The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Monday, March 29, 2004  

It’s Always the Wrong Answer

To the millions of men reading today’s Wall Street Journal: Please ignore the article “How Do Men Make a Bold Statement? They Think Pink,” by Cecilie Rohwedder. [Ed.: Subscription required. Full text available by request.]

No, they don’t.

According to Rohwedder:

Long considered inappropriate for men in serious jobs far from beaches and golf courses, looking pretty in pink hasn’t been a goal of many males before. Pink is Barbie, Cinderella[,] and Victoria’s Secret. But suddenly, the color is making a serious bid for the wardrobes of mainstream men.

This spring, menswear designers, retailers[,] and style magazines are pushing pink. Fashion houses such as Italy’s Etro, Germany’s Hugo Boss and America’s Tommy Hilfiger are shipping clothes with hues that range from muted pastel to bright coral to screaming fuchsia.

Men’s style magazines are dressing masculine types in colors reminiscent of baby blankets or Pepto Bismol. In its current advertising campaign, knitwear maker Pringle of Scotland shows a man whose shirt and boots seem like shades of strawberry milkshake.

Pink boots? I’ll pass. You should too.

You know, for some 25 years people have been telling me I dress very well. Sure, there have been mistakes, some captured on film (and I’m still hunting down and destroying the photographs), including, I’m ashamed to say, a pink item here or there.

Like women, men need not to be told what to wear but to learn over time what works for them and what doesn’t. As noted, mistakes will be made, but there’s no reason to allow a Wall Street Journal reporter to send a well intentioned man off in the wrong direction.

My current wardrobe, which hasn’t been enhanced in several years, though I’m still pretty happy with it, might, by description only, be considered dull and boring. I’m fine with that, but when it’s all pulled together it works for me. At least 95 percent of my clothes are solid in color: no stripes, no prints, and no patterns. It includes only five colors: black, white, blue, gray, and beige/khaki (with two or three dark green items). All of my shoes are black, which, of course -- and I know you knew this -- means all of my belts are black. (Remember: Your shoes match your belt: in color, texture, and scale. Your socks match your pants, not your shoes.)

But consistency is the nemesis of the rag trade. Where would “men’s fashion” and the industry’s cozily affiliated magazines be if everyone dressed like I do? Nowhere. Who would buy a magazine that consistently featured men wearing only five different solid colors? Nobody. And I don’t really care. It works, at least for me, mixing it up with different textures and fabrics, and a combination of Gap/Banana Republic basics with a few high-end designer accessories.

Later, virtually contradicting herself, Rohwedder adds:

Some fashion arbiters say pink’s bright, cheery tints are a tonic for the times. “The world is a bit of a dark place right now. People want to go out and feel happy about themselves,” says Peter Nyhan, general merchandise manager for menswear at Harrods in London.

“I think there is also something in the Zeitgeist that says it’s more acceptable to wear color,” says Daniel Silver, one of two designers at Duckie Brown, a funky American menswear label whose “candy floss jacket,” a hot-pink tweed blazer, has been a brisk seller at Harrods.

Harrods. In London. In England. The very same place about which Rohwedder elsewhere in the article writes, “British bankers and barristers have worn pink shirts for decades.” Cheerio, ol’ chaps. Have at it.

Rohwedder’s article is so unhelpful she adds this irrelevant and uninformed observation:

There are signs everywhere that men are concentrating more on their appearance. Challenging the stereotype that men hate to shop, publisher Condé Nast is developing a shopping magazine for men.

Well, that statement would be interesting were it not for the fact that the magazine, Cargo, is not in development, but already is on newsstands.

The premier issue of Cargo, modeled after the women’s title Lucky, is on my desk at this very moment. It’s a wreck, though one thing is for certain: men’s magazine editors worldwide are going to go crazy trying to figure out how to make their various “gadgets” features -- advertisements thinly veiled as editorial content -- stand out now that there’s a magazine that, not unlike Vogue, cares nothing about the difference between the two.

And, as if to prove she’s completely clueless, Rohwedder unhelpfully ads [sic]:

Now pink is being embraced by some decidedly macho role models. British soccer star David Beckham, golf champion Tiger Woods [Ed.: “Macho”?], veteran rocker Mick Jagger[,] and rapper Cam’ron all have posed in pink recently. Earlier this month, the hip-hop duo OutKast was on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine with one band member wearing a pink tie, sweater and headband with pants in a loud, pink-based check.

Note to Ms. Rohwedder: Sometimes celebrities and magazines are, let’s say, encouraged to feature certain fashions. It’s not called “payola,” but it might as well be.

I’ll give her some credit, though. Rohwedder catches one fellow with the right line of thought:

London public-relations executive Simon Elliott, 38, draws the pink line at knitwear. “I don’t think twice about wearing a pink shirt and tie. But with a pink sweater, alarm bells would go off,” he says.

Definitely. And whatever you do, don’t tie that pink sweater “jauntily” about your neck and shoulders. Ever. If you don’t trust me on this one, go ahead and try it yourself. If you find your wife or girlfriend, to say nothing of your golf or tennis partner, suddenly becomes quiet and unconversant, or wants to head inside forthwith, you may not understand the reason, but they do.

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