Sunday, June 23, 2024

Cap it and Forget it 

Washington, D.C., circa 1919. "Hat display, Saks & Co." Panama hats, and how they're made.

Something attributed to Fran Lebowitz has stuck in my head. Lebowitz is an American author and, I don't know, "cultural critic" or something (she hasn't published anything in some time but often is asked to speak publicly on numerous topics). The quote I heard is that men over sixty shouldn't wear baseball caps. Lebowitz is for some reason seen as having insight on fashion. I don't know why. In my estimation, she has worn the same outfit for decades, which is essentially heavy tortoiseshell eyeglasses, a man's blazer (too large for her small aging frame), straight-leg, high-waisted denim jeans, a crisp white dress shirt, and cowboy boots. This is to say, I wouldn't necessarily consider fashion advice from Lebowitz as useful or relevant. Though, I'm not sure I would take fashion advice from anyone anymore. I'm in my mid-fifties and to be honest, dressing to me is personal and simultaneously, trivial. I do think I understand her point, however. Baseball is a young person's game, and men in their sixties are not usually leaving the house for the park for a game of pickup, so they really should dress for their age and not the age they want to be.

In my neighbourhood, I do see many, many men, my age or older, who are definitely not dressing suitably for their age and forget about dressing for the job they want. Often it's that particular look of the white rapper with oversized ball caps, oversized basketball jerseys worn over oversized tees, paired with oversized basketball shorts, or oversized jeans crumpled atop loose-fitting, untied basketball shoes. Not only is this a look fit for the 13 to 25-year-old crowd, but it was a look that was only fit for 13 to 25-year-olds about 30 years ago. I have no idea what these guys are thinking, and often I worry about my classist assumptions that most of these men are absolute idiots who simply don't know any better. Or worse, they are so ignorant as not to be aware of their ignorance. What it appears to me is this is an individual who has not matured past the age of 15 and is stuck thinking a life dressing this way is somehow showing their individualistic, "stick it to the man" independent streak that says, "I don't have to dress like I have a job, because I don't have a job!". Good for you. Let everyone know, that you're out here living in the streets, free from income. It's none of my business. I saw the most egregious of this sort when I witnessed a fellow who appeared to be in his 50s (or older), again wearing the sideways-pulled cap, oversized tee and shorts while riding a teeny-tiny BMX bicycle. Not only was this gentleman not on his way to the ballpark but he was also not on his way to a skate park to try out some new bike tricks. I would say getting on or off the bike was his big trick.

As it happens, I often wear baseball caps, and perhaps worse, cycling caps. I love me a cycling cap! I can wear it beneath a helmet on either a wet or sunny day, remove my helmet, and still have some protection from the elements. This is an important point, as I may never leave the house without a hat again, because, as a bald(ing) man, my head needs protection. Yet what to wear? If ball caps or cycling caps are age-inappropriate, so are many other hats. The only age a newsboy cap is appropriate is for the early 1900s. I have one and when I wear it, I feel like I'm heading to a Peaky Blinders cosplay event. A fedora? I'm neither a 1920s newsman nor a busker with an acoustic guitar. A bucket cap? While I'm no spring chicken, I'm also not an 80-year-old gardener solving murder mysteries in a small British town. Also, have you ever worn a bucket hat? If I wanted my head to be that warm I'd have already invented a portable head sauna. Oh wait, you don't need to invent a portable head sauna as it already exists as a bucket hat. I do own a straw porkpie hat, but there are only so many barbecues to stand near whilst reciting dad jokes, and, this is not a hat you can wear beneath a cycling helmet.

Nicolas Cage rocking that Hardcore Normcore cool look in Dream Scenario.

For years I've referred to my "look" as Hardcore Normcore. I've since discovered this look has been appropriated by the hard-right-pro-fascist league; see the pleated-front khaki, polo-wearing thuglettes of the American Christian nationalists. Unlike CoCo Chanel who famously advised women to look at themselves in the mirror before leaving the house and remove at least one accessory, I look in the mirror before leaving the house and ask, "Do I look like someone's dad heading out for a round of golf?" If the answer is no, I can continue, if the answer is yes, I can continue but may expect to hear small talk about Scottie Scheffler. Taking inspiration from Pride Month, I have as late, let my freak flag fly. In my case, that means wearing what I want regardless of the practicality. Yellow suede hiking shoes that look like rock climbing shoes? Yes. It makes no sense that comfortable hiking shoes are suede or look like they belong to another sport entirely but they are right for me. Loose linen pants that look like pyjamas? Sure. The fact that I either wear tapered-leg denim jeans that make my legs look more like pegs, or loose-fitting trousers that make me look like I've wandered away from a retirement home unsupervised no longer matters to me. Colour coordination? Well, if you only have three or four different colours in your wardrobe, you'll have some minimal coordination anyway, no effort needed.

Michael Fassbender dressing Hardcore Normcore as urban camouflage in The Killer.

I know dressing for comfort is dull, and I know being dull goes against everything our social-media-driven zeitgeist tells us, but there's an understated confidence in knowing your own style. In the words of Sheng Wang, it's a sign we don't care anymore. That's when we let go of our ego and begin our spiritual journey. It's also a sign that I don't care what others think of me, or as Gary Oldman says, what someone else thinks of you, is none of your business. Let it go. Either I've begun my spiritual journey or I'm taking too much advice from comedians and actors.

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