I’ll go with you – check out the racks on the rack, if you catch my drift.”

During my two-hour delay, I listened to Rob talk a lot about how successful he was. “My condo – it’s quite the showplace. I put in a flat-screen TV,” was one of his bon mots, and “I’m not married, but I date younger women because the ones our age just can’t keep up with me. Of course, I haven’t found anyone worth buying dinner in five years,” was another. Perhaps the worst comment he made had something to do with his brushing his tongue so diligently that he’d eliminated his gad reflex altogether.

Talk about your fear and loathing in Las Vegas. Even though we weren’t in Vegas. So I guess it was just plain old fear and loathing. I actually found myself looking around furtively to ensure that no one I knew saw me with this guy. Talk about old instincts rising to the fore!

As we ate deep-fried food at some overly all-American décor place at the airport, I regarded Rob as closely as I could without looking as if I wanted him to go on talking about how he always figured the tip so that the restaurant bill came out to a whole dollar amount rather than dollars and change.

Obviously, he had a basically good job. His phone was nice, and his i-Pod was one of the newer, more expensive models. However – and dare I say that this might be the reason he hadn’t had a date in five years – he was really lacking in style.

His wallet was one of those nylon Velcro wallets from the 1980s. I mean, I’m sure Rob’s was newer, but you know the kind I mean. I didn’t even know that they made those anymore! He wore a golf shirt with a Microsoft logo, and, confusingly, a windbreaker with an Apple logo. He also wore Docker-esque pants with New Balance gym shoes and large-framed glasses with clip-on sunglasses – prescription, of course.

I have to admit that I did not give Rob any style advice. For one thing, it would have required me to convince him that he needed any, and I just didn’t want to work that hard. Secondly, I know Rob – and I would have become his full-time stylist, with calls several times a day asking if this shirt went with that one – and probably e-mails of scanned photos of him wearing said garments just to make sure.

The best I can do is to offer up a list of rules. Rob may not see them, but perhaps they’ll help someone like him. And for the rest of us – it’s always good to be reminded of the basics.

  1. Clothes with logos are fine as long as you are on the job and your boss requires you to wear them. If it’s after hours, however, try garments that were not subsidized by the company. Powerful men tend not to wear logos on their chests (unless you’re Superman of course).
  2. Gym shoes are for the gym. For most work situations, a good leather shoe – in black, and increasingly, brown – is a better choice. Lace-ups will offer you more options than loafers. There are also a number of casual shoes that provide the level of comfort of a gym shoe, but much more style. And never, ever, ever wear the same shoes you wear while working out in social situations. One more thing I just remembered about Rob: we were all watching TV in the dorm one day and he took his shoes off, and one of the girls screamed, “Ew! Is that feet? Rank!”
  3. Wallets – leather, and not the size of a hot dog. Better yet, get a credit card case with space for your most-needed cards and a money clip for your cash. You’re going to work, not to Egypt.
  4. Suits – they should fit perfectly. You will have to utilize the services of a tailor. Cuffs on your pants are acceptable if you’re wearing a classic suit with a single-pleat pant (never more than single pleats, please), but not if you’re wearing flat-front pants (which are actually more flattering for almost every body type).
  5. Shirts should be close-fitting – but not tight – around the neck, and the sleeves should reach the bottom of the wrist bone. A well-made shirt with French cuffs – the kinds that require cufflinks – will serve for all but the most formal occasions.
  6. Jewelry – men, keep it simple. A stainless steel watch of good quality will take you from work to date-night in great style. Cufflinks can also set the tone of your ensemble; a pair of cufflinks set with semi-precious stones will work for day or evening, and a pair of novelty cufflinks can add a bit of humor to your look.
write by Stella


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