I’ve been looking forward to the men’s fashion spread from Sunday’s The New York Times Magazine since I heard about it last April. Photographed at Yale and featuring Yale undergrads as models, the shoot generated quite a bit of controversy when news of it first hit campus. Rumors flew about the casting: “Did you hear that so-and-so got asked? He looks like a bobble-head!” or “Person X is going to be in it? I heard he has crabs.” The boys I knew were in utter despair about not having been selected — gay boys, straight boys, supposedly straight boys, all were up in arms. And that’s when I realized it: all boys are gay. No wait, boys are vain.
Maybe this is not a earth-shattering revelation for anyone else. But, gullible as I am, I had always believed in boys’ machismo. After all, didn’t they just throw on clothing and tussle their hair before going out? Although I enjoy the female tradition of ho-ing oneself up for Friday night — complete with black halter top and silver hoop earrings — I understand how girls are jealous of boys sitting pretty in the same T-shirt and jeans they had been wearing all day.
While none of the guys dress in the Armani or Dolce & Gabbana clothing featured in the Times, boys do — I’m convinced — invest more energy in their wardrobe than they let on. As far as I can tell, the majority of the college boys fall into one of two fashion categories: those who actually don’t care and those who “don’t care.” The former own a variety of solid-colored T-shirts which they use in a rotation with identical khakis and jeans, possibly purchased for them by their mothers. It is the latter party that concerns me. These are the boys who dress with a practiced indifference, who, when you compliment a clearly carefully selected article of clothing, simply shrug dismissively.
I know you might think that this is old news, but I swear I have a new twist. My friend, a fellow YDN reporter, a model for that photo spread, is the epitome of this closeted male ethos. True, he looked extraordinarily dapper posed in the Saybrook library in his Burberry suit, but he might be even better known to the Yale campus for the Converse high-top basketball shoes he’s been wearing for the past three years. Complimented by his corduroy smoking jacket, he is the model of “thrift-store cool.” But lest any of you think this means he is indifferent, you clearly have not visited Salvation Army lately. Thrift stores may not require much monetary investment, but they more than make up for it in the amount of time that must be spent sorting through unacceptable, sweat-stained shirt after unacceptable, sweat-stained shirt.
Last year, this reporter’s suitemate developed a hole in his favorite jeans that made them unwearable. But instead of throwing them out and buying a new pair, he enlisted one of my suitemates to sew a patch on them so he could continue to wear them. Economic motivations and emotional attachment aside, the act was unquestionably also one of vanity.
No? You don’t think so?
It was a leopard-print patch. A fuzzy leopard-print patch. There is only one purpose for leopard-print fabric: sex. OK, well maybe two purposes: sex and sexual innuendo.
Another friend, on the opposite extreme, actually owns those J. Crew pants that are embroidered with swordfish. They are Nantucket red. He knows that they are Nantucket red. And he usually wears them with one of the approximately 15 tie-belts he owns. (He feebly defends himself with the excuse that he got them as gifts. I maintain, he is familiar with the concept of “Nantucket red.”)
In the article that accompanied the photo spread, Charles McGrath noted that these days, Yalies “couldn’t tell you the difference between a wing-tip and a Weejun.” But I would wager that the majority of Yale men, if taken to a dark room and guaranteed anonymity, could tell the difference between a tapered and flared leg, or, if pressed, a regular and a distressed wash. I know this. How do I know this? Well, if the men I work with at the Yale Daily News have enough style to catch the eye of The New York Times, then it must say something about the rest of the men at Yale. After all, I can only hope that there are better dressed men out there than my editors Zander and Steve.