Half Washed or Half Dressed

men's fashion, Steve McQueen, fashion icons

Steve McQueen

Are young people currently half washed or half dressed? Do we believe what we see on the streets or on the TV? We’ve gone beyond Casual Friday to just rolling out of bed and paying no attention to our clothes.

On Friday, The Wall Street Journal published an article on finding new men’s style icons. In “Why Admiring Cary Grant’s Style Ages You,” Jacob Gallagher notes that “We are not all white, fit, hetero men with dashing good looks, and the range of style icons men reference has come to reflect that.”

Okay, that shouldn’t be a problem. Mr. Gallagher replaces Cary Grant, Paul Newman and Steve McQueen with younger, hipper (and living) role models for what to wear to look good.

The U-Neck Tee Shirt Commercial

Now, will somebody please tell today’s young men about these male fashion icons? And while you’re at it, mention that fact to the creative team at the advertising agency for Downy Fabric Softener.

The commercial “U-Neck Tee Shirt” shows a young man on his first date with a young woman. She presents herself well in a summery print dress. He shows up in a tee shirt that is all stretched out at the neck. It looks like something I would toss in the charity donations bag. We are expected to think this is because the tee shirt is “half-washed,” whatever that means. To me, it means “still dirty,” not stretched out of shape.

When the woman points out, tactfully, that he does not look good, the man looks at his shirt in astonishment, as if he had no idea that it was a mess.

The question I had upon viewing this commercial was not, “Why is that tee shirt all baggy?” I wondered, “Why is that young man wearing a tee shirt on a first date in a nice restaurant?”

Young Men Oblivious to What They Wear

Both Susanne and I have written posts about the male proclivity to pay no attention whatever to what they put on their bodies. Suze wrote about “The New (Un) Dress Code” for work environments and I did one on “Getting Men to Dress Up.” In that post, I noted the difference between how men and women dress when they are going out for a nice evening.

Downy Fabric Softener, U-Neck Tee Shirt Commercial, half washed, half dressedNow I see a commercial which presents it as alright for a man to make no effort at all on a date as long as his tee shirt isn’t baggy. Men might note (but probably won’t) the way in which the woman in the commercial responds. She regards her “date” with dismay, probably thinking that he considered her opinion of him so unimportant he didn’t even bother to look in the mirror before walking out the door.

This man is the poster child for clueless masculinity and I have two words for him: Grow. Up. Women notice what you wear. It matters to us for multiple reasons and it should matter to you, too, if you want to get past Step One in the relationship process..

Half Dressed: Pajamas in Public

In another current trend, both young men and women go out the door in pajamas. Yes, pajamas. As in, “I rolled out of bed and went out the door.” CNN calls it, “The Battle of Appropriate vs. Comfy.” I suppose that this was the inevitable next step after track suits and yoga pants.

I’m sure that, for women, this evolved gradually:

“I’m driving the kids to school and then going to the gym so I’ll just put on my yoga pants.”

And then you remember that you need milk and eggs so you stop at the supermarket and do your shopping in yoga pants.  Now that has morphed into:

“The kids are late to school so I’ll just jump into the car in my pajamas and get dressed when I’m home.”

Elle Fanning, Prada, pajamas in public, fashion trends

Elle Fanning

Then you add the supermarket, the pharmacy, and the post office on your way home and you’ve got pajamas in public.

For both men and women, it might also have started with working from home. Why get dressed if you’re not going to see anyone all day? And then something comes up and you run out of the house in your pajamas. Would you want your boss to see you dressed like that?

Now, to make it worse, celebrities have picked up on the pajamas-in-public trend, fashion houses are presented pajama outfits designed to be worn in public, and the media are running stories on how to participate in this trend without looking sloppy. Here’s a tip. You can’t. Even a beautiful woman like Elle Fanning looks stupid — half dressed — in her pajamas and sneakers on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.

Half Dressed: Rompers

I won’t even go out to get the paper from the driveway in my pajamas, which makes me doubly old-fashioned and un-cool. (newspaper + pajamas) But, then, I grew up in the day when mothers exclaimed, “You’re not going out of the house looking like that, young lady.”

rompers, shorts, sundresses, half dressed

Model with Rompers

Now I look at young women walking around Boston wearing one-piece sun outfits called rompers that have pants so short their butt cheeks show. I don’t even know what these things are called. And I wonder how their mothers let them go out of the house looking like that. (Okay, I know they don’t live with their mothers anymore. But, still.) This week I saw a young woman trying to tug her shorts down so she wasn’t so exposed on the city street but there wasn’t enough fabric.

I stand by a woman’s right to wear what she wants wherever she wants but, really, this is just asking to get groped. I wanted to pinch her butt cheek simply to make a point.

A Swing of the Pendulum?

Are we seeing just another swing of the fashion pendulum? Will it swing back to more formal clothes at some point or am I being unrealistic? Whatever happens, I will say this:

  • What you wear says something about who you are.
  • Women notice what men wear, so make an effort.
  • You never have a second chance to make a first impression.
  • No one wants to see you in your pajamas. No one.
  • It’s better to be safe than sorry.

No one is asking you to buy a new “Sunday best” outfit or wear a hat to the office. Those days are gone. But, surely, it’s not too much to ask people to put pay attention to what they wear and put some clothes on when they leave the house.

Is it?

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About Aline Kaplan

Aline Kaplan is a published author, a blogger, and a tour guide in Boston. She formerly had a career as a high-tech marketing and communications director. Aline writes and edits The Next Phase Blog, a social commentary blog that appears multiple times a week at aknextphase.com. She has published over 1,000 posts on a variety of subjects, from Boston history to science fiction movies, astronomical events to art museums. Under the name Aline Boucher Kaplan, she has had two science fiction novels (Khyren and World Spirits) published by Baen Books. Her short stories have appeared in anthologies published in the United States, Ireland, and Australia. Aline’s articles have also appeared on the Atlas Obscura website. She has been an active member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America since 1988 and is a long-term member of the Spacecrafts science/fantasy writers’ group. As a tour guide, Aline leads architectural and historical walking tours of the city for Boston By Foot, ghost tours for Haunted Boston and historical bus tours of the city. She lectures on Boston history and has appeared in the Boston Globe, as well as on TV for Chronicle, an award-winning television program that broadcasts stories of New England. As a lecturer, Aline has spoken at Brandeis and Tufts universities for the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. She has also addressed as service organizations and local meetings. She is a graduate of Northeastern University in Boston and lives in Hudson, MA.

4 thoughts on “Half Washed or Half Dressed

  1. The Downey commercial half washed is a lie from start to finish I shows a guy with a GREY stretched T-Shirt that magically changes to a BLUE fitted V neck that has a ribbed solid V neck.

    Why not be truthful and wash the stretched GREY T-Shirt.

    Bad advertising Downey

  2. Completely agree, his T shirt should have gone into the garbage. What an insult to his date that he would look like such a slob and she took extra effort to look darling in that cute dress! Maybe I’m old fashioned, but sometimes I am the only woman who is dressed well at a classical concert. I mean, the musicians are in black tie, why shouldn’t the audience show the same good taste?

  3. In the Downey commercial, the young STOOGE is seen taking off a sweater as he is sitting down. 1. Why wear a t-shirt that should be used to wash your car? 2. Why take off a sweater? 3. Spend money on a mirror so that you see what others see of you fashion sense. 4. Have your mother lay your clothes out for you. 5. You should not be dressing yourself.

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