I stopped off at Dunkin’ Donuts on the way home today, after dropping A off at pre-school. As a stay-at-home mum with rambunctious boys, I don’t get much opportunity for people watching these days, unless the people are other mums and their kids. So waiting for my bagel to be toasted gave me a few luxurious minutes of undisturbed people watching.
And I have to say: what is up with American men?
It may be that there are corners of this great land where the men can dress themselves well but I’m starting to suspect that if there are, they are only in the gay neighbourhoods of the big cities, cos….damn!
All of the women coming though DD were dressed in things that roughly went together, colourwise, had a passing aquaintance with modern fashion tastes, and were complemented by groomed hair and real shoes.
The men, oh the men. Every one of them was in shorts and sandals (this being our first predicted 80 degree day of the year) and some sweatshirt or t-shirt or jacket that was not purchased this millennium. The only exception was the skinny fashion-plate in green joggy bottoms (you know, the ones with elasticated ankles), a navy sweatshirt and….Crocs.
Not one of them looked like they gave a rat’s arse about how they looked: young, old, middling. Now, that might be a good thing if it meant that they were free spirits, full of self-expression and self confidence.
But they looked like downtrodden shlubs. Divorced downtrodden shlubs.
Because it turns out, that American men expect their mothers, and subsequently their wives, to dress them.
I discovered this when I came home and related my story to The Husband. (I’ll be honest, the word ‘ranted’ might have come up).
He quite calmly told me that he has determined, from numerous conversations and eavesdroppings at work, that the men expect their wives to not only buy their clothes, but pick out their outfits for them every day.
And they’re not in the least embarrassed to admit it.
I’m astounded. But not exactly surprised.
When I worked in a store in the tourist district of Boston I could spot a non-US male from across the street.
They usually wore shirts, if the weather wasn’t too hot, and if they were wearing t-shirts, they were probably well-fitting, maybe with a stylish design, and they had probably been (gasp) ironed. They might wear jeans, or shorts, but they would be of the moment, style-wise. And most importantly: they wore shoes. Real shoes. The kind you polish (a service they had rendered, probably the night before they packed them in their suitcases). As sneakers became more trendy abroad, I started to see foreign men in sneaks but they were not white and designed for life in a gym. And they wore them with short ankle socks. Their hair was brushed, styled even, and they rarely wore hats (I have also discovered that all those men you see out at the weekend with baseball caps on? They probably stuffed it on over their ruffled hair because they haven’t showered yet).
It’s no wonder that when my lovely husband first moved here with his collection of fabulous shirts left over from his clubbing days in Edinburgh, he found himself a magnet for gay men in bars. We speculated at first that it might be the sideburns (a hint of style) but I think, on reflection, it might have been the whole package: a man who obviously shopped for himself because he wore clothes that were individual to him, and who cared about how he looked.
And the fact that he was wearing shoes.