September 16th, 2009

The world and I

The Dandy, the Metrosexual; the Dressed up Man

Through ages, countries and cultures, dressing up has been important for not only women, but also men. If women aspire to look pretty, men are no less, being humans afterall.

So we observe Kings spend gazillions on innovative clothing styles and jewellery. We see the successful businessmen decked out in the best that money can buy.

So where did this rift of ‘metrosexual’ and ‘rugged’ men come from? Why the divide? Why the negative connotation and the need for media to make it positive?


It is quite certain that women as a whole prefer men who are clean, neat and yes, well-dressed.


In Olde England, there was always a class of men called “dandies’ who would dress up in the most flamboyant manner possible. However, they had their set groups and did not combat with the well dressed, understated men. Mr. Brummel, also called Beau Brummel was someone who emerged a clear winner in this divide, and built the everlasting bridge. However, he was not a dandy, but a very well dressed man, who had many admirers.


Kings in India have spent any amounts of money on their clothes, be them flashy, dressy, or just practical. In pre-independence days there were ways of wearing a Dhoti* which declared your intention. A party dhoti would be tied differently as compared to a normal daily workwear one. And if anyone thought that was only personal choice, well, they are wrong. Dhotis could be starched, crimped (like crepe), worn like a dandy, like a practical wear, worn to show off some leg, or to cover every part, like a pantaloon. And of course, the shirt/ kurta/ coat/ sherwani etc were of a multitude that perhaps doesn’t exist anymore today.

Hairstyles too, were important and showed the interest of men in their attire. Long hair, curled hair (yes, men curled their hair with curlers) and straightened hair (with iron) were pretty common.

Then we ‘evolved’. Gone were the leg-showing tight half-leg tights that men wore in England. Came instead the long, loose and totally drab pantaloons – the modern trousers.

Gone were the artistic and sexual dhotis of yesteryears. Men in India wear either trousers, or if pushed, churidars, which though tight, are never tight enough to show off any leg.


Hairstyles soon after became dull, the same old parted hair and anything more considered ‘unmanly’.


Why? I wonder. Where did this abhorrence to looking presentable rise from? Sure, it may be argued that it arose from a need for ‘comfort’. However, I argue, there is no need to look ugly to be comfortable. Clothes don’t have to be loose and shapeless all the time, neither do they have to be perfect 100% of the time. But it is indeed nice to see a well-dressed person.


The power suit today is a reflection of what Beau Brummel patronized, and isn’t it surprising that though fashion changed so many times before him, after him there has been barely any change?! People still wear ties – bow ties, whereas the cravat (which formed the tie) barely mkes an appearance – though it is much more elegant. In fact, tying of a tie has come down to the simple single know and double knots. Anyone who has looked inside a premium tie brand shop knows that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Ties alone come in so many knot types. However, no one seems to use them – too much effort I guess.


So when did men actually give up in the face of dressing up effort and go behind the closed doors of a closet for all their indulgence? When did indulgence become a bad word? I don’t know. But I do know that suddenly, it was way cooler to act like the ‘real men’ didn’t close shave, didn’t wear fitting clothes and did not care about what they wore.


That changed, and men started exploring their better side. And the metro sexual man was born. No longer de rigueur to be well dressed, this species who were just answering their instinct to look nice, were ridiculed or placed at a high esteem by media – thereby again placing them beneath the touch of a normal man. Soon they surpassed themselves and went overboard in their dressing. The dandy set was back with a vengeance.


Today, the importance of looking good seems to be returning. And I am sure women all over will embrace it. It is important that the man looks good. He dresses well, acts well, eats with manners and yes, is chivalrous. It is all a combined packet. And it is needed. Jeans may be good, but they eventually don’t cut it. The wardrobe of an average Indian male woefully consists of nothing but jeans, a few pairs of formal trousers and a shirts and two shoes. None of them help their figure or looks in any manner whatsoever. There is a need for abundance of linen, cargoes (yes even if they are loose), good shorts (not the loose bags men wear usually) and some better variations.


As for me? I would love the day the long tails and knee length breeches are back, maybe I will give the top hat a miss, but seriously what is the use of lycra if men are not forced to tone their legs and show them off in the best way possible? Why should men alone have the luxury to see women dressed up while women wonder about them. I would even embrace the dhoti. In fact, there are few clothes that need customized tailoring that look as elegant as a well tied dhoti.


As more and more men increasingly feel the importance of looking good. As more women have say in the matter of choosing men, I foresee men returning to dressing well, and if possible, a little more elegantly. And I shall not lose hope of seeing a few good legs firmly encased in cloth/lycra **without being gay. As for the high heeled shoes favoured be 17th century men? Naah, some things need to evolve over time. Though men would love the thought og legitimately adding inches to their height, I hope they give them a firm pass.


*By Dhoti, I mean dhoti not Veshti, ugh!

** need of legs being covered lies in the simple fact that hairless legs on men looks gay, and hairy legs look bad.