Lately, I have been thinking a lot about how contemporary culture seems to be increasingly forgetting, if not actively disregarding, the importance of beauty in our everyday lives.
Earlier in the semester, I explored how the aesthetic integrity of our surroundings, specifically within a campus setting, has serious implications for how we feel and act.
Despite what our American pragmatism tells us, beauty is not simply frivolous amusement. It shapes and moves us in deep and necessary ways. For centuries it was understood to be an ultimate, transcendental value, something that is sought without need for exterior justification.
The utilitarian “form follows function” approach to building our world is not a harmless appeal to practicality and the crisis of everyday beauty is not at all confined to architecture. It seems that how we dress, especially how men dress, has followed a similar trajectory.
Men are often described as “illiterate” when it comes to aesthetic endeavors like fashion, and, quite frankly, we generally deserve it.
No more proof is needed than a quick glance around campus. An average school day is obviously no cause for a suit and tie, but there is a uniquely atrocious manner of dress that is exemplified in the college or “frat guy” aesthetic.
Why is this the case? Is there something about masculinity that renders one inherently incapable of appreciating the benefits of dressing well? I’m doubtful.
There seems to be a number of social and cultural factors that make men’s fashion a rather difficult terrain for many to maneuver.
There are a bevy stereotypes surrounding men caring too much about their appearance. Despite the rich tradition and history of men’s fashion, interest in such things are typically labeled as feminine, and therefore, a social taboo.
However, I am not convinced this is the whole story.
Personally, I love getting dressed in the morning. There is something empowering about the process of putting together an outfit I like and sharing it with the world as I go about my day.
It might come as a surprise to some, but as a man who spends much of my time around other men, I can say fashion is not regarded with total apathy. Many of us do care about how we look, and when asked, most will say they would love to dress well if they could.
If this how so many men feel, what’s stopping them from acting on these feelings?
Frankly, most men are never really taught how to dress. As children and adolescents, our parents simply give us clothes to wear without explanation. The whole thing is purely utilitarian; simply a matter of comfortably covering the body.
This mentality frequently seems to carry on into adulthood. To this day, I know grown men who still have mothers and romantic partners buy all of their clothes for them.
Why does any of this even matter, though? Isn’t caring about how you look a bit superficial anyway?
It should be noted that my rejection of utilitarianism is not in the least a delve into decadent, aimless aestheticism. Of course, comfort and utility play vital roles in what we choose to wear.
What I’m saying is, as a culture, it is never in our best interest to dismiss the value of everyday encounters with beauty — and that includes our fashion. Limiting that because of perceived gender restrictions is an especially silly reason to do so.
Evan Leonhard is a 20-year-old English and philosophy junior from New Orleans.
Author: ” — www.lsureveille.com “