Our view of ourselves is a complicated thing, and a complex issue with far reaching repercussions on our lives. For as much as we hope to see ourselves clearly, no man alive sees the truth in himself. Or of himself, for that matter.
Every relationship we have is a mirror that reflects an opinion we take as truth. With every smile from a pretty girl, or rebuttal, we continue to paint this picture of who we are. A complex bit of art, we paint it, paint over it, making an image in our heads of our strengths and weaknesses, our skills, our talents, our flaws.
We wake up each day, and see an image in the mirror, and we dress that image according to who we hope to be, and often times who we rue being. We compensate, and overcompensate, adding solemnity to our wardrobes to balance the immaturity we fear to expose, or adding youth to disguise our creeping age. It is a complex thing that I fear I will never see through, and will be repainting my entire life.
I like to imagine that once we would have been guided in our presentation by our fathers and grandfathers, from the clothing we were bought as children to the first suit we’d have made at our fathers tailor. But that is a world far removed from my own, and an age I only read about.
The truth is that modern dressing isn’t directed by our fathers, giving texture and colour according to their understanding of what the world sees as appropriate, giving flair and personality for the character traits someone that proud of us sees above all else. Rather we are taught how we should appear by the airbrushed perfection of marketing, taught how we should dress by idolizing a far distant and removed designer.
The rules of men’s dressing, a spoken history of men’s clothing passed from father to son from one generation to the next, seems to have been dealt a mortal blow by the emergence of fashion, brand and designer. The rules change season in and season out to make each previous season obsolete, to make each new season sale able and every previous wardrobe an embarrassment. Men who are trying to see themselves accurately are left with no clue as to how they should dress themselves, and the guidelines on dressing for the world and its occasions are a daunting mystery. These men give up chasing the moving target of fashion, and believe that it is correct for them to hate dressing, shopping and exploring this image of themselves.
So it is such an empowering thing to have the power shifted back in to our own hands. To have a tailor, or a haberdasher, or a shoe maker that can give us the rules back, demystify dressing by taking out the designer and giving each man an understanding of how to dress for his body, life, personality, career.
A great tailor makes a man look at his best, builds him a uniform to play with as his moods see fit, and a framework of understanding to make, hopefully, very few mistakes. The man who thinks himself too short or stout or frail or plain can see clothing take shape that emphasizes his strengths, and his only. His colouring dictates the colours he wears, the cut of his clothing hides the parts of him he dislikes.
Hopefully he looks in his mirror each day and sees a myriad of options to be the man he hopes to be, and in his wardrobe he sees the means to paint an amazing picture of himself. If only for himself, and it really should be for ourselves that we dress, to have a positive self image and the tools to make it better is a very liberating position.