Sunday, January 11, 2009

Make love, not wardrobe

If the reader(s) of this column have come to expect anything, it’s probably cutting-edge fashion advice, the kind that can only be dispensed by a thirty-one year-old guy who still wears fraternity T-shirts commemorating formal dances that transpired before the majority of the Abercrombie & Fitch sales force had been conceived.

Th(os)e reader(s) will not be disappointed more than usual this week, as I have spotted a trend. This past New Year’s Eve, I watched New York City mayor Mike Bloomberg give an interview on TV wearing those earmuffs that connect around the back of one’s head. Unless I’m mistaken, earmuffs used to be primarily worn by schoolgirls and snowmen. There was a time, not long ago, when the only dudes wearing earmuffs were the ones standing on runways, waving glowsticks.

In the past few years, though, somebody figured out that, for some reason, guys would wear earmuffs if the connecting piece was rotated ninety degrees. Why this makes a difference is just one of those mysteries, like how they built Stonehenge or why they’re sticking pomegranate juice in everything now (different theys, probably, but we may never know for sure).

What other primarily female products could be sold to men by making trivial modifications? Surely, our nation’s top scrunchie engineers are already working on this.

I’ve been angry with the fashion industry ever since the time about ten years ago when it convinced the entire young male population that it needed hammer loops on its jeans. Carpenter jeans, they were called, as if carpentry was suddenly all the rage with the kids, when in fact the only nailing we were doing was to our opponents on “James Bond: GoldenEye” on the Nintendo 64 in that kid’s dorm room down the hall, an endeavor that notably required very few hammers. And even if we had all gotten hired at construction jobs, I’m pretty sure those loops weren’t meant to hold ten-pound air-powered nail guns. Carpenters didn’t even wear carpenter jeans anymore.

“Oh, no, I’m skipping that one,” I thought, after noticing the growing horde of pretend woodworkers at Penn State. It was similar to the sensation I had in the sixth grade, when I looked at all the other kids’ feet and realized with horror that I was the only one not wearing Nike Air sneakers. It was like the scene from a zombie movie in which the hero realizes that he’s the only human left, except zombies are much more likely than sixth graders to make independent fashion choices. Through sheer obliviousness, I’d become an accidental nonconformist, which was right about at the same place on my To Do list as “fail lice check.”

Anyway, I spent two years of college shuffling around campus with my arms out in front of me, thirsting for brains and sporting a vestigial hammer loop on my pants just like everybody else. We all knew it was stupid but we did it anyway, which would incidentally be a great title for Donald Rumsfeld’s autobiography.

This past summer, my buddy Jered, the most fashionable of my guy friends, which is kind of like being the tallest Pygmy, met up with a group of our friends outside the Wachovia Center for a Tom Petty concert. He paused as he looked at my clothes.

“You’re still wearing those shorts from college?” he asked. “Aren’t you a little too old for Abercrombie? Maybe you could have pulled that off a decade ago.”

My attempt to camouflage myself as a twenty-something had failed. Sensing my chance to get off on a technicality, I replied, “Dude, I bought these shorts a decade ago. Doesn’t that count?”

Apparently, it didn’t, but now that I’m old enough to be a nonconformist on purpose, I don’t need his fashion advice anymore. Besides, it would be hard to hear through my new earmuffs.

You can hang Mike Todd out to dry at


  1. Very funny! Gary has a pair of those earmuffs but he won't wear them becuase he already has a hard time hearing and I can't stand to hear him hollar "What?!" to every single thing I say! I'll let you (and the whole internet!)in on a secret though.... one time Gary had a pounding headache and was real cranky so he asked for some Tylenol and I (secretly)gave him a couple of Midol. He couldn't believe how good he felt and so quick too. He through a fit when he found out it was Midol but now will admit that nothing works better for backache and headache.

  2. Haha, I came to leave my own comment, but I think Sheri pretty much takes the cake this week :)

  3. Sheri -- That's too funny. Just tell Gary that you can't spell "menstrual" without "men."

    Sergey -- Yeah, she wins.

  4. Makes me wonder what else you can flip 90 degrees and have a fashion accessory for the opposite sex? So far bras and jock straps have been unsuccessful.

    Boxers don't count as fashion, right? I've got some underwear that I've had since Clinton was president...

  5. Chris -- One thing you can't turn 90 degrees to make it manly: wine coolers. I found that out in high school.

  6. Mike, yo'ure right... and it's one of life's great injustices! ... drinking wine makes you sophisticated, driving soda is also socially acceptable... mix the two together, and you get laughed at!

  7. ... and drinking soda as well. I wouldn't recommend driving it.

  8. Sergey -- Ha! You did a better job with the wine cooler subject than I did. Thanks for pitching in.